Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer's Almost Over? Check Out Some Great Patios While You Still Can

On this rainy late August day, I'm sure the thought that "summer is almost over" is creeping up on many minds in Vancouver.  But the rain reminds us to appreciate the sunny days while we have them, and I think we'll get some more beautiful warm days before it ends, so let's make the most of them.  There's nothing like a great patio meal on a summer's night in Vancouver. Here are a few of my more obscure and relaxed favourite patios.  Check them out when the rain clouds clear. 
1.  Afghan Horsemen Restaurant (#202 1833 Anderson Street, 2nd Floor, 604-873-5923) has a nice big patio at their new location upstairs, just before Granville Island.  You can see photos of the patio on their website, and when Bac'n Girl and I went, we had the patio to ourselves, well, except for one strange cell phone user who chose to stand right next to us to talk on the phone despite the expanse of patio space available to him. The patio is complete with a nice canopied area, plenty of greenery, and palm tree with fake coconuts.  Try their Horseman's Platter that can be made up for two (about $25 per person) or more people.  They still have their wacky drinks for two, and a nice pillowed area inside where you can sit on the floor.

2.  New India Buffet (805 West Broadway at Willow St., with free underground parking at night that you can access from Willow St., 604-874-5800) has a nice big array of choices and plenty of food, and good maintenance of the buffet.  It's a basic, casual place without a lot of service, but they have some dishes that stand-out sometimes.  I have noticed nice tender chicken in their butter chicken and really good galub jamun (syrup soaked doughnut-like balls).  This find was a tip from a regular Nancylander (thanks, SaabKen.  Please see his update on the place in the comments section) on patios last year and I've been there several times now.  There is plenty of room for groups here, even on the outdoor patio overlooking the city.   

3.  Guu with Garlic (1698 Robson Street at Bidwell Street, 604-865-8678) Get here early for a spot on this tiny patio, and people watch the Robson pedestrian traffic while enjoying tasty izakaya food.  So many izakayas, just like many other western pubs, are somewhat cave-like (dark colours, windowless enclosed spaces).  It's nice to be able to sit out on an open patio and watch the world go by.  

4.  The Do it Yourself Patio.  Summer is also beach weather, and when you can't quite find that perfect combination of water view, pleasant outdoor eating area and really worthwhile food, then take matters into your own hand, and bring take out to eat at the beach.  The last time I did this, I sat on the big rocks at Sunset Beach (next to English Bay), eating a lovely tostada from Casablanca Restaurant, (1102 Davie Street at Thurlow, 604-633-9950) a relatively new, tiny Mexican restaurant with charming staff.  

Sometimes you don't even need spectacular food, just something satifying.  Bac'n Girl and I went on a night time bunny count at Jericho Beach just armed with McDonald's hot fudge sundaes.  Incidentally, I've recently tried the banana cream pie flavoured Blizzard from Dairy Queen and was introduced to the concept of Drive-Thru Dairy Queens (uh oh).  

Another night, I enjoyed a satisfying green tea flavoured cream puff from the new Beard Papa next to English Bay (1184 Denman Street at Davie Street, 604-681-3163) the space used to be all Amy's Cake House). English Bay is a great beach to eat at because there are lots of logs to sit on there if you don't have a blanket.  It's a Japanese chain that makes big beautiful cream puffs with a crispy outer shell, and soft chewy insides, filled with a nice custardy cream.   Definitely go for the the vanilla flavoured cream puff rather than the green tea one (seasonal special flavour that was available the day I went), if you like a nice rich flavour.  The green tea cream was subtle and light, and pleasant though.  Check out the website cartoon cream puff story of Beard Papa.  They inject the cream into the puff after you order it and carefully sprinkle it with powdered sugar.  It may appear expensive when you first arrive ($2.75 for a cream puff?  A box of six costs nearly $10?) but they aren't tiny little cream puffs.  They're huge and satisfying and have good vanilla flavour.   They have other treats at the store too, that look interesting.

5.  And just a quick list of good drinking patios with great service (I tend to like a good cocktail list) that are not so obscure:  
  • Zin Restaurant on Robson Street between Jervis St. and Bute St. Great Robson St. people watching.  Unfortunately, they renovated, and toned down their formerly fabulous deep red cosy room and have made it feel more open, but the cocktails and the patio are still great.  The lounge side used to be one of my favourite rooms in the city (for restaurants).  I think they took the dividing curtain out between the lounge and the dining side, and toned down the red colour.  
  • Earl's on Top on Robson Street at Bute St.  Great service, and relaxed patio. 
  • Nu on the seawall, under the downtown side of the Granville St. bridge.  Great water view.  Desserts have taken a turn for the worse, and food can feel pricey for what you get, but it's a beautiful patio looking over to Granville Island and a marina.
  • Fiddlehead Joe's on the seawall at the Concord Pacific side of False Creek.  Great water view.  
  • Hudson's Landing Pub at the Coast Hotel (1041 S.W. Marine Drive at the Vancouver side of the Oak St. bridge).  They have a small patio hideout - very casual and relaxed.  Typical pub grub offerings, done at a decent quality level.  I enjoyed their smooth-style spinach and artichoke dip and dry ribs. 
  • O'Doul's Restaurant on Robson Street at Jervis Street I haven't gone in ages because both service and food have been slightly hit and miss for me and I have less tolerance for this at this high a price range, but I mention it because I do have great respect for the chef there (formerly of Zin) and I was very pleased to have discovered their little courtyard patio hidden in the middle of the restaurant.  The website has been nicely updated and it's probably worth checking out again sometime.  


SaabKen said...

I was at New India about 3 weeks ago for early dinner and definitely noticed the food is different. The sauces are thinner, less tasty, and the meat dishes contain less meat (ie: chicken). It didn't dawn on me until I saw unfamiliar faces from the wait staff and management that it's quite possible that they've changed ownership/management. And the dinner is now $15/head, a bit steep for the food at its current arrangement.

SaabKen said...

Speaking of GREAT patios, ever been to The Flying Beaver Bar & Grill in Richmond (actually airport island, south terminal) ? Fantastic waterfront patio overlooking the Fraser Middle Arm, one half fully covered and other half partially (with patio heaters). Great food & drinks, cozy atmosphere, pretty good wait staff and unparalleled front-row view of floatplanes taking off and landing less than 300-ft away.

A must go place.

PS: prices better than Earls and even White Spot.

Cassis said...

check out the hidden courtyard in cassis bistro. it comes with some of the best food and drinks in downtown vancouver.

Tisha said...

Spring kicks in tomorrow, if in case no one's noticed or felt it yet, yes spring is here! Next thing you know, it's just about summer already and people will be wearing their flip flops. I'm sure that's all what 'Vancouverites' have been waiting for after a long, crazy and cold winter this year! Reading this blog has made me feel a bit warm inside knowing that warm weather is just around the corner. And yes, that means patio season for restaurateurs and foodies alike! It's great reading off your blog and knowing where my next patio experience will be. I've been in some of the restaurants mentioned here, looking forward for more of that summer action. Thank you the lead and I sure hope that the ones I'll be planning on visiting to will be good finds.