The only thing that makes Clevelanders happier than quaffing a cold one is imbibing with a theme. St. Paddy's Day? We drink ourselves green at the pub. Game day? We're drinking in eye black at the game. And when spring finally gives way to summer, we're throwing on shorts and skirts, proudly baring winter-withered legs, and drinking outdoors. But not all patios were created equal. Here are some of Cleveland's best:
Fairmount Martini & Wine Bar
In the heart of the Heights' bustling Cedar-Fairmount 'hood, a calm and tranquil patio awaits. It's a courtyard-style patio, hidden away from traffic and noise, and brimming with fetching tables and chairs with cutout fleur-de-lis patterns. Metal signs with booze brands adorn its walls, and it's surrounded by trees, with an outdoor stone-topped bar. Just in case you forget what you're really there for: knock-your-socks-off-strong and tasty martinis, or a couple of generous pours of vino. The crowd ranges from Coventry hipsters to soccer moms; both enjoy the more than 40 microbrews as well as the 30 wines by the glass and 200 by the bottle. And, of course, the inventive and extensive list of 'tinis, from the raspberry-lemon ice, with Finlandia Wild Berry, limoncello, cran-raspberry, Chambord, and lemon, to the white-chocolate martini, with Smirnoff Vanilla, Godiva White, and Frangelico, topped with a cinnamon blend. 2448 Fairmount Boulevard, Cleveland Heights, 216-229-9463, www.thefairmount.net.
Rocky River Brewing Company
The multiple levels of this wooden bar and patio prove that the suburbs can be just as rockin' as the city. Chat with the friendly patrons and barkeeps — and vie for a spot on the Quote of the Day chalkboard — all the while enjoying delicious microbrews. Our pick, for seasonality and deliciousness, is the Summer Solstice Weiss Bier. There are specials every Tuesday through Sunday, including our fave, Thursday's Big Ass Beer Night, where 23-ounce beers are yours for the chuggin'. 21290 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River, 440-895-2739.
Sure, the faux tree inside the bar is jaunty. But step outside into the fresh air — where there are real trees! — and enjoy the huge patio at this Tremont hot spot. Abundant, whimsically painted tables are enclosed by decorative metal gates. There's frequent live music — everything from local acts to Irish bands. The expensive-eyeglasses-wearing, fixed-gear-bike-riding local hipsters happily mingle with kids in frat shirts, who got their passport stamped to venture into Tremont for the night. The draft selection is straightforward and solid, but to really appreciate Treehouse, order up a perfectly poured pint of Guinness. 820 College Avenue, 216-696-2505.
The bar where the after-work-and-still-in-chinos crowd happily mingles with bikers (and maybe bumps into a Burning River Roller Girl or two) also boasts a fine patio, sporting the same racing decor as inside. There are also a bar and food stand in the outside space of this Ohio City joint, with metal tables and chairs surrounding a fire pit for when the chill creeps in. Thursdays are grunge nights, so bust out the flannel, and Fridays are '80s night, so plug in the crimping iron. Plenty of live music, including Rockabilly, comes through Garage, so be sure to check the bar's website for upcoming events. 1859 West 25th Street, 216-696-7772, www.thegaragebar.net.
Major Hoopples Riverbed Café
Going to Hoopples guarantees a good time, regardless of the weather — witness the indoor bowling game and the regular Thursday shows by blues-guitar-hero Glenn Schwartz — but during the warm months, it's especially hard to beat. A large patio, fenced with wood and trimmed with shining rope lights, plays host to a variety of regional and touring musical acts. There's also the best view of downtown you can find. They'll even project the game onto the nearby overpass. 1930 Columbus Road, 216-575-0483, www.hoopples.com.
Buckeye Beer Engine
This relative newcomer to the Lakewood bar scene has already become a crowd fave, and the small but mighty patio is always packed. And with the huge variety of suds from which to choose, it can be doubly nice to sit under the stars while you thoroughly peruse your options. The selection of drafts changes seasonally, so now's the time to sample the Abita Purple Haze, Bell's Oberon, or the Franziskaner. Or go for one of two cask-conditioned ales, or any of the incalculable number of bottled beauties. It's all the fun of a Lakewood bar, with a marked reduction in crappy pickup lines. 15315 Madison Avenue, Lakewood, 216-226-BEER, www.buckeyebeerengine.com.
High above the weaving crowds of West Sixth revelers lies a rooftop patio with killer views, an ample bar, and kickin' crowds. It's a place to see and be seen on Friday and Saturday nights, when the ample space plays host to bachelor and bachelorette parties, together with the singles who love to disrupt them while getting their groove on. The bar is handy and the views are unique: The city's buildings look surprisingly different from this angle, and West Sixth is even more fun when seen from a bird's-eye view. Thursdays are ladies' nights, Fridays have a happy hour with a Sushi Rock buffet, and on Saturdays, there's a dance party, with Top-40/house mash-ups. 1280 West Sixth Street, 216-664-1116, www.velvetdogcleveland.com.
Shooters on the Water
Nothing says Cleveland summer like a night at Shooters. The vast expanse of patio real estate and an even vaster panoramic view have been thrilling boaters and bachelorettes for more than 20 years in this legendary Flats locale. Light shows, music, and more booze than you can shake a yacht at make for a memorable night. The crowd includes actual, honest-to-blog boating enthusiasts, entertainingly hammered gaggles of gals, and equally entertainingly hammered gaggles of ladies remembering when they were gals. Try not to fall in. 1148 Main Avenue, 216-861-6900, www.shootersflats.com.