Ah, summertime. That most glorious of seasons that adds extra sparkle to the Pacific Ocean, infuses our West Coast flesh with golden bronze and lures Vancouverites out in droves to sun-drenched patios across the city. But while we tirelessly park ourselves at familiar haunts, pop open craft beers and settle in ‘til October, alternative outdoor oases remain unexplored – to our own detriment. Because for every event life throws at you – from impressing a big client to satisfying your inner hipster to mingling with cute strangers – there’s a patio in Vancouver patiently waiting to deliver.
Today, Inside Vancouver introduces the first of a six-part investigative series that surveys patios spanning the city, puts each to a stringent test and gives you, dear reader, a fresh batch of possibilities for life’s most important situations. Try ‘em out, tell us what you think and help us expand the list – just don’t forget the sunscreen. Cheers!
Part I: Patios to Meet a Cute Stranger
It seems every other day a new article surfaces bemoaning the state of singlehood in Vancouver with each gender lambasting the other for being unapproachable and maddeningly aloof. Come on, people. It’s time to set aside the hostilities – especially in summer, when bare flesh combines with sunshine-induced goodwill and rainbow-hued cocktails. Settle in at one of the patios below and send a frosty drink to that cute stranger at the next table. If we can do it, so can you.
- Balanced male-to-female ratio
- Ease of easing into conversation
- Amorous atmosphere
The Test. Hawksworth’s street-side patio doesn’t open ‘til June, but I preview the space from Hawksworth Cocktail Bar, sprinting outside at intervals to accost attractive passerby. And let me tell you, that stretch of West Georgia is rife with good-looking people.
The first is young and lanky with week-old scruff and piercing eyes. “Excuse me,” I call, catching up to him just in front of the patio and tapping him on the shoulder. He stops, turns back and his ice-blue lasers sizzle through me. “Gorgeous day,” I say lamely as rain spatters us both (I assume it’ll be sunnier in June).
He sizes me up. “There’s a certain poetry to the rain,” he says finally, smiling (!).
“There’s also poetry in speaking to a total stranger,” I answer coyly. “After all, two minutes ago we didn’t know each other and look at us now.” Oh wow. That was pretty deep and profound.
“We’re linked,” he says, rather saucily (!!).
I return to the cocktail bar, my cell phone one contact richer. Hawksworth’s patio is magic, and it isn’t even open yet! General Manager Chad Clark tells me it’ll be even better this summer when the restaurant transforms the 16-seat space into a garden oasis complete with flowering shrubs and greenery, fashioning an exclusive Eden in the midst of Vancouver’s bustling downtown core – still conducive to people watching but with much more privacy.
Once you’ve corralled a cutie and adjourned to a patio table, toast your new friendship with the distinctly tropical Drytini, a gin-based spin on the classic mai tai. But if you really want to make an impression, order Hawksworth’s exclusive barrel-aged bottled cocktails: each antique bottle serves two and is branded with the date the drink was conceived, an apt analogy for commemorating budding romances. Now that’s poetry.
The Verdict. Hawksworth’s sidewalk patio benefits from a neverending stream of eye candy. In less than two hours, I meet businessmen, hipsters and backpack-toting students, all of whom are more than happy to stop and engage in conversation (gentlemen: plenty of gorgeous ladies stroll this sidewalk, too).
The Test. We take a seat on the banquette closest to Mainland Street and order a round of Khiras, a cucumber-tinged cocktail that screams “patio sipper”. The 35-seat patio is surprisingly crowded for a Thursday night, and we’re told tonight and Fridays are the best for locking eyes with a corporate cutie.
We don’t have to do any work at Glowbal. Before our drinks even arrive, our charming waiter introduces us to Brody, a blond-haired Adonis sitting alone in a corner and successfully cultivating an aura of masculine mystery. He wears multiple silver rings and is inked with an oddly random assortment of tattoos. “What’s that say?” I ask, pointing to his left forearm.
He squints at it. “That was a drunken mistake, I think,” he says, showing it to me. Burn into the fire. Burn bright. (Hey, guys: don’t drink and ink.)
Brody turns out to be a dancer with a storied history: ballet, jazz and now exotic, and sometimes also a model in Japan. He’s a sweetheart, and the bartenders and waiters all seem to know him. That’s the great thing about Glowbal: it’s like a stylish Vancouver version of Cheers, a place where everyone knows your name and despite the dance-floor feel – bass-thumping music, people shouting in excited conversation – makes you feel part of a tightly knit community, just a bunch of strangers having fun times together. After chatting with Brody for more than an hour, I walk away with a new friend (and another phone number).
The Verdict. Glowbal’s enclosed patio is spacious and open, making it easy to scope out the scene before selecting a target and diving in for the kill. Make friends with the staff: if you’re worshiping someone from afar and too shy to make the first move, they’ll help initiate contact.
The Test. Yaletown is hopping with executive eye candy, and The Keg doesn’t disappoint. As soon as we stroll onto the rooftop patio, I spot a group of young guys looking like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad and make a beeline for their section of the bar.
“Hello gorgeous,” says a dark-haired deity with a smile that could melt butter.
“Buy me a drink?” I say boldly (and aren’t you glad I did?).
And the rest of the night slips away as we groove to silky-smooth R&B, drink beer and share the uber-romantic Baked Brie with basil pesto and red pepper jelly (perfect for a party of two). We’re perfectly placed to watch the sun sink into the northern horizon with an explosive mix of red, orange and purple, the lights of Science World and BC Place twinkling to the east. Everyone on the patio looks like they’re on a resort vacation: sprawled across couches, sipping wine and lazily savouring aromatic food. Nobody seems to want to leave, but when I do it’s with a couple more phone numbers to add to the list. Success.
The Verdict. Even chilly summer nights are cozy on The Keg’s patio thanks to its scattering of heat lamps and fireplaces. Though the entire area can comfortably hold 238 people, it feels intimate thanks to separated “pods” outfitted with cushy couches and deck chairs. Our recommendation: go with friends and take a seat in the same pod as whoever catches your fancy. This laidback space cultivates effortless conversation, and once you gain momentum it’ll flow – and who knows where the night will take you?
The Test. Forage is known for its fresh and local fare, but the courtyard patio is still an undiscovered gem (until now, of course). The snug space is outfitted with three custom-built communal tables (Chef Chris Whittaker finished them himself – is there anything that man can’t do?) that are crowded with singles come summer, and the restaurant managers aren’t shy about playing matchmaker.
We’re told the foraged and cultivated mushrooms dish (with Okanagan goat cheese and grilled caraway rye – decadent) is particularly suited for sharing, though the pork belly is an aphrodisiac in itself. And thanks to enormous umbrellas, summer rain won’t dampen your experience. Besides, how romantic would it be to snuggle up to a stranger as sprinkles fall around you and a rainbow breaks out overhead? This script practically writes itself.
The Verdict. By all means, bring a friend – but cap it at two if you’re keen to meet someone new (each table seats just six people). There’s no better place to order a bowl of perfectly crisped kale chips complemented by flights of B.C. craft beer, wine or even vodka – Forage’s earthy menu provides hipsters, hippies and health nuts with plenty of fodder for discussion (is cauliflower really the new kale?).
Next week: Patios to Win over Clients. Stay tuned!
Photos: Krista Edwardson