Outdoor eating, live music and all of the vibes
Sometimes you just want a bit of atmosphere. What one person might call a festival atmosphere, another might refer to as simply: vibes. It’s a hard phenomenon to pinpoint but it usually involves outdoor food and drink, some sort of DJ or live music accompaniment and a bit of choice seating with enough shade to not come home looking like a lobster.
Manchester has become very good at this sort of jovial outdoor eating and drinking experience - the pandemic has no doubt played a part. From the foodhall monolith that is Escape to Freight Island to smaller pop-ups in suburbia and Bougie making use of its Bridge Street terrace. There’s plenty on offer if you’re after an alternative to the formal confines of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant or a pint and some crisps in a pub beer garden.
Here’s our pick of the best outdoor, festival-style eating and drinking spots Manchester has to offer.
Box on the Docks, Salford Quays
What was originally created as a pragmatic and artistically-minded dining concept (a local artist was chosen to decorate each pod) at Salford’s Media City has now morphed into a permanent fixture. Now providing festival-style scranning opportunities all year round, Box on the Docks returns this summer with a programme of food, drink and entertainment. Visitors can eat from a selection of local vendors in colourfully-designed sheds and greenhouses with the likes of Cheshire stacked bagel makers Beigel, Chapati Café's homestyle Indian food and The Tasty Greek's giros currently on offer. Drinks come courtesy of Salford locals SEVEN BRO7HERS and SIS4ERS DISTILLERY.
Carnival, Bridge Street
The former-Bougie terrace is no stranger to reinvention, effortlessly transcending its original hot pink glam into a no-less-extra alpine ski lodge last year. Now it’s evolved into its latest summer form, that of Carnival, a Latino and Caribbean-inspired festival courtyard. Bursting with trademark colour and straddling two notably different cultural inspirations, Carnival is serving the Bridge Street masses a heady mixture of cocktails, shisha, streetfood small plates and unashamedly fierce, thank you next energy. Nibble on a double cheese and jalapeno nacho burger, sip on a cocktail called the Bahama Mama and keep an eye out for Jamaican cricketer Chris Gayle.
Escape to Freight Island, Piccadilly
The big one. The monolith foodhall concept based upon the unshakeable foundations (vibrations?) of food and music. A forever festival in a warehouse. Whether you’re in the main room on cabaret night eating a patty from Burgerism or giving a slice of pie from Batard a good seeing to on the outdoor terrace with the Sunday tunes of a Luke Una DJ set going off, you can always count on the atmos at Freight. Packing fried chicken (Lucky Foot), open-fire meats (Carnival), burgers (Burgerism), artisan baked goods (Batard), Michelin-star Doner (One Star Doner) pizza (Voodoo Rays), tacos (Madre) and Vietnamese (Mi & Pho) with plenty to wash it all down. Quality soundtrack guaranteed.
Foodie Friday, Stockport
“Continental style” and “street café culture” are just some of the terms the people of hat town are using to refer to their beloved foodie Friday. The outdoor community feast which takes place every last Friday of the month 6 - 9pm, brings together familiar street food vendors, craft ales and choice live music for a breezy get-together at Stockport Market. Vendors include the likes of I Knead Pizza (pizza), Wrapscallion (burritos) and Nasi Lemak (Malaysian).
GRUB, Green Quarter
From plant-powered Sundays to gluten-free Thursdays and regular sip and paint events, GRUB deserves a lot of credit for the ambition, thought and variety that goes into its events and food and drinks programme. It’s the sort of place to stumble into and be confident in the knowledge that you’ll get a chance to try something genuinely new and exciting. The aforementioned inclusive food-festival-style events cater to different tastes and there’s plenty of live entertainment to get stuck into all year round.
Hatch, Oxford Road
Bruntwood’s very own Boxpark concept on Oxford Road is prime festival vibes. It’s even got its own main stage. A miniature festival atmosphere all year round minus the schlepping from stage to stage. Have a mooch around the vintage market, check out some local crafts and of course gorge on street food as if you’re only allowing yourself one meal a day whilst sanitising with wet wipes. Takk and Öl’s are your coffee and craft beer go-tos respectively, whilst Grandad’s Sausages, Kong’s Sandwich Shop and KBOM will certainly fill you up. Expect lively DJ sets and the rumble of the Mancunian Way overhead.
