Food And Drinks

What Detroit Restaurant Patios Look Like During Summer 2020’s Novel Coronavirus Pandemic


It’s been two months since Michigan’s bars and restaurants reopened for local service after months of partial closure due to the novel coronavirus. While the ongoing pandemic is still rightly attracting much of the world’s attention, many Detroit facilities are trying their best, Michigan’s lean alfresco dining season, and the new laws and expedited permits that have allowed increased patio seating use.

Restaurants with tiny indoor dining areas are particularly vulnerable to the limits of 50 percent capacity and six feet of social distance. Some establishments have chosen not to open at all as the cost of reopening would outweigh the potential revenue from a limited number of customers. Other small operators who can adapt to terrace service have done so in record time, turning parking lots into outdoor oases and spilling tables on closed streets. Unpredictable weather is also a part of summer in Detroit. Some companies have built tents and covered pergolas to provide drier (or shadier) seating for customers during a rainstorm.

Eater asked photographers Michelle Gerard and Jenna Belevender to snap photos throughout July to capture the prospect of the highly unusual summer dining scene of 2020 in Detroit.

Ima in Corktown is smaller than the group’s other locations in Madison Heights and Cass Corridor, which means owner Mike Ransom had to be creative about how to reopen the space. This summer, Ransom made the dining room a takeaway area and expanded all outdoor seating to a covered terrace and a new, expanded, uncovered seating area with and a minibus used for outdoor service.

(Top left) Ima customers sit at socially distant tables on a covered terrace. (Above right) Chef Mike Ransom worked with his landlord to rent additional space on the corner of Michigan and Vermont Streets for an expanded outdoor patio. (Bottom) Ransomware focused on the outdoor service at its Corktown location, which some believe may be less risky than eating indoors due to the higher ventilation during the pandemic.

The Detroit Shipping Company has cautiously transitioned from carryout to outdoor dine-in service. In the food hall for shipping containers in the Cass Corridor, socially distant tables are set up in the inner courtyard and distributed over a neighboring parking lot, on which a beach and additional tables and tents are set up for customers.

Customers can sit in a courtyard seating area at the Detroit Shipping Company.

Wooden cabins with extremely high wooden backs are covered with umbrellas on a sunny day.

The Detroit shipping company built outdoor stands with extremely high backrests to create barriers between the tables in a new seating area in the parking lot.

A blue minibus, which appears to have been converted for the outside area, stands behind umbrellas and tables on a parking lot terrace.

There are socially distant tables in the parking lot behind the Detroit Shipping Company.

An event tent with fairy lights and a ceiling fan stands on eight-seat wooden tables.

The Detroit Shipping Company built a large event tent over part of their long tables in the parking lot to provide additional shade and protection from unexpected downpours.

One of the newest and most anticipated restaurants in Detroit may have debuted in the middle of the pandemic, but the team at Coriander Kitchen and Farm are still making the most of the summer by the water in Jefferson Chalmers with picnic tables, striped umbrellas, and lots of social distancing. Coriander takes orders online and prepares outdoor food for pickup to limit contact with service staff. The restaurant also offers carryout.

An overhead view of the barbecue setup and socially remote picnic tables in the Coriander on a sunny day.

An outdoor food preparation area and grill are located near the dining area on the terrace.

A plate with two sandwiches and dessert bread in the hands of a woman in a black dress and white slip-on shoes.

Coriander customers can order their meals online and collect them to take away or to eat on the terrace in the restaurant.

A blue building next to patio chairs, a fire pit, a couch, a tent with a coriander prep kitchen and picnic tables with parasols in the distance.

The Coriander Kitchen and Farm has a spacious seating area on the terrace.

A sandwich board explains the ordering process in front of the picnic area at Coriander.

Customers take their seats at picnic tables in Coriander Kitchen and Farm. Some wear their masks at the table.

Southwest’s popular grocery trailer, Detroit 75 Kitchen, expanded its outdoor seating area to either side of the trailer to help keep distance between customers ordering groceries and customers sitting on the patio of the cart.

The windows on all sides of the Detroit 75 kitchen trailer are open and customers sit on the patio under red parasols.

Customers sit on the deck next to the Detroit 75 Kitchen.

A red umbrella and planters surround several long seats next to the Detroit 75 Kitchen Trailer.

A new seating area on the west side of the Detroit 75 Kitchen Trailer offers more space for customers waiting for their food.

With its extremely cramped dining room and limited seating, Mink for Seafood decided to switch to terrace-only seating with counter service for the summer. The restaurant takes orders at the counter on one-way menus and serves food on one-way dishes, which customers take the bus themselves at the end of their meal.

(Above) Customers sit outside of Mink in Corktown. (Bottom left) The dishes in mink are served on disposable plates. Customers can also order take-away meals. (Bottom right) Tables are set up outside in a parking lot next to the building where Mink is located. The restaurant has set them at reasonable social distance and customers who try to move them will be asked to leave.

At Mink’s sister restaurant and butcher’s shop, Marrow in the West Village, customers can reserve a table for a fixed meal indoors or out on the patio. The set menu allows Marrow to limit contact between waiters and tables, reducing the possibility of the transmission of novel coronaviruses.

A number of Detroit subway restaurants have resumed dining service. The service level is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as a confirmation of dining at the restaurant as safety concerns still remain: For the latest information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Michigan state’s coronavirus tracker. Studies show that there is a lower risk of exposure outdoors, but the risk associated with patio dining depends on restaurants that follow strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Do you have a story to share? Contact us at [email protected]

• Detroit approves road closures and new sidewalk seating for restaurants amid pandemic [ED]
• A guide to restaurants in Detroit that will only offer carryout or patio seating during the partial reopening [ED]
• How coronavirus is affecting the food and beverage industry in Detroit [ED]

1701 Trumbull Ave, Detroit, MI


Dusty Kennedy