Mention the word patio and Vancouverites are all over the idea. Our city is blessed with a gazillion of them, or so it seems, with some operating year-round, rain or shine. But patios where you can while away the afternoon or evening really come into their own in summer. Moreover, they offer some of the best people-watching anywhere.
Glorious open-air spots can be found in every part of town, and each area offers a different street view. Get out there, hit your faves, or try something new.
The Boathouse Restaurant
(1305 Arbutus Street, 604-738-5487)
The Boathouse at Kits Beach and beach-level sib Surfside Grill & Bar offer expansive views of sea, sand, and skin. “It’s the hottest beach in Vancouver,” noted manager Joel Trainor when I dropped by. Easy to say: Forbes Traveler proclaimed it one of the top 10 sexiest beach in North America last year, and National Geographic’s Web site just rated Vancouver as one of the top 10 beach cities in the world. Opt for one of Surfside’s (unlicensed) outdoor tables, where burgers and fish and chips rule ($8-$18). Upstairs, the Boathouse reels in regulars and tourists alike with its panoramic ocean and mountain views, plus killer sightings of—what else—bronzed, bikini’d beachgoers.
Manager Joel Trainor recommends: “The 3 to 6 p.m. Appy Hour bites like buck-and-shuck [$1 each] oysters and surf and turf—beef skewers with skillet shrimp [$5.99].”
Divine drinks: “Appy Hour daily drink specials: $5 mojitos and martinis, or a local microbrew.”
The view: Preening, prancing babes of both sexes, plus athletic volleyball players.
The Keefer Bar
(135 Keefer Street, 604-688-1961)
Chinatown may seem an unlikely spot for a streetside patio, but the Keefer Bar has hit it out of the park. The glassed-off patio is anchored by sleek, greenery-filled charcoal-coloured pots, and glammed up with wooden benches plus brilliant turquoise chairs and matching tables topped with Chinese lanterns. Friday through Sunday evenings, when the Vancouver Chinatown Night Market is going full tilt, the scene is as colourful as it gets. The market adds a raucous touch with blaring DVDs, live acts on-stage, food venders, and squealing bargain seekers.
Bar manager Danielle Tatarin recommends: “Our summer fresh sheet has great snacks like chicken skewers, fish cakes, and Peking duck sliders [$6 to $12].”
Divine drinks: “The Peach Sling [black rum, peach nectar, ginger and galangal syrup, and lemon] and Rosemary Gimlet are really popular.”
The view: Tattooed punksters, gamblers hopping street-side shuttles to nearby Edgewater Casino, Asian families, and tourists, plus bar hoppers swanning in from nearby Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie.
Cork & Fin
(221 Carrall Street, 604-569-2215)
Gastown’s most idyllic patio might be Cork & Fin’s, which has an elegance that contrasts with the sometimes-gritty Carrall Street. It doesn’t hurt that this stretch of Carrall is car-free from Friday at 6 p.m. to Sunday at 10 p.m. until Labour Day. Cork & Fin’s patio is an oasis that perfectly reflects the gentrifying ’hood: advertising-free umbrellas, white tablecloths, and glassware are both informal and casually elegant.
Co-owner Francis Regio recommends: The large seafood tower laden with oysters, mussels, Manila clams, Baja prawns, and Dungeness crab legs ($55).
Divine drinks: It’s gotta be bubbles. “The $19 flight includes two-ounce pours of Prosecco, Marquis de Marillac Brut Champagne, and Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne,” Regio says. A wicked bargain.
The view: A cross-section of Gastown’s populace, from street people to loft dwellers, plus local business folk, out-of-town visitors, and shift workers from restaurants in the area.
Sciue Italian Bakery Caffe
(110–800 West Pender Street, 604-602-7263)
Don’t feel badly for downtown worker bees; there are patios galore in this area, including busy Sciué Italian Bakery Caffé. Situated at the eternally busy intersection of West Pender and Howe streets, this location of Sciué (“shoe-eh”, meaning “fast” and “good” in Italian) bustles from breakfast through early evening. The owners—coffee guy Davide Bonamici and master baker Alessandro Fonseca—are ex-Romans who serve their hometown’s street food. The huge corner patio seats 40 elbow-rubbing office workers, brokers, bicycle couriers, tourists, and shoppers, who eye the urban parade that zooms by.
Manager Rodrigo Vela recommends: “Pasta specials like chicken cacciatore [$10.95] are popular in any weather. Panini like the Sicilia [grilled Italian sausage, Provolone, roasted peppers ($8.50)], and Panne Romano flatbread pizzas [sold be weight, $30 to $35 per kilo] including shrimp gambieri are great too.”
Divine drinks: Peroni or Moretti beer from Italy, Chinotto Italian sodas, or espresso.
The view: In-a-hurry office workers, strolling shoppers, and manic couriers.