Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/6/2016 (346 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Earlier this month, Food Network Canada released its rundown of the nation’s Top 12 rooftop restaurants. Things are definitely looking up in this neck of the woods because checking in at No. 6 was the Met Patio, located atop the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre at 281 Donald St.
"That’s fantastic news to hear but no, nobody told us a thing, so it comes as a complete surprise," said general manager Janet Harder, when she was informed the Met Patio was the lone local perch to land on the lofty list.
"I’ve heard people describe us as a hidden gem, which is a compliment in a way, but yeah, maybe something like this will make us a little less hidden."
The Met Patio, a capacious L-shaped space facing south towards Holy Trinity Church and west towards the MTS Centre, shares a kitchen with the refurbished theatre’s Allen Restaurant and can accommodate as many as 200 sun worshippers. A series of cushioned couches that flank the tiled patio’s glass walls are generally the first seats to get snapped up, Harder said.
And while the writers at Food Network Canada recommended sitting back with a teriyaki stir fry noodle bowl and a French 75 (that’s gin, lemon juice and sparkling wine), Harder wanted us to know the deck, which will host the HUB patio party series every second Thursday night this summer as well as a Cigar & Whisky event every Tuesday until the end of August, works just as well with the simpler things in life.
"Lots of mornings, this becomes my office-space," she said, pointing to a table situated near a stainless steel propane heater. "If it’s nice out, you’ll find me up here with my laptop and a cup of coffee."
Nine long years ago, back when raised dining spots were just coming into vogue around town, we put together a piece about the rooftop decks at Confusion Corner Bar & Grill, Tavern United MTS Centre and Pasquale’s Ristorante and Pizzeria.
We’re happy to report the city’s culinary skyline has only gotten more crowded since then. Here’s a look at a few other places around town that are doing their best to, you know, raise the bar.
Santa Lucia Pizza, 4 St. Mary’s Rd.
"I’d say around three or four in the afternoon," Santa Lucia general manager Darryl Medlicott replied, when asked what time he expects Canada Day revellers to begin staking claim to his restaurant’s expansive rooftop patio, in anticipation of the July 1 fireworks display at The Forks.
"You can’t really ask for a better view than this (for the fireworks) and in years past when they got going, almost everybody was on their feet, faces pressed up against the glass, trying to get an even better look."
How crazy-busy is the patio at the chain’s Norwood location? During a typical week when the 255-seat deck isn’t in use, Medlicott fills 96 shifts in his restaurant and lounge — a number that balloons to 192 when the patio is fully operational, he said. (Never mind just slinging pizza and wings, a couple of weeks ago servers got an opportunity to try their hand at decorating, too, when a couple staged their wedding, vows and all, upstairs.)
Although Medlicott is constantly amazed by Winnipeggers’ willingness to dine al fresco despite the conditions — "There are days when it can be pouring buckets and people still want to be up here, tucked under an umbrella," he said — help is on the way when it comes to Mother Nature.
"We ordered a retractable roof from a company in Europe and when it’s up it will cover 99 per cent of the deck," he said.
Roost Social House, 651 Corydon Ave.
Isn’t it romantic? A couple of weeks ago, a fellow approached the staff at the Roost Social House, asking if he could use their rooftop patio to propose to his girlfriend.
"He put rose petals all over the deck, we played some soft music for them... it was very lovely," said Elsa Taylor, the Corydon Avenue hotspot’s head bartender and part-owner.
Located on the second floor of a building that used to house Soup Pierre, the Roost opened as an intimate, 13-seat cocktail bar in September 2015. Now that summer’s in the city, capacity has almost quadrupled in size, thanks to the Roost’s 37-seat patio.
The area serves a dual-