When Granville Entertainment Group launched the Rooftop Cantina above the Roadhouse bar this spring at the corner of Granville and Smithe streets, it hoped to offer something missing in the lives of downtown residents.
“We thought about the surrounding neighbourhood, and most people don’t have patios—or if they do, they’re really small,” marketing and partnership manager Kate Bobroske told the Georgia Straight by phone. “So we wanted to give a back-yard feel to local residents who wouldn’t be able to have lawn chairs.”
So the company laid down AstroTurf to simulate grass and put lattice on the ceiling to create a mood unlike that of any other patio in the city.
It’s the only rooftop patio on Granville Street and seats more than 300 people, making it one of the largest in Vancouver.
The Rooftop Cantina faces intense competition in a city with a growing number of outdoor dining and drinking options.
On August 3, Vancouver will host its first Patio Day. Declared by the City of Vancouver, it’s a one-day celebration that will allow businesses to create temporary patios serving food and nonalcoholic beverages on the sidewalk or in parking stalls in front of their property.
It also lets places with licensed patios serve food and alcoholic drinks on the facing sidewalk and parking spots if the owner has obtained permits to do so.
But you don’t have to wait for Patio Day to enjoy drinks—including alcoholic ones—in the sunshine.
The Donnelly Group operates several bars with urban patios, including Library Square Public House (300 West Georgia Street).
On a hot day, you can sip a beer and dine on Vietnamese short ribs and spring rolls while overlooking the Colosseum-like central library branch designed by famed architect Moshe Safdie.
If you’re looking for more of a Yaletown vibe, there’s the covered patio at the Tavern at the New Oxford (1141 Hamilton Street). This bar features skee ball, pinball, darts, and comedy, not to mention $2 Parallel 49 10-ounce beer schooners every Tuesday. In Gastown, the Donnelly Group’s bustling Lamplighter Public House (92 Water Street) has a huge patio.
Gastown is home to some other notable patios, including the Charles Bar (136 West Cordova Street), the Cambie (300 Cambie Street), Steamworks (375 Water Street), Bitter Tasting Room (16 West Hastings Street), and Chill Winston (3 Alexander Street).
Commercial Drive also has no shortage of patios. Havana (1212 Commercial Drive), the Reef Caribbean Restaurant (1018 Commercial Drive), and Fets Whisky Kitchen (1230 Commercial Drive) are among the best on the street.
And near the corner of Burrard and Robson streets, there’s always Francesco’s Ristorante Italia (860 Burrard Street) for those looking for a touch of elegance and romance.
For another luxurious patio experience, check out Dockside Restaurant on Granville Island. It’s frequently won the Best Restaurant Patio category in the Georgia Straight’s Best of Vancouver and Golden Plate awards, thanks to its comfy seating, superb water view, outdoor fireplaces, and West Coast cuisine. Nothing else can match it on the island.
Near Granville Island is one of the city’s dining meccas along West 4th Avenue between Burrard and Balsam streets. This area doesn’t have very many patios because most of the buildings are extremely close to sidewalks. But Las Margaritas Restaurante y Cantina (1999 West 4th Avenue) is one exception. Its 60-seat renovated patio is ideal for sipping tequila and digging into crab enchiladas on a hot summer day. It attracts a crowd because there is nothing like it on this block.
One block to the west, you can enjoy breakfast on the patio at Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe (2095 West 4th Avenue). And on the opposite side of the street, there’s a secluded second-floor 25-seat patio at Indian Oven Tandoori Restaurant (2006 West 4th Avenue) for those with a hankering for pakoras, biryani, and some of the best butter chicken in Vancouver. [Indian-food lovers can also enjoy noshing on the patio at Maurya Indian Cuisine (1643 West Broadway).]
You’ll find more patios farther west on the street. The Naam Vegetarian Restaurant (1724 West 4th Avenue) has a lovely, hidden, shaded patio. It’s on the west side of the building and is only accessible by walking through the restaurant.
One of the more secluded patios along West 4th Avenue is on the southwest side of Macdonald Street at Darby’s Public House (2001 Macdonald Street). This second-storey oasis seats more than 50 at wooden tables. Darby’s also features one of the best craft-beer selections in the city, which complements chef Bill Taylor’s locally sourced cuisine.
Closer to Kitsilano Beach, there are more opportunities for patio drinking and dining. The venerable Sunset Grill Tap House & Whiskey Bar (2204 York Street) has become a favourite watering hole for those on the new bicycle route through Kitsilano. The Boathouse (1305 Arbutus Street) offers sensational views of the ocean. And Local Public Eatery (2210 Cornwall Avenue) remains a popular destination across from Kits Beach.
For these establishments, it’s Patio Day 365 days of the year.