At long last! The nights are younger and the days are longer: it must be patio season. Time to kick up our heels and toast the advent of gentler climes. A Lake Street bar crawl in Wayzata is just the ticket. Here are five dynamic watering holes where you can wet your whistle and welcome in the spring.
635 E. Lake St.; 952.404.1100
We know and love Gianni’s as an upscale steakhouse. As such, a bar stop at this venerable eaterybegs for nothing less than a martini—make it a dirty one. In a culture overrun with too-sweet libations, Gianni’s dirty martini is most welcome: bracingly tart and sassily salty. We chose Tanqueray 10 gin for its soft, citrusy body, and we asked for not one but three olives—sans pimento, comme il faut. You might nibble a classic shrimp cocktail to go with that drink, or simply sit under an elegant umbrella on the wooden patio and revel in the old school atmosphere. $11.
683 Lake St. E.; 952.476.7000
A few doors down, Sakana Sushi offers the cocktail-seeker something a bit unusual: sake, which turns to be as nuanced as fine wine. Take this opportunity to educate your palate with a special three-sake flight. Each flight comes with a placard that describes the distillations with adjectives such as “woodsy and dense” to “mellow and rustic.” Once you taste these elegant elixirs, you’ll be inspired to come up with your own fancy descriptors. Sakana’s patio is a bit recessed from the sidewalk, making it a perfect vantage point for people-watching. Simple Pleasures sake flight, $12; Umami flight, $20.
739 Lake St. E., 952.475.3636
Whether you choose the garden patio behind the restaurant or optto hunker down in the cozy bar, Blue Point is the kind of discreet hideaway that attracts a loyal raft of regulars. We were seduced by the creative martini menu, which included the coyly lethal Flirtini: Absolut mandarin, champagne and pineapple juice. At happy hour, you can get any number of “small plates and long pours,” including the double-pour glass of chardonnay or cabernet. Pay tribute to the namesake of the establishment and slurp down some blue point oysters with that big drink. You’ll need those vitamins for this long night! $9.
700 E. Lake St.; 952.473.5253
You are now sufficiently lubricated to enjoy the raucous scene on the popular wraparound lakefront patio at Sunsets. Don’t feel bad if you miss the actual sunset (even though this patio is the optimal viewing point). Sunsets offers myriad temptations. We succumbed to the dedicated mojito menu. Watch out for the delectableand dangerously glug-able pear mojito, made with Absolut Pears, fresh mint, soda and fresh lime. You could also choose between more than 20 draught beers in two sizes: huge and ginormous; heck yeah! Better ingest a pile of spicy wings to counteract the booze and while you’re at it, raise a glass to our lovely lake. Hic! $7.40.
747 Mill St.; 952.473.5286
Finish the night at the beloved ol’ Muni: always friendly, always low-key. Owned by the city of Wayzata since 1947, The Muni’sprofits help reduce taxes and fund capital improvement projects. This is the perfect place wind it down with a beer on tap, especially if it’s a local microbrew like Surly Furious ale. The Muni’s outdoor patio overlooks the tame parking lot but you’d never know it with so many blazing tiki torches that create a let-loose, boisterous feel. The Muni is a steadfastly democratic joint, summed up by a quip painted on the wall: “Blue or white, leave your collar at the door.” Civic pride was never so decadent. $4.75.
*Editor’s Note: Drink responsibly