In northern Michigan, we like to soak up every bit of summer – because it is so short! Although there is outdoor dining year-round at some area restaurants, summer outdoor dining is just a little sweeter here. If you’re looking for outdoor dining options in Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Alanson, Bay View, Bay Harbor, or Boyne City you will want to check these out!

Backlot Aerial


Palette Bistro: This dining option overlooks the beautiful Little Traverse Bay on the edge of downtown Petoskey. Palette Bistro has a Mediterranean-inspired menu that rotates seasonally. You also won’t want to miss their Happy Hour every day from 4 PM to 5:30 PM (40% off small plates – you read that right), Weekend Brunch, and signature cocktails. A definite plus is their appeal to non-meat-eaters with a variety of vegetarian dishes.

The Back Lot: This wonderful concept that joined our community about four years ago is indeed in the back parking lot of the businesses on Mitchell Street in Petoskey. The Back Lot Beer Garden, located off of Michigan Street, has several food trucks, a wide selection of craft beers, some wine-by-the-glass options, and cocktails. With a variety of food trucks, it makes a great experience for everyone in the group to have something they will enjoy. Don’t forget the dog, dogs are welcome at The Back Lot in the warmer months! Current Food truck options include:

  • Happy’s Tacos : try a few tacos they offer or maybe even a Super Burrito – and by super they mean large!
  • The Reel Deal Fish and Chips – Choose from their available fish selections to pick your preferred fish n’ chips. OR try their Scallop BLT!
  • Cheese & Co – Gourmet Grilled Cheeses and more – go classic, Jalapeno Poppa or try one of their bowl offerings
  • Mim’s Mobile Grill – long-time local Mediterranean cuisine with classic gyros, falafel, and a favorite of mine – Fiery Feta Fries
  • Full Moon Pizza – Wood-fired pizzas! Available as a Personal, GF, or 12-inch
  • Phoxy’s Phillies & Grindage – What is “grindage”? Munchies, snacks, other food! Choose a Phoxy’s Style Philly then add on some “grindage” to share: Fried Green Beans and Buffalo Cauliflower Bites


Rusty Saw North: (Brutus) Scenic barbeque just 4 minutes north of Alanson, Rusty Saw North is located on US 31 in Brutus, Michigan. Rusty Saw is situated in a country setting which makes for a quieter setting. Just a hop and skip (less than two miles) from Hidden River Golf and Casting Club, you can enjoy Pork Belly Burnt ends to start and then a BBQ Combo or maybe some Chicken and Waffles. So many great options!

Pond Hill Brews

Harbor Springs

Stafford’s Pier: Located in Downtown Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay, Stafford’s Pier has dockside dining with amazing views of the bay and its boats. You can enjoy one of their seafood or Great Lakes fish offerings like the Pan-Roasted Scallops or Great Lakes Planked Whitefish. Aside from that there are a variety of sandwich and salad options. One unique asset that Stafford’s Pier also hosts is access to their Pointer Boat. This boat was once the Harbor Point Association’s water taxi that would run between “The Point” and Harbor Springs. The boat is now used for cruises on the harbor. Food and beverages through the Pier kitchen are available for preorder to enjoy on your tour.

Legs Inn: (Cross Village) Not only does Legs Inn host beautiful panoramic views of Lake Michigan from their spacious garden seating but it is also riddled with rich history (since early 1920s)! Legs Inn is nationally recognized for its unique architecture and Polish cuisine. Although a bit of a drive from Downtown Harbor Springs or Petoskey, it is a great stop at the end of the Tunnel of Trees or after a day at Sturgeon Bay Beach. We’re talking gołąbki (stuffed cabbage), pierogis, and any of your other Polish favorites – yum! If you haven’t been, seriously, put it on the list!

Pond Hill Farm: A stop off of the Tunnel of Trees, Pond Hill Farm hosts a wide variety of entertaining activities, sights, and tasty treats in every season! The tented outdoor seating in their ‘beer garden’ is beautiful with their unique use of stacked log pieces to create dividers and seasonal décor they have sourced from the farm. Now on to the food and drink… the brick oven pizzas are made with farm fresh ingredients and homemade products like their garlicky basil pesto on the Pesto Pizza – gluten-free crust available too. And if you’re an heirloom tomato lover, these seasonal beauties are featured in the Heirloom Tomato Salad. Don’t forget to try one of their original brews or wine. Check their hours and make the trip!

