When the temperature in Cleveland climbs above 60 degrees, patio furniture emerges from storage, front porches become the best seats in the house, and watering holes everywhere find creative ways to offer alfresco options.
And while we appreciate some bars' halfhearted attempts to get our pasty butts in the sunlight, there are a few standouts (eight, to be exact) that really have that whole warm-weather thing down pat. In random, drunken order . . .
Around the Corner
This townie bar is just as dark and beery as other Lakewood haunts, but wander out the back door, and you'll discover a colorful tiki bar with a lively crowd to match. Show up after 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and the casual patio transforms into a fratty meat market. Stick to lazy Sundays, and you'll meet a reggae keyboardist who likes to languorously remind the sunburned caddy-daddies that everything's "all right."
To Go: 18616-20 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, 216-521-4413, www.atccafe.com.
Bourbon Street Grill
Fake a boater's lifestyle, and grab a picnic table at this Whiskey Island bar, which is little more than a glorified marina beer joint with a kickin' jukebox. The food is a pleasant surprise -- basic, Cajun, grilled, and good. No shirt, no shoes, no worries.
To Go: 2800 Whiskey Island Road, 216-631-1801.
The only pickle here is deciding where to sit: at the floating carousel-shaped bar called the Barge, at the rooftop bar, or at the cantina. The festive hula-inspired murals and crab-shack memorabilia recall outdoor fish frys, days-of-our-youth Shirley Temples, and cheesy family vacations. (The collection of carousel animals remains a mystery.)
To Go: 101 River Street, Grand River,
The Moosehead Saloon
Suburbia ain't so bad -- especially when you can sidle up to a decked-out patio/lounge that'd impress even the most die-hard of barbecue warriors. The bar is quaint (read: tiny), but the back is where it's at in the summertime. If you're willing to shell out $8 for a burger, you won't be disappointed. Arrive early if you want elbow room.
To Go: 694 Dover Center Road, Westlake, 440-871-7742.
Not far from the Moosehead is a more sophisticated patio -- a piazza, rather. M Bistro's outdoor courtyard is rich with fountains and has a Mediterranean country-club vibe. (Don't sweat the fancy stuff -- a golf shirt'll do ya.) The bar attracts an older, more polished crowd, especially for its buzz-worthy Sunday brunches.
To Go: 23800 Detroit Road, Westlake,
Shooter's Waterfront Cafe
Leaving Shooter's off a list of summertime drinking spots is like dropping Christmas from the calendar. It's the place most Clevelanders associate with words like patio, summer, drinks, fun -- you get the idea. There's never a dull moment -- on or off the stage. If tribute bands aren't your thing, get jolly with some of the docked boaters and sussed bridesmaids who regularly cruise the premises.
To Go: 1148 Main Avenue, 216-861-6900, www.shootersflats.com.
Bootlegger's Waterfront Bar & Grill
Before you hop on the Jet Express to Put-in-Bay, pay a visit to this open-air bar on the Portage River, where you can dangle your feet over the water and watch charter boats pull in fresh catches. The beers are extra cold (maybe it's the lake effect?), and the atmosphere is chiller than your average MTV Spring Break Weekender.
To Go: 4 Jefferson Street, Port Clinton, 419-734-0450.
The Casino Restaurant and Marina
The live music at this waterfront bar is the no. 1 reason to head out to Kelleys Island. On a random summer afternoon, we watched the Armstrong Bearcat Band jam to Allman Brothers. A couple of beers later, an electric guitar soloist took the stage. What next? See how easily you get sucked in? Besides, the view is unbeatable.
To Go: 104 Division Street, Kelleys Island, 419-746-2773, www.kelleysislandcasino.com.
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