Vita.mn's last Patio Guide ever

All things must pass, but before summer’s end you’ll find us on one of these 18 top Twin Cities patios.

MICHAEL RIETMULDER
Updated 5/14/2015

For 8½ years Vita.mn has delivered hard-hitting, investigative journalism on issues directly impacting our world. Sure, we let a few things slide — Boko Haram kidnappings, disappearing airplanes, Ebola. But while pretty-haired TV war correspondents were vacationing in Kabul, we were in the trenches telling you about cool bands and where to drink.  

Accordingly, we present our last annual Twin Cities patio guide. Since patio season is short and precious, spend it on those most conducive to your mood or situation. While some are as disappointing as a certain Minnesota basketball team (the Gophers, relax you guys), these outdoor eating-and-drinking zones won’t let you down.

 

For beer

The Happy Gnome

Cozy up with that special craft beer and someone whose company you tolerate on this Cathedral Hill beer bar’s patio. Trees decorate the Gnome’s backyard-y porch, which is almost secluded enough for nude sunbathing. But keep your pants on while scanning the whopping list of 77 tap beers, categorized by loose style groupings. (498 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-287-2018, www.thehappy­gnome.com.)

 

For cocktails

Hola Arepa

On summer nights we could sip fernet y colas on Hola Arepa’s quaint patio until the mood-setting string lights go dark. The food truck-turned-restaurant deals in hearty Latin American street food, but the unpretentious cocktails alone are worth the trip. With rum drinks aplenty, Hola offers escapism in a glass at a comparatively thrifty $8.50 a pop. Order anything with their spiced whey horchata in it and bask in its sublime creaminess. (3501 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-5583, www.holaarepa.com.)

 

For getting high

Betty Danger’s Country Club

Despite the Twin Cities’ myriad rooftop options, the ground-level patio at this “country club on crack” is one of the best places to get high. With a margarita (not a crack pipe) in hand, hop aboard Betty’s 65-foot-tall Ferris wheel for a 20-minute spin in the sky. Never fear, acrophobes bound to the Astroturf-y ground: You can hit the mini-golf course while your friends get lifted. (2501 NE. Marshall St., Mpls., 612-315-4997, www.bettydangers.com.)

 

For when it rains

Patrick McGovern’s Pub

Don’t let a little precipitation dash your patio dreams. Dark clouds be damned, head to this St. Paul Irish bar where its (kelly) greenhouse covers its back patio. Let alcohol’s caress and the pitter-patter of rainfall on the glass roof soothe your soul as your umbrella dries and the cheese melts on your Reuben. (225 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-224-5821, www.patmcgoverns.com.)

 

For romance (on a budget)

Amore Victoria

Just because you can’t afford a $30 entree doesn’t mean you can’t dine somewhere conducive to cheesy sweet nothings. This Italian standby’s rooftop sets the mood without breaking the bank, as a number of main dishes, including the rosa di pesto (one of our faves), fall in the sub-$20 category. Amore is set back from Uptown’s party central, so after a hand-holding stroll around Lake Calhoun, enjoy a late, laid-back dinner without bumping elbows with bros. (1601 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-0250, www.amorevictoria.com.)

 

For romance (without a budget)

Union

Take the elevator to the terrace above Minneapolis’ Theater District. Gaze at the stars in the sky (through the elegant glass roof), and at the ones in your lover’s eyes, over wine you can’t pronounce. Between the beef carpaccio and smoked, paprika-crusted sea bass — prepared for you personally by a four-star chef (maybe, we dunno) — work up the nerve to pop the question: “Do you think anyone else can smell that?” (731 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-455-6690, www.unionrooftop.com.)

 

For bringing your guns

Bar Louie

Minnesota is a conceal-and-carry state, but you can proudly flash your “guns” at this Uptown broasis. Despite a big but bland tap list, come summer suns-out-guns-out meatheads are out in sleeveless force on this Miami-vibing, upscale sports bar’s patio. Alpha male biceptuals litter the glitzy wading pool and fire pits on warm-weather nights, as this chain bar boasts one of Uptown’s best outdoor party spots. (1348 Lagoon Av., Mpls., 612-824-1529, www.barlouieamerica.com.)

 

For watching the game

Uptown Tavern & Rooftop

No one wants to sit on a sprawling patio and squint at the tiny TV mounted in the corner. Fortunately, this Uptown bro and beer bar has a huge-by-ginormous projection screen on its roof. It’s like being at a drive-in with guys breathing Fireball fumes in your face. But a solid tap list and decent specials make it a worthy pick during Twins games. (1400 Lagoon Av., Mpls., 612-824-3333, www.uptowntavernmpls.com.)