Terrace Inn Broiled Whitefish

Bay View

1911 Restaurant at Terrace Inn: Take a step back in time to the historic Bay View Association and visit the 1911 Restaurant at the Terrace Inn – open to the public. As weather dictates the restaurant provides some outdoor dining – such a gorgeous venue! House specialties are their planked whitefish with duchess potatoes and a broiled spinach & artichoke stuffed tomato. Just across the highway with more outdoor dining is Roselawn Dining Room at Stafford’s Bay View Inn with their popular Sunday Brunch – reservations are strongly recommended for this!


Bay Harbor

Maple + Batter: Calling all brunch lovers in the Petoskey Area – feast for your eyes, your phone and your tastebuds of course. In 2021, the Bay Harbor Village welcomed, Maple + Batter. With a small outdoor patio to enjoy the nice weather. Try one of their specialties like Sweet Potato Maple Hash or maybe a Truffle Avocado Toast. Have no fear benny lovers… there’s eggs benedicts too! You have a choice of Bay Harbor Benedict or a Bacon Benny. Sweet tooths are met too with the classics as well.

NOMAD.: The new kid on the Bay Harbor block – NOMAD. joined the community in Spring of 2022. A wonderful addition to the fine dining scene in the area. Located on the Bay Harbor Lake Waterfront, they offer shareable plates, wine list, and house cocktails. As an ode to its name, they have incorporated flavors from across the world.

Brandy’s Harbortown: Coming in Summer of 2024 is a new restaurant in the Bay Harbor downtown village! This is from the same great crew that brings you NOMAD. and Maple + Batter. Keep up with their progress and opening date on their Facebook page.

Stiggs Outdoor Seating Red Truck

Boyne City

Summer and outdoor dining go hand-in-hand in northern Michigan, and for Boyne City, the return of summer means the return of their event Stroll the Streets. This event pairs so nicely with outdoor dining as you can listen to local artists while you dine at places like Stiggs, Cafe Sante, and more.

Café Sante: A little European-style bistro that has “The Classics with flair” as they put it. That is spot on – not just the food but the atmosphere. Their outdoor patio with covered and open-air seating gives you a beautiful view of Lake Charlevoix. Their amazing food selections will most definitely keep you coming back to try everything at least once. A couple of my personal favorites are their wood-fired pizzas, Croque Madame for brunch, and the Pappardelle Bolognese. The mood of the restaurant and staff really tie the whole experience together.

Stiggs Brewery: A great little spot to grab a Michigan Craft beer and some amazing food! They have patio dining that wraps around the street side of the building with bistro and picnic style seating. Speaking of the building, there is some history there – the building was originally built in 1899 as part of the White Timber Logging Company. While at Stiggs, you can enjoy their brews made on-site from locally sourced hops, malts & other ingredients. They have over 30 taps featuring their house-brews, local ciders, and other Michigan wines and brews. As far as food, get ready for some very delicious options that pair wonderfully with their brews. Try their Beaver Bites (boneless breaded chicken bites) with one of their dry rubs, Stiggs Smoked Brisket smoked in-house, or a Smoked Tomahawk Pork Chop.

There are many additional outdoor dining options available on our website. And don’t forget the many available places to get a deli sandwich to-go so that you can create your own outdoor dining experience.

Great deli options in the area to stock up for a picnic: Petoskey/Bay Harbor – Cormack’s Deli, Grain Train Natural Foods (Petoskey and Boyne City), Julienne Tomatoes, Salvatore’s Grocery, Symons General Store Harbor Springs – Turkey’s, Gurney’s Bottle Shop, Harbor Ice Cream, Toski Sands Market Boyne City – Lake Street Market, and  Alanson – Dutch Oven Bakery


About the author
Ellen Auten is a native of the area and loves to promote the next fun thing to do in the Petoskey Area – but also loves hiking, trying new food, having a day at the beach, and appreciates the local art scene. She hopes to help in your planning process for your next trip to the Petoskey Area of northern Lower Michigan.