It may have seemed like it took forever, but pre-summer weather is finally here. We’re getting more sunny days than rainy (or snowy for that matter) and the mercury is more or less hovering in double digits. Calgarians are champing at the bit to stretch out on a patio somewhere, drink in hand, to welcome the warm days and nights.Whether a suburban neighbourhood pub, or a well-known downtown watering hole, we all have our favourite public patios. We did some background work to see which ones measure up. Is there an inventive cocktail to try, an appetizer to call their own, a vibe that makes you want to linger all day?It would take weeks of, ahem, research, to try them all so we chose just a few of our favourites to share with you.BONTERRA TRATTORIA (1016 8th St. S.W.)With its covered pergola, stone floor, iron furniture and loads of trailing greenery, Bonterra’s terrace could easily be in some charming Tuscan town as opposed to its downtown locale between the main restaurant and parking lot. It’s a sunny, shady, airy, happy place and the superb food and service add to its cache. Even better, between 2:30 and 5 p.m. weekdays, it hosts an aperitif hour.Signature cocktail: There’s no better summer drink than a spritz and Bonterra has six of them on the menu: limoncello, grapefruit, classic, vino, sbagliato (sweet vermouth and Campari) and cocchi americano rosa. $10
Enjoy a cocktail in style on the patio at Bonterra Trattoria. Courtesy, Gustav Nel
Feast on: During the aperitif hour, they’ll be snack specials of things like fried chick peas and spiced nuts, $3-$6. If you want something a little more substantial, try the veal meatballs in tomato sauce and Grana Padano cheese, $12.Ambience: Upscale casual. You wouldn’t be out of line wearing a summer suit or cocktail dress here but you’ll also be welcomed wearing shorts and a polo. If you’re a fan of wine films like Sideways or A Walk in the Clouds, you’ll get this place.Why go there: It’s the perfect package of hidden gem and fab food. It’s a favourite luncheon spot for business types and those who just enjoy being treated.
RTB or Roof Top Bar at Simmons in East Village as a great view over the Bow River and pathways. Photo, Michele Jarvie
RTB (Roof Top Bar at Simmons) 618 Confluence Way S.E.The Argentine wood-fired grill is the inspiration behind Charbar, the restaurant and base of the Roof Top Bar at Simmons. Head chef Jessica Pelland is a Chopped Canada winner and her passion for Latino food is apparent on the menu.Signature cocktail: One word: Sangria. RTB creates their own fruit batches for cocktails and this mix of red wine, curacao, fresh fruit and juice is as pretty as it is tasty. $12Feast on: The charred corn chunks are smoky and saucy with aioli, fresh cheese and cascabel chili. The street tacos are small but mighty and you can choose between roasted squash (highly recommended), Alberta beef, Argentine shrimp and pulled chicken. $5.50 each. But be sure to order some of Pelland’s special house-made sauces like the flavourful salsa negra, roja and verde to heat things up.
The house-made salsa selection at RTB.
Ambience: Away from noisy traffic, other than those on foot, bikes and roller blades along the river walk, the patio offers a beautiful view of the downtown, East Village, the Bow, St. Patrick’s Island, the Reconciliation Bridge, the George C. King Bridge … it goes on and on. It feels like you have temporarily left Calgary, although having the CTrain glide by on the horizon helps maintain a sophisticated cosmopolitan feel.Why go there: Even if you’re not young and hip, you’ll feel like you are sipping a cocktail here while watching the world float by. It’s elegant, peaceful and friendly and seems to attract a good-looking crowd of urbanites and young business folk. It’s perfect for friendly get-togethers or people watching. Oh … and did we mention that charred corn?(Even when the weather isn’t co-operating, the Roof Top Bar is. It has Crappy Hour specials of $8 drinks and $3.5 tacos.)THE REC ROOM (Deerfoot City)It’s all fun and games at this watering hole. A two-storey, 50,000-square-foot gaming complex, the Rec Room at Deerfoot City mall in the north end of the city claims not one, but two patios. While many people come here for the amusement games, the patios offer some respite from all the one-upmanship.Signature cocktail: Peach Don’t Kill My Vibe ($9). Tanqueray gin, peach schnapps, tonic, lemonade, lemon wheelFeast on: Lettuce wraps with falafel or crispy chicken ($12). Boston lettuce, radish, pickled red onion, cilantro, cherry tomato, cucumber, tahini and spicy harissa.Ambience: The Rec Room is a mix of areas and uses and there’s a lot going on from live acts and dancing to quieter lounge areas. The patios offers a laid-back place to catch some city scenery, especially at night.Why go there: The Rec Room is well set up for groups of friends looking for more than a quiet round of drinks and conversation. When you want a break from all the activity, head outside to the patios for group seating and the all-important heaters. Yes, Deerfoot Trail is down below but the unobstructed views will keep your eyes focused on the city skyline.