 

For when you’re broke

Keegan’s Irish Pub

Found yourself suddenly underemployed? That’s life, man. But don’t stop living that patio life. When your funds are low, there’s nothing insufficient about $3 Summits after 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Keegan’s. Drink for hours on the Irish tavern’s modest back patio while regretting not going to pharmacy school. Your tab will stay equally modest. (16 University Av. NE., Mpls., 612-252-0880, www.keeganspub.com.)

 

For games

Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge

Anybody can set up a bag toss on a slab of concrete. But we’ll tip a cap to this Lake Minnetonka boat-up bar for installing three volleyball courts off the side of its lengthy deck. After hydrating at the outdoor bar amid a day on the water, work off those beer calories on the lakefront court. Spike the smugness off showboating water-skiers’ faces all summer and come back in the winter for Lord Fletcher’s broomball leagues. (3746 Sunset Dr., Spring Park, 952-471-8513, www.lordfletchers.com.)

 

For bringing Fido

Nomad World Pub

Tons of local bars are cool about allowing man’s best friend on their patios. But few go as out of their way to accommodate furry ground-poopers as the Nomad. The West Bank bar often hosts pup-friendly events, including this weekend’s K9 Connection happy hour (5-7 p.m. Fri., $10) and Pint Size Pooches meetup (3 p.m. Sun.). These off-leash parties are like having a dog park at a bar, so both you and the crotch-sniffer win. (501 Cedar Av. S., Mpls., 612-338-6424, www.nomadpub.com.)

 

For any occasion

W.A. Frost

Whether it’s your uncle’s birthday or your anniversary with the person you’re currently sleeping with, this St. Paul institution is a perfect celebration place. Especially alfresco. Its lush back yard is neither too fancy for Grandpa nor too casual for someone who’s seen you naked. Satisfying main dishes reside at all price points and the gluten-free mafia has ample choices. (374 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-224-5715, www.wafrost.com.)

 

For happy hour

Sweeney’s Saloon

If the towering stone fireplace and outdoor bar weren’t enough of a draw, let Sweeney’s deals be your driver. Daily Summit and taco bargains (3-6 p.m.) appease the after-work crowd, but rotating school-night specials and a late-night happy hour offer reasons to stay all night. Thriftily unwind all summer on this two-tiered patio. (96 N. Dale St., St. Paul, 651-221-9157, www.sweeneyssaloon.com.)

 

For a Taproom

LynLake Brewery

Until Surly Brewing’s big ol’ beer garden is in full swing, this Uptown brewery’s is the patio to beat. Among the neighborhood’s cordillera of luxury apartments, scale the top of Mount Brew where LynLake pours rooftop pints. Grab a robust porter and swipe a picnic table on the wooden deck dotted with a couple of artist-designed firepit orbs made from steel marine buoys. (2934 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-224-9682, www.lynlakebrewery.com.)

 

For lakeside scenery

6Smith

Sometimes it’s nice to sip a cocktail and gaze at the water without drowning in the lake-bar masses. While Maynard’s and Lord Fletcher’s are Lake Minnetonka’s patio behemoths, 6Smith’s smaller second-level deck has a less hectic vibe and a better view. Snag a table by the rail and embrace the cooling combo of a sherry cobbler and the breeze coming off Wayzata Bay. The loungier ground-floor terrace is no slouch, either. (294 Grove Lane E., Wayzata, 952-698-7900, www.6smith.com.)

 

For the sneaky play

Moscow on the Hill

Charming Selby Avenue is a veritable patio alley. While this Russian restaurant’s heartier fare feels more wintry, its inconspicuous back deck comes alive in the summer. Go past the sexy, red-lit lounge to its wooden patio, where privacy fences crawling with vegetation lend an off-the-beaten-path feel. (371 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-291-1236, www.moscowonthehill.com.)

 

For pre-event

Butcher & the Boar

Before attending a Twins game or a rock show, swing by for a sausage party in Butcher’s beer garden. The downtown meat house is on many a bus line and within walking distance of theaters, sports complexes and First Avenue. Pick your poison from its well-curated roster of bourbons or tap beers. But when it’s a beautiful day for a ballgame, let’s drink two. (1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-238-8888, www.butcherandtheboar.com.)

 

Your last meal

Jax Cafe

All good things come to an end. And on Jax’s fairy-tale back patio, we’ve always had a happy ending (but not in a Backpage kind of way). Savor your surf or turf as Rat Pack-y tunes serenade diners in this classic Nordeast steakhouse’s secluded garden. Scotch in hand, wander along the Bachman’s display-esque babbling brook and contemplate your life’s great stories before expiring like, well, a weekly print magazine. It was a helluva run. (1928 University Av. NE., Mpls., 612-789-7297, www.jaxcafe.com.)

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