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May 30, 2008 09:43 AM

Calgary Patio Restaurant Scene

With the cooperation of mother nature recently I'm in the mood to enjoy a few nice meals while catching a few rays outside. I know the Living Room and Melrose have nice outdoor areas. Quite a few of the Earls locations are enjoyable once they get the flower pots up.

There must be many nice patios I'm missing out on in Calgary... all suggestions welcome!

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  1. hclass:

    Being a fellow who cannot "handle the heat" i.e. the next tan I get will be my first one [smile] I may not have the expertise to properly comment but my favourite is the one at River Cafe.

    It can be beautiful if I manage to snag a seat in the shade watching the ducks swim by and hopefully the wasps are not too ornery.

    Of course the food and wine is terrific...."what it's 1:30? Time to go back to work? Nah!"

    1. Cilantro has a great little dining court. The veranda at Reader Rock Garden is awesome on a warm summer night, if you like looking at gardens (not too much people watching there). ditto for the patio at Rouge (which is a guess on my behalf, when i've eaten there, it's always been waaaayyy too cold for a patio. but it looks like they've got one set up).

      there's others for sure, but the ones that pop immediately into my mind aren't necessarily the best food establishments.

      2 Replies
      1. re: marcopolo

        Bonterra has a nice patio at the back of the restaurant.

        1. re: Hart50

          bonterra is my favorite, I would also agree with Cilantro - I think Alloy will have a nice patio too,(not sure if they have it open or not) it's enclosed so you don't see where you really are :)

      2. I like Brava's patio for people watching (plus I love their food and service). I also like Sushi Kawa's patio, since I think it is one of the few sushi restaurants in the City with a patio (Sumo doesn't count because the food there is weak). Most downtown patios are hit and miss because of the shade from the buildings, but the new Joey's patio (eau Clare) looks pretty cool. And since Ceili's rooftop patio died, I hear that Molly Malones has a decent rooftop pub patio. Now you've got me thinking ... there are so many more ...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jigga

          I like Molly Malone's rooftop patio, though it's not really for people-watching as it is partially covered/shaded on the street side. I enjoy how the covering creates a combo of shady and sunny parts, since I like to eat outside in the shade and my friends like the sun.

        2. I went up the Calgary Tower today (I have an elevation pass, which pays for itself with 3 visits- great deal!) and it is amazing, staggering even, how many patios you can see from above. Nice ones (from the street as well as 525 feet above) include James Joyce, Tribune, Murrietta's,The Met (both TD Square and especially Mt Royal Village), Catch, Milestones, and one MASSIVE one you can make out from the tower is the one for the resto at the Marriott (Traders?)- I think I'll perch up there for the Gay Pride Parade on June 8.

          My favourite patios are probably River Cafe and Cilantro, but really for such a relatively short season we're spoiled here.

          1 Reply
          1. re: John Manzo

            The patio at the Marriott is indeed Traders. It's big and sunny, but way corporate. I've been there for lunch a few times; the most notable item is the DIY salad station, which is pretty nice -- it has a wide variety of the various foodie staples (a selection of vinegars, baby greens, Raincoast crisps, etc.) You get one skewer of protein (salmon, chicken, shrimp IIRC) with. Assuming you're early -- arrive late, and you take what you can get. The price? SIXTEEN goddamn dollars. Needless to say, the only times I've been here, someone else has picked up the tab.

            In previous years, The Bear and Kilt next door to the Joyce have opened up their own patio, the typical Stephen Ave. fenced-off tables & chairs. As I've said before, better food for less money. Other Stephen Ave. lunch patios off the top of my head (in addition to what John mentioned) include Blink, Divino, Rose Garden (both tables of it), King Henry VII or whatever (across from the Bay), Juan's, and the Unicorn. Some of them are only open at lunch on weekdays, I think, and if you go to a patio for a restaurant that's 50 feet, a door and a flight of stairs away, you get the service you get. Of course, weekday lunches the service is always a little hard to come by. All of the ones on the north side of the street (east of 2nd, at least) get plenty of sun, in my experience. Protection from sudden thundershowers like today's, well...

          2. Well it depends on what you want to do. Drink or eat? Some establishments are good for drinking and some are good for eating. Melrose is the drinking kind of patio as the food isn't terribly special. There a quite a few of those kinds of patios like Original Joes in Kensington and the Metropolitan on 8th Ave. But for eating, yes Bonterra is very nice and so is the River Cafe, Mercato (4th Street), Brava (17 Ave), and Muse (Kensington). I like Avenue Diner on Mall for breakfast but they only have about 6 tables outside so you have to be lucky. I once asked a Manager of a place that had an outdoor patio and he said they only get to use the patio 20 to 22 days a year as Calgary's weather is so changeable. So no wonder there is a lack of decent patios in Calgary!

            9 Replies
            1. re: lynnrb

              Why do you say there's a lack of decent patios? There are DOZENS of patios here- compared to Toronto (for example) or really any city I've lived in, Calgary is overflowing with them.

              1. re: John Manzo

                Just walk down Stephen Ave or 17th Ave, tons of patios...perhaps too many!

                And they very from the full range of prices and "The Living Room" 17th for upscale... to "The Ship and Anchor" for pubby beer swilling fun just a few blocks away...even Nellies on 17th has a great patio in the back of the restaurant, for great patio breakfasts!!

                Also, a lot of them have heaters if you're feeling a bit chilly.

                1. re: John Manzo

                  Thanks for the correction, so maybe I should have said there are tons of Patio's in Calgary but my point was really that if outdoor patios are only used 20 to 22 days a year economically it doesn't make sense for any establishment to build them, go through the process of licencing them at CIty Hall, and then ultimately make them work by staffing them adequately. It could be that I was totally misinformed by the person I was speaking to in regard to the 20-22 day use in the summer (although he was Manager of a bar/resturant which has a busy outdoor patio), I was only trying to share a tidbit which I found interesting. Heaters are great as long as its not raining and the patio is sheltered from wind as we do tend to get both thundershowers and the accompanying winds between 4 & 6 pm during the summer on hot days. So point taken there are TONS of patios in Calgary I maybe should have just lamented on how many days you can actually enjoy them. So people I am not hating on Calgary here I am just saying based on my experience...

                  1. re: lynnrb

                    I understood your point - clarification was not neccessary but im sure it is appreciated.

                    And i think the most interesting point you raised is whether or not it does make sense to have a patio - i know for me, it certainly factors into the decision making process when it is nice out. I've noticed lots of drinking establishments have moved more towards open windows, so at least on a nice day, they get some fresh air.

                    It wouldnt surprise me if patio's (other than large semi-full time ones like Melrose) are more of a loss leader/service for their patrons.

                    1. re: lynnrb

                      Yeah, but even on the "cold" sides of the streets (on Stephen Ave for example) the season has to be longer than 22 days! I mean at the very least you've got all of July and August, much of May and June, much of September. If a space is sheltered enough I'd guess you could squeeze out close to 5 months.

                      1. re: lynnrb

                        Patio heaters are NOT great, they're a prime example of wasteful use of energy that contributes to CO2 emissions. IMO if it's too cold to sit outside, sit inside. I love patios and al fresco dining as much as the next person but I would NEVER sit outside under a patio heater.

                        1. re: hsk

                          But are they not heating inside, too?

                          1. re: sarah galvin

                            Yes. But presumably the inside is insulated and retains some of the energy pumped into its enclosure as heat. Trying to heat the earth's atmosphere via natural gas isnt the most efficient use of energy :)