The Marriott Downtown has a massive second-level patio that can seat 300 people.
MARRIOTT DOWNTOWN (110 9th Ave. S.E.)When we visited it wasn’t yet open for business but was forecast to be functional by June 11. But it’s already booked up for most of the summer with Stampede, corporate events and weddings. It will operate Tuesdays and Wednesdays 4-9 p.m. through summer.Signature cocktail: ONEup Rum. A banana-based slushie with rum and a choice of chocolate, strawberry or pineapple sauce. $14.
A Marriott bartender mixes a cocktail on the patio.
Feast on: The patio menu is the same as the hotel’s One18 Empire restaurant which does a booming business in wings. Try the honey bourbon or Korean chili.Ambience: Casual with a smattering of couch areas and tables, all with umbrellas which are a necessity with the sun beating down on the tile floor. It’s a large space that will sport a games area when up and running,Why go there: It’s on the roof of the second floor, overlooking the Stephen Avenue Walk. For people watching, it doesn’t get much better. As an aside, The Residence Inn by Marriott on 10th Avenue in the Beltline is now open and sports a patio on the third floor.
The expansive rooftop patio at The National downtown has a main and two side bars, a tiki bar and a pop up when all are operating.
THE NATIONAL (#360, 240 8th Ave. S.W.)The website for the National’s 8th Street location still describes it as Western Canada’s biggest patio, although a manager told us this distinction may have recently been usurped. Regardless, this rooftop wonder offers a dizzying array of great craft beer, party music, friendly staff and ample opportunity for sun and fun (see below for recreational possibilities.) Opened in 2014, it offers the same high-end pub grub as the National’s other location. It’s also extremely popular, with lineups a frequent sight on weekends.Signature cocktail: If you can’t decide on beer or a cocktail, go for the Meadjito. Made by Fallentimber Meadery at Water Valley, this fermented honey drink is infused with mint and lime.Feast on: Clive burger and fries, $13. One of Calgary’s best burgers has found its way onto the National menu. It’s at once gloriously old-school and surprisingly sophisticated, at least as far as pub burgers go. It must be that delicious and mysterious “Clive sauce.”
The refreshing Meadjito at The National patio in Stephen Avenue Walk.
Ambience: Part of the charm of this sprawling downtown patio is the long and strangely labyrinthine path of how to get there. Take two escalators at the Scotia Centre, go through the National restaurant and navigate a number of twisting, open-air corridors. As one manager says, you’re like a mouse in a maze and beer is the cheese at the end. Once there, you’ll feel removed from the city despite the beautiful view of the surrounding office towers. With throbbing house and reggae music, tropical plants, four main bars (and a pop-up bar to boot, should it be required) it feels like you are at a holiday resort. Why go there: With a ping-pong table, a beanbag toss and giant Jenga and Connect 4 games, the patio is a playful and cheerful place that is both a popular nightspot on weekends and lunchtime destination during the week. In fact, office workers in those surrounding towers are known to monitor the happenings below and quickly call in lunch reservations as soon as they see life on the patio. It’s loud, casual and fun and, as with all National restaurants, a good spot for beer connoisseurs with a plethora of taps to choose from.
A massive tree provides shade to those on the Salt and Pepper patio in Inglewood.
SALT & PEPPER (1413 9th Avenue S.E.)Salt & Pepper has been serving Calgarians Mexican food since 1988; first in Bowness, then at the 9th Avenue location in Inglewood. Its semi-covered patio is built around a tree, which provides a shady respite from the summer sun. The patio and restaurant has plenty of low-key charm. The building was first built in the early 20th century and upstairs is the cabaret-style bar Lolita’s Lounge which has weekly jazz and drag shows.Signature cocktail: Margaritas, which come in lime, strawberry and pineapple, and by the pitcher, which are $19 on Margarita Mondays.Feast on: Tacos, especially on taco Tuesday, when their self-serve street taco bar is all-you-can-eat for $16.95.
A trio of classic cocktails at Salt and Pepper: a margarita, a mojito and Summer Shade with cranberry, white wine, tequila and soda.
Ambience: A taste of Mexico in Calgary, with Spanish-language pop and folk songs providing the soundtrack.Why go there: To relax and cool down in the shade with a margarita.
The Oak Tree patio and a peekaboo view of the downtown skyline.
OAK TREE TAVERN (124 10th Street N.W.)Though the patio has expanded to the street level since the Oak Tree absorbed the short-lived PRLR cocktail bar on the main floor, it’s really the original elevated patio that’s the attraction of the Kensington bar. From it, you can get a hint of the downtown skyline, while ascending above the street noise. Those on four legs, however, are only allowed on the street-level patio.Signature cocktail: The PRLR merger (or mrgr) has brought cocktails to the tavern; both the Cucumber and Elderflower Fizz and Ginger Paloma ($13 each) are refreshing options that pack a punch.
The Cucumber and Elderflower Fizz and the Ginger Paloma.
Feast on: Spicy Tuna Poppers ($9), which are fried tempura-battered sushi rolls.Ambience: With less than a dozen tables on the upper level, it’s cozy. There is also weekly comedy and an Irish music afternoon on Sundays, which augments the patio experience.Why go there: Since Molly Malone’s and then Prohibition closed, there isn’t an elevated patio spot in Kensington elsewhere. Here’s your opportunity to escape the street noise.CONTAINER BAR (1131 Kensington Road N.W.)Part and parcel of Brasserie Kensington and Winebar Kensington, you know your food will be superbly prepared. But the funky little spot, which began life from an old shipping container, has a vibe all its own.Signature cocktail: The ultimate patio drink, G & T can be had with four different gins (three from B.C. and Eau Claire Parlour from Turner Valley), $7.50 to $9. They are also doing it up with vodka infusions and slushy cocktails. A new one this summer is a Coconut Creamsicle Pina Colada.Feast on: Not sure smoked mussels in the can with saltines is what you’d advertise as a special but it’s part and parcel of what makes the Container Bar so darn unique. But also try the corn dog with house-made Dijon, the teriyaki confit chicken drumsticks and rhubarb glazed duck hearts. It is launching a summer menu on June 16.Ambience: This is about as casual as it gets. Cycle up on your bike and park it and then park yourself at one of the eight picnic tables wedged between two buildings.Why go there: Sheer oddness. Whoever thought of setting up shop in an alley, and that it would be wildly successful?
Tommyfield Gastro Pub patio in suburban Seton.
TOMMYFIELD GASTRO PUB (19489 Seton Crescent S.E.)The Seton area is quickly emerging as South Calgary’s work-live-play location. This British-inspired addition to the scene offers a restaurant on the main level, a lounge upstairs with an outdoor “social terrace.” The menu is a fusion between typical British pub food and international cuisine such as Indian, Thai and Korean.Signature cocktail: Frosé. Kids all know there’s nothing that says summer like a slushie and Tommyfield’s version beats anything 7-Eleven can dish up. A mixture of rose wine, strawberry purée and fresh lime juice, this is dangerously good. You could knock back a few of these pretty easily. They’re cold, with a just a subtle taste of wine and girlie pale pink. But men like them, too.
The refreshing Frosé and signature 2515 lager at Tommyfield Gastro Pub in Seton.
Feast on: Steak Bites, $14. Keeping with the British theme, you could go for the Wembley Stadium Nachos or Mini Yorkies but accept our tip and head straight for the Steak Bites. Glazed with a sweet soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds, these tasty morsels are served with a Japanese steak sauce which you will mop up with every last tidbit of beef.Ambience: On the second level of the restaurant/bar, it’s got a casual feel with a combination of bar-height tables and sectional patio couches. It’s nice to be removed from the street level as there’s little noise up there. The Seton area is still being developed but the patio looks out south over a field.Why go there: Why should downtown get all the fun? Suburbanites want a cool place to hang out after work and on weekends, too. Tommyfield has an extensive menu and even offers a tasty looking brunch menu. Thursday night is Crabfest, $4.99 a cluster, and half price wine.