HOME, First Street
If you, like me, appear to be the only person not going to Glastonbury 2022, you can bag yourself a deck chair on First Street this summer and watch it on a big screen away from all the flags. Likewise with The Hundred cricket tournament and Wimbledon. If that’s not enough, from 2 June First Street will curate a five-week events programme on weekends. The Bunny Jacksons wing wagon will be bringing the pints (though, oddly, not the wings) whilst there'll be chances to sample the menus from HOME on the outdoor terrace and soak up the family-friendly atmosphere in front of the big screen.
Kampus, Canal Street
That Beer Thing is the notable headliner on this year’s Kampus food and drink calendar, but with notable food and drink indies sitting around a secluded garden interior and that covered space under the bungalow, there’s always a festival buzz to the cool, canal-side neighbourhood. Night markets, art exhibitions and fitness events are all worth checking out with the likes of Great North Pie Co, Beeswing, Nell’s, Madre and Pollen nearby for breakfast, lunch and dinner plans.
Kings Court, Altrincham
A quaint, secluded courtyard of exciting, cool independents, Kings Court is one of the more tranquil spots in this world for enjoying a beer and a bit of food. Libero brings an inclusive World Cup vibe year-round, whilst Batch’s library of beer and wine awaits with a handy gadget on the bar that’ll chill a can in seconds if it’s not already in the fridge. The latter does a mean sandwich as well as a renowned roast and if that’s not your bag, there’s always the stacked burgers of I Call Myself Sanchez. The man himself has just added a schnitzel burger which would be an ideal pairing for one of Libero’s trademark German lagers.
Levenshulme Market, Levenshulme
Good old Levy Market, a community-run social enterprise that has set a standard for artisan markets across Manchester. Happening every weekend between March and December, the thriving market runs from 10am to 4pm and what can we say? It’s a vibe. With a full list of stalls posted weekly ahead of each market, with plenty of foodie options as well as artisan crafts and art, there are worse ways to spend a sunny Saturday or Sunday and the rotating choice makes weekly visits feel new.
Platt Fields Market Garden, Fallowfield
We’ve certainly got a soft spot for Platt Fields Market Garden and MUD’s sustainable, community-minded approach to urban farming. A core part of that is the market garden’s innovative and inclusive approach to events. Hosting food and drink events throughout the year from high-profile beer festivals and chef-led (think cameos from Erst, Isca and Where The Light Gets In) seasonal food festivals to low-key community-led barbecues, there’s always something happening at the garden and you always leave with your soul feeling suitably nourished.
Oast House, Spinningfields
Where my Spinningfields huns at? That’s right. They’re at the Oasthouse with my Spinningfields man baddies living their best lives. Always buzzy, always poppin’, the Oast House with its unique mixture of outdoor tent roofing and Hansel and Gretel wooden interiors is a juxtaposed party island. Always something happening, it’s the ideal spot for drinking Aperol Spritz while sitting in Aperol Spritz branded furniture and it also does a mean hanging kebab, sauce drip and all.
Ramona / The Firehouse, Ancoats
Big party energy at Ramona and The Firehouse, which in this instance we’re clubbing together as one in the best interests of formatting. With terrace seating at the front for The Firehouse and Ramona’s tepee area at the side, there’s plenty of room for soaking up outdoor summer vibes whilst sipping on trademark margs and nibbling on those iconic slabs of Detroit pizza. Regulars will know of The Firehouse dialling things up for regular drag and voguing events whilst bottomless Sundays are also an attractive prospect next door. Nobody, we repeat nobody, is serving chicken like The Firehouse. Expect similar vibes at Diecast.
Not So Secret Garden, Altrincham
A lot of places could learn from Altrincham high street. Of course, local wealth is a contributing factor, with national retailers able to put down roots but there’s also something to be said about how it’s also just a nice place to mooch around. One of the reasons for this is the Not So Secret Garden, a familiar hut and astroturf setup albeit with a solid vendor in Stutter & Twitch, which serves coffee, beer and vinyl records. The latter means you can put your faith in the soundtrack. If you’re in the area doing some shopping, take a moment to sit down with a coffee and pastry and watch the world go by.
Street Feast, Stalybridge
It’s Stalybridge’s turn as the epicentre of Greater Manchester culture this year so go and support your local small town with a trip out to the ‘Bridge. Taking place every second Friday of the month, 5-9pm, the family-friendly outdoor foodie fest brings food and drink vendors to the town’s Armentieres Square, as well as market vendors selling artisan products including food, wine, boutique clothing and fine crafts. Soundtracked by local musicians, it’s a great way to see the town at its finest and soak up a warm and friendly atmosphere as the town comes together. Plenty to check out if you want to make a day of it too, including microbreweries and prime brunch spots.
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