It's official: Weirdest summer ever.
When the mild winter petered out in mid-March, we hit local restaurant patios in droves, revving up for months of eating and drinking in the great outdoors. July is prime patio time, but the recent heat index forced many of us inside, leaving even the coolest new patios nearly vacant.
Many of the restaurant scene's newest outdoor additions didn't exactly get a welcome wagon, thanks to this month's sweltering weather.
Take Eat Street Social, which opened its patio in late June.
"People kept asking me, 'When are you going to open your patio?'" said co-owner Joe Wagner. "When we finally opened it, this big heat wave hits and it's 97 degrees every day. I guess that's just the way it goes."
The dining room at Butcher & the Boar is consistently packed, but the outdoor beer garden has been a ghost town on very hot days and nights. According to general manager Angie Heitz, customers have sometimes opted to wait 90 minutes for a table inside rather than have free rein on the patio.
So what do you drink in this heat?
"I've definitely noticed what people aren't drinking," Heitz said.
Red wines are out. She typically sells a lot of bold-flavored craft beers, but very few people are willing to gulp down a barrel-aged double imperial stout right now.
White wine is selling through the roof at Eat Street Social, Wagner said. Ditto such summer favorites as sangria. Of course, at Eat Street Social, the bar's cocktail bosses, Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz, don't make anything typical. Their sangria cocktail is made from 19 ingredients. It's become the restaurant's No. 1 seller by a long shot during these toasty times.
Here's a look at the summer's newest patios and the drinks you should be ordering. Save me some sangria.Eat Street Social
Vibe: The restaurant's comfy little outdoor oasis is surrounded by gigantic stone slabs and colorful vegetation. But it's only halfway done. In the next few weeks, it'll double in size with the addition of a deck (with a pergola and maybe a fireplace).
Drink: The Summer Sangria is a boozy version of the warm-weather classic, but you wouldn't know it by the taste. The 19 ingredients (including hibiscus, honey, spearmint, rum) wash over your tongue with ease.
- 18 W. 26th St., Mpls. 612-767-6850. www.eatstreetsocial.com.
Vibe: Eat Street Social's new neighbor -- a rock-club restaurant -- has a deck with about a dozen tables. Its best attribute, however, isn't even part of the restaurant. The block's ambitious developer, Peter Remes, added a public courtyard right off Icehouse's patio, which is dotted with granite sculptures, trees and a fountain.
Drink: Cocktail consultant Johnny Michaels makes it a tough choice between the Taste of Summer (a gin sour packed with strawberries) and Derek Smalls (a cucumber-infused gin collins).
- 2526 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. 612-276-6523. www.icehousempls.com.
Vibe: Located in an industrial part of northeast Minneapolis, Eli's doesn't attract customers for its view. But the timber deck's new canopy makes the place feel a lot less warehouse-y.
Drink: As the heat hit last month, bartender Richy Riveria debuted a thirst quencher he calls Timeout, a gin cocktail mixed with blueberry-lemon syrup and topped with Crispin Cider. "It's like your time-out from the heat," Riveria says.
- 815 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls. 612-331-0031. www.elisfoodandcocktails.com.
Vibe: The megabar's Prohibition theme extends to its patio, which is a mix of adult playground and back-alley hideaway (literally, it's in a back alleyway).
Drink: Ladies, your fruity explosion is here -- the Mistress is made with Absolut Mandrin, Absolut raspberry, peach schnapps, and cranberry and pineapple juices.
- 10 S. 5th St., Mpls. 612-843-2555. www.thepourhousempls.com.
Vibe: The intimacy of the Graves' vaunted cocktail lounge is exchanged for a lively street scene on the new patio, which is located next to the old Hard Rock Cafe.
Drink: Bradstreet's version of a classic mojito, which is muddled together from Flor de Caña rum, lime, mint and Angostura bitters.
- 601 N. 1st Av., Mpls. 612-312-1821. www.bradstreetcraftshouse.com.
Vibe: Minneapolis' best beer garden has seating for 150 people spread across communal tables, booths and a full bar (loaded with 30 taps). The outdoor destination is actually larger than the restaurant inside. Note: There is a limited menu in the beer garden (however, the full dinner menu is available on a small portion of the upper patio).
Drink: Tops this summer is the bar's version of that Southern favorite, the mint julep.
- 1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-238-8888. www.butcherandtheboar.com.
Vibe: The owners spared no expense on downtown Minneapolis' newest rooftop, where you'll find more Twins fans than Stetson-wearing cowboys. The amenities include a large central bar, plush booth seating and swings(!).
Drink: What else? Beer.
- 126 N. 5th St., Mpls. 612-224-9950. www.theaftermidnightgroup.com.