Watching the sun sink slowly into a waterfront horizon is one of the staples of summer in The Mitten, and when that’s paired with rooftop dining, it doesn’t get much better. With the dozens of wineries, charming downtowns and sandy beaches, southwest Michigan is one of the top destinations for summer fun seekers, and its alfresco dining scene certainly is keeping pace.
“It’s off the beaten tracks, but once you find us, hopefully, it sticks with you.”
— Jenny Drilon
Bentwood Tavern, New Buffalo
Chef Jenny Drilon’s menu of artisanal comfort food makes the Bentwood Tavern, located inside the Grand Marina Resort, a bit of a hidden gem. “It’s off the beaten tracks, but once you find us, hopefully, it sticks with you,” Drilion says. The restaurant offers waterfront patio seating, as well as a rooftop bar overlooking the marina and is open to the public for brunch, lunch and dinner.
She and her team crafted a menu filled with a little bit of everything — shareable plates, wood-fired pizzas, homemade desserts and globally inspired dishes using tons of fresh, locally grown ingredients. “We aim to use whatever is in season and do our best to offer interesting, hard to find items,” she says, so diners can trust that there will always be something new and interesting to try.
Ryebelles Restaurant and Bar’s
North Street Terrace, St. Joseph
RyeBelles Restaurant and Bar in downtown St. Joseph added an additional east-facing rooftop option, North State Terrace, just in time for the Fourth of July festivities last summer. “St. Joe has really grown since we’ve been here,” General Manager Nathaniel Bishop explains. The addition overlooks the city’s central business district and serves as an overflow option for RyeBelles.
RyeBelles has been serving up traditional American fare since 2011, specializing in seafood and stone-fired pizzas, and North State Terrace now offers diners a sophisticated atmosphere to sip cocktails and enjoy hors d’oeuvres while enjoying live music and a bit of shade from the sun. Bishop says the family-owned outfit is “come as you are,” offering a relaxing option for a night out on the town.
RyeBelles Chicken Salad
4 ounces feta cheese
2 ounces dried cranberries
4 ounces sliced strawberries
2 ounces candied pecans
6 ounces boneless chicken breast – sliced
Garnish with parsley
bread+bar, Benton Harbor
Perhaps the most unique option for southwest alfresco dining is found inland on the banks of the St. Joseph river. Located in Benton Harbor, bread+bar is a sophisticated, yet casual option that offers fresh, flavorful meals and chef-tailored wine pairings.
The New American menu features a variety of rustic Midwestern dishes, think roasted chicken and wild boar ragu, paired with Classical Fresh preparation using ingredients sourced from local farmers, vendors and bakers. Many of its offerings are made or paired with Bit of Swiss artisan breads that are baked fresh every day, including the crowd favorite, Tartines, which are open-faced French sandwiches topped with a choice of delectable local ingredients like cannellini bean, smoked whitefish and serrano ham.
Where to find them
518 Broad St.
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 4:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 4:30-10 p.m.; Closed Sunday and Mondays
600 W. Water St.
Hours: Monday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.; Friday noon-10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday
9 a.m.-10 p.m.
645 Riverview Drive
11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Closed Sunday
Alexandra Fluegel is a freelance writer living in Detroit. She enjoys writing about food, arts and culture.