A guide to eating and drinking in the great, urban outdoors.
Calgarians don’t give up summer without a fight. In fact, patios are enjoyed so much in Calgary that outdoor merrymaking on a warm February day isn’t uncommon. This dedication of the citizenry is rivalled only by the sheer number of establishments offering outdoor fare, making Calgary one of Canada’s most patioed cities.
September is fair game, and very fair weather, for hitting up the different types of patios found all over the downtown area. But be warned. If you love patios, you may never make it home.
The Rooftop. Not just for LA anymore.
There’s something inherently luxurious about mingling on a rooftop patio, and Molly Malone’s Irish Pub in trendy Kensington delivers. Voted Calgary’s best rooftop patio, it offers a delicate balance of sun versus shade and hearty Irish pub food. In the evenings, a cozy atmosphere beckons with hanging lights and warm patio heaters.
Broken City is another hot spot for rooftop libations in the heart of Calgary’s Design District. An absolute must visit for indie music lovers, Broken City also features a full bar on the roof for quick service, plenty of seating for groups of all sizes and funky, graffiti-style art on the walls.
La Fiesta. Andale! Andale!
Los Chilitos Taco & Tequila House is an especially festive place on happening 17th Avenue, where all ages soak up the sun on the spacious, double-tiered patio. One quick sniff as you walk by and the appeal will be obvious. The Mexican fare is authentic, and as such is full of irresistibly fresh ingredients. With authentic food, comes authentic drink. It’s a true Mecca of the Margarita, and tequila lovers definitely won’t feel left out with over 20 different varieties to sample. Don't hold back either: 17th Avenue is one of the easiest places in town to get a cab when the time comes to say adios.
Three of Calgary’s culinary heavyweights have simply gorgeous patios for indulgent dining – all within a five-block radius.
Cilantro is home to a large, extremely private backyard patio that many Calgarians don’t even realize exists. Here, you can enjoy locally raised meats – beef and elk top the list – cooked with an unconventional Californian flare. The 250 bottle wine list also promises to keep wine lovers blissfully occupied well into the evening.
Perhaps Calgary’s swankiest patio, the Living Room is lined with crackling fireplaces, rustic stone flooring and trees casting dappled shade over intimate tables. An expansive list of tapas-style appetizers and "interactive cuisine" prepared right at your table make this a locale for an unforgettable open-air evening.
The Institution. Good beer and good company.
Calgary’s quintessential drinking patio is found at the Ship & Anchor Pub. For over 20 years, this patio has known no rival in size or reputation. There is shade. There is sun. There is quality pub food and drink for not a lot. And perhaps more importantly, there is great people watching on 17th Avenue.
The Ship’s patrons are an eclectic group of the young, the old, the hipster, the soccer fanatic, the rockabilly, and of course, the visitor. All are welcome, and all are usually seen striking up a conversation on the patio’s long, bench style tables – perfect for making new friends.
No trip to Calgary would be complete without a visit to historic Inglewood and its kitschy Village Cantina Tropical Grill. The restaurant itself boasts the wackiest collection of seaside paraphernalia in town, which naturally extends to the patio. With a lovely backyard feel, the generously-sized patio is home to a large shady tree, Tiki torches, one of the best mojitos in town and a giant tropical mural.
But how about something even quirkier?
Head upstairs to Club Paradiso. Famous for its offbeat live shows, this plush 1940s styled lounge features Calgary’s longest-running drag show, the Garter Girls burlesque troupe, magic shows and various musical performers. It’s a guaranteed good time complete with a second floor patio.
Summer. Not over until we say so.
Summer may be starting to fade but don't tell Calgarians – and whatever you do, don't mention the "f" word – the season we steadfastly refuse to acknowledge at least until our beloved patio tables disappear beneath a blanket of snow. Until that day comes, head to your nearest patio, pull up a seat and raise a toast to the last days of summer with us.