Part III: Patio to Entertain the Cast of Portlandia
As much as we love to hate on hipsters, there’s something about that don’t-care-but-really-I-do lifestyle that’s endlessly intriguing. Though we might claim otherwise, dozens of Vancouverites have professed to me their love of Portland – and with its rich craft beer scene, street food frenzies and strong hipster culture, our cities are more similar than we care to admit. So for this week’s patio test, we ventured out in search of Vancouver patios that would elicit rousing approval from the cast of hit show Portlandia (i.e. “They’re cool, I guess.”). Hipsters and those who love them: take note.
- Handlebar ‘staches, skinny pants and vintage plaid
- Sustainable menu
- Artisanal everything
The Test. I squeeze into my tightest jeans, don an ironic shirt (the ironic part is that I actually like Metallica) and briefly consider “putting a bird on it” – but I don’t exactly know what that means, so instead I hop on a (borrowed) bike and head out to the East Village. Campagnolo Roma serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and by noon the place is crawling with artfully greased ‘staches and tight pants – a good sign already. The waiter leads us to the quaint front patio, festooned with edible flowers and herbs, where markers on a wooden signpost indicate local farms that supply the restaurant’s ingredients (one marker points toward Rome whose culinary traditions inspire the menu).
I can’t decide between the 49th Parallel latte (artisanal coffee, check) or selection of craft beer (fun fact: Campagnolo is so serious about craft beer that it brews its own, the Campagnolo Ale – check, check), so I order both. The heaping platters of French toast, eggs and steaming potatoes look amazing, but there’s no way I can fit anything else into these skinny pants so I regretfully pass. I do, however, notice that there are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options, and the marinara pizza is full-on vegan. Of course, if you’re biking to the restaurant from downtown Vancouver you’re cresting some serious hills, so non-vegans can feel okay indulging in the “Full Roman” – tripe, pork meatballs, eggs, toast, roast potatoes…
I’m already convinced of this patio’s Portland-ishness when I catch sight of this jewel on the chalkboard menu: “Soft serve of the day: Toasted Marshmallow”. That’s right, Campagnolo Roma dishes up house-made ice cream with zany flavours that change weekly. Last week’s was Corn Pop Cereal Milk. You really can’t top that brilliance.
The Verdict. Campagnolo Roma’s tiny outdoor space isn’t your average patio, but that’s what sets it apart and adds to the charm. Plus, the East Village is an edgy neighbourhood and the influx of thrift shops, antiques stores and even an arcade are rife with people-watching potential. If you haven’t gotten your hipster fill, hop aboard your bike post-patio and pedal over to nearby Parallel 49 Brewing and/or Powell Street Craft Brewery to load up your growler for the cycle home. Portland would be proud.
The Test. Retro, laidback and all-around-funkadelic, The Burrard oozes SoCal indie with its downright tropical courtyard, vintage-chic accoutrements and all those hot hipster-y models in the hotel’s genius ads. Best of all, the sun-filled courtyard patio is tucked into a secret spot along unassuming Burrard Street, which means the masses haven’t descended (yet).
Lounging on a wooden bench surrounded by tendrils of lush foliage, sunrays tickling my skin, I can’t believe this private oasis isn’t crammed with sunbathers. The courtyard is decked out with colourful bucket seats, low benches and tables, all adjacent to a miniature forest of plants, shrubs and twinkling-light-bedecked trees. During special events (side note: The Burrard has built a well-deserved reputation for hosting some of the most off-the-cuff and daring the city has seen), DJs set up in the corner and the space pulses like a ‘70s disco. The best part: anyone and everyone is welcome, as long as you pick up a little somethin’ somethin’ at the hotel’s spunky adjoining café.
And what a café! Talk about a Portlander’s dream: the café is crammed with artisanal everything, including gourmet pies (The Pie Hole), ice cream (Earnest Ice Cream, and it’s served in a mason jar) and sandwiches (Big Lou’s Butcher Shop), among others. The menu also features a nice selection of local coffee, tea and craft beer (natch), and in the latter realm The Burrard once again amps up its hipster cred: it’s this year’s official hotel for Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
The Verdict. Test-run The Burrard’s patio throughout Craft Beer Week (starting May 30), when hipsters and all the rest of you are invited to hang out in the courtyard while chugging your way through a rotating roster of limited-edition brews from VCBW breweries – perfect for sunny patio-sipping while discussing urban food security and kombucha brewing techniques. As you do.
Photos: Krista Edwardson