Tony and Ellen Alfonsi, owners of Little Tony’s in Grosse Pointe Woods, show off their famous burger on their popular outdoor patio.

Tony and Ellen Alfonsi, owners of Little Tony’s in Grosse Pointe Woods, show off their famous burger on their popular outdoor patio.

Photo by Deb Jacques


After a harsh winter, Michiganders take dinner to the deck

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published June 6, 2018

 Sedona Taphouse in Troy boasts a rooftop patio two stories above bustling Big Beaver Road.

Sedona Taphouse in Troy boasts a rooftop patio two stories above bustling Big Beaver Road.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

 Anthony Jekielek, owner of Vintage House in Fraser, says the hall’s garden patio is a hit with restaurant patrons and event guests.

Anthony Jekielek, owner of Vintage House in Fraser, says the hall’s garden patio is a hit with restaurant patrons and event guests.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

METRO DETROIT — On a steamy Friday evening, just before the start of a long Memorial Day weekend, four friends finished a round of beers on a rooftop in Troy.

The group, all members of the Detroit Economic Club, needed to get together to talk about a charity event. But a conference room just wouldn’t cut it that day — not when the sun was setting and the open air was calling.

“When you’ve been looking at a screen all day, all you want is to be outside,” said Dan Murray, of Rochester. “When you’re working 50-plus hours inside, why wouldn’t you want to end the week out on a patio to relax?”

“Yeah, we get, like, three weeks of summer in Michigan. We’ve earned this,” agreed his pal Reagan Hamilton, of Auburn Hills.

The DEC crew wasn’t the only full table that night on the rooftop patio of Sedona Taphouse. Owner Marty Knollenberg — better known to some as Michigan Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy — said he’s put a lot of work into creating the oasis two stories above Big Beaver Road.

“I wanted something unique and different than anything else you’ve seen in Oakland County,” Knollenberg said. “It’s the mix of being outside, connected to nature, and the ambiance we created.”

For those not keen on heights, Sedona has a lower-level patio too, situated off the busy road. And both spots will likely be busy all summer, Knollenberg said. Outdoor dining is just a staple in metro Detroit.

The owner of Fraser’s Vintage House knows that all too well. Anthony Jekielek built his restaurant’s tiki-style patio eight years ago to be a retreat for restaurant patrons and banquet guests.

“There are several large, big-screen LED TVs; outdoor fireplaces for those cooler nights; a complete outdoor grilling area so we can take care of our patrons with fresh, live cooking. Every year we enhance it,” Jekielek said. “We did it all to set ourselves apart from other banquet spaces. You can step away from a wedding for a bit and enjoy the fresh air. I like to think we’re Fraser’s best-kept secret.”

Jekielek said guests have been itching to get onto the patio ever since the weather broke several weeks ago, and he can’t blame them.

“Our summers are so short. You’ve only got, like, a three-month window to enjoy the outdoor season,” he said. 

Customers were clamoring for the patio at Little Tony’s in Grosse Pointe Woods too, according to owner Tony Alfonsi. 

“My mother added the patio about 10 years ago, maybe longer, because we had good frontage to do it,” Alfonsi said. “It’s great. It’s enclosed, so it feels like a small, intimate space. Customers have been asking when it’s going to open for months. Actually, we’ve gained some customers who’ve never been here because they saw the patio when they drove by.”

Alfonsi took over the nearly 50-year-old business from his parents back in February, but he’s spent many a night over the years on the patio, enjoying a drink and one of the restaurant’s famed burgers.

“I love it, but the people really love it,” he said.