We all know that summer is short in Calgary, which means we have to cram in as much pleasure as possible. Here’s your checklist of 16 great places to eat and drink during sandal season — starting, of course, with patios.
From romantic hideaways to busy places to peoplewatch, every patio in Calgary has its own personality and charm. Here are a few of the city’s finest:
1. The new Lulu Bar patio (510 17th Ave. S.W.) promises to be a hot stop on 17th Avenue this summer, with a patio that comes close to doubling the restaurant’s inside seating. And if the patio’s packed, the three massive roll-up garage doors that form the front wall of the restaurant will give you that outdoor vibe, even if you’re inside. (Side note: get the lobster dumplings. They’re out-of-this-world delicious.)
2. River Café (Prince’s Island Park) recently reopened after flood mitigation work, and the beautiful garden patio is back. Feel your big-city stress vanish after a few sips of wine here, listening to the birds and the bees, and admiring the cascading flowers in baskets and pots.
3. Ricardo’s Hideaway (1530 5th St. S.W.) has a gem of a patio, with great cocktails and plenty of inner-city buzz. The menu is small, but you won’t much care after a couple of Dark & Stormys in the sun.
4. Not everyone wants to head downtown after a busy day, and that’s why Famoso Neapolitan Pizza rocks, with locations in Westhills (Suite 125, Westhills Towne Centre S.W.) and Country Hills (102, 5149 Country Hills Blvd N.W.). The patios fill up fast, but if you land a table, order the thin-crust seasonal summer pizza.
5. Nothing starts a morning quite like a cappuccino and pastry on the sunny patio at the Italian Centre Shop (120, 9919 Fairmount Dr. S.E.). It may not offer the views that you’ll get in Tuscany, but at least you can savour the flavours without the hassle or expense of a flight. Trivia: Italian Centre Shop celebrates its 60th year of business in Alberta in 2019.
6. The Ship and Anchor (534 17th Ave. S.W.) patio is legendary, a bit grungy and always fun, with lots of beer, good food and some of the best people-watching in the city.
7. A little further afield, Oxbow in Kensington (1126 Memorial Dr. N.W.) has a pretty patio overlooking the river and Memorial Drive. The food is excellent and the wine list is great, with lots of inexpensive-but-delicious wines by the glass.
8. Oxbow’s sister property, Hotel Arts (119 12th Ave. S.W.), has recently completed a renovation of its pool and surrounding patio. Sit poolside and maybe choose a panzanella salad and a glass of Italian white — or a fancy Raw Bar cocktail. Or two. Or three. We don’t judge.
9. Take your pooch with you to Vin Room’s Aspen (8561 8A Ave. S.W.) and Mission (2310 4th St. S.W.) patios; your pup will get its own treat and you’ll enjoy the menu’s vast array of outstanding wines and the chance to share plates with friends. The choose-your-own charcuterie and cheese platters can’t be beat.
10. If you love people-watching and beer, Trolley 5 (728 17th Ave. S.W.) offers great pints and ring-side seats to the avenue’s action. There’s beer, of course; Trolley 5 is a brewery. But you can also enjoy a boozy brunch, or smoky barbecue, or casual dishes like burgers, club sandwiches and brisket.
11. Las Canarias (1129 17th Ave. S.W.) brings a little taste of Spain to #yyc — and it’s wonderful. This is a great place to score a last-minute seat in the sun. It’s also a good place to drink big pitchers of sangria and eat good things: Spanish-style garlic shrimp, traditional “papas bravas,” mussels, you name it.
SUMMER HAS THE HAPPIEST HOURS
12. Model Milk (308 17th Ave. S.W.) offers a Park Life happy hour all summer, featuring deals on cocktails, beer, wine and, yes, food. Unlike most happy hours, it doesn’t end at a certain hour, but it isn’t available Sundays and it’s only offered in the bar area and on the patio.
13. Even on a rainy day, Calcutta Cricket Club (340 17th Ave. S.W.) feels sunny — and its happy hour offers great deals on dishes such as papri chaat (spiced potatoes and chickpeas with tamarind chutney) and ghugni dip (garlicky curried chickpea puree).
14. The Simmons building (618 Confluence Way S.E.) has one of the most glam rooftop patios in the city. Part of Charbar (downstairs, with its own fine ground-level patio), it’s warm and relatively sheltered, even on the chilliest of days. And if it’s raining, go for Crappy Hour — the Charbar team isn’t going to let rain spoil the fun.
BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH
15. This summer, Pigeonhole (306 17th Ave. S.W.) has an early-bird breakfast Wednesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. With these hours, even late birds should be happy.
16. Create your own brunch with cream cheese, smoked salmon and a sack of wood-fired bagels from St. Lawrence Bagels (2638 Parkdale Blvd. N.W.). Take them across Memorial Drive to eat by the river, or stick them in your backpack and go for a bike ride until you find the perfect spot for a breakfast picnic.
17. If you’re in Banff, take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain for one-of-a-kind, locally inspired meals and an all-Canadian wine list at Sky Bistro. Award-winning chef Scott Hergott honed his skills at the Fairmont Banff Springs before landing here. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world — and really, you are.
18. And in Jasper, check out the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen chef Stuart Allen, who’s worked in some of the best kitchens in North America. Now he’s creating smoked-meat platters in one of the world’s most beautiful places, mere steps away from the deepest canyon in the Rocky Mountains. His home-made barbecue sauces are addictive.
Shelley Boettcher is a wine columnist for the Calgary Herald, the syndicated national wine columnist for CBC Radio’s morning weekend shows and the author of three books about wine. Follow her on Twitter @shelley_wine and Instagram @shelleyboettcher