From the outdoor dining patio at Noto’s at the Bil-Mar in Grand Haven, you can hear the Lake Michigan waves lapping the shore and can’t miss the South Pierhead Outer Lighthouse in the distance.

If you arrive during a busy time, grab a drink at the outdoor bar and sit at a table or in a plush chair on the beach while you wait for an open patio spot.

There’s no waitstaff service on the beach – yet.

“Eventually our goal is to be able to service that area,” said Nicoletta Noto, manager. “Once we get more on our feet, we’ll be able to handle that, too.”

Outdoor dining at Noto’s at the Bil-Mar in Grand Haven
Credit: Aaron Ogg

Noto’s is one of several Grand Haven restaurants that have recently added or expanded outdoor dining options to ensure safe social distancing. Snug Harbor, a longtime favorite among locals and visitors on Grand Haven Channel, added a lower-level deck.

Noto’s reduced their patio tables from 21 to 11 and moved the remainder to the shoreline.

“We don’t seat more than 10 people at a time if we can help it,” Noto said. “It is so spacious, so we’re able to spread tables out to the beach.”

Eateries without beachfront access have made their own accommodations. With one lane barricaded at Harbor Drive and Washington Avenue, popular spots such as Theatre Bar, Dee-Lite Bar & Grill, Grand Seafood & Oyster Bar and Electric Hero have added outdoor seating to create more room between patrons.

Two blocks east of Central Park, Righteous Cuisine made a different kind of change. They recently added a new primary entrance to their modest space to help with customer flow and encourage social distancing. Open-air dining is still allowed on their few benches outside, but not to worry if those spots are taken. Their menu is solid as takeout.

(Fun fact: One of the original West Michigan Pike markers is located near Righteous at Fulton Avenue and Seventh Street.)

Righteous Cuisine’s affiliate location, Righteous BBQ, is located in the Armory Building on Second Street near Grand Armory Brewing Company. Grand Armory added barricaded outdoor seating.

Expanded outdoor dining at the Armory Building in Grand Haven
Credit: Aaron Ogg

Stanz Cafe, a renowned Cajun and Polish spot just west of the original West Michigan Pike, also has taken advantage of the opportunity to expand outdoors.

“They ought to do that all the time,” said Jill Hutchinson, co-owner of Buffalo Bob’s skate shop and department store, of expanded seating outdoors. “It’s a plus, plus, plus.”

With its roughly 3,200 square feet of indoor shopping space, there are currently no plans to move their own shopping racks outside, Hutchinson said, unless there’s a good sidewalk sale coming up.

*Note: As of July 29, Noto’s at the Bil-Mar is temporarily closed. Please call ahead or visit its Facebook page for updated hours and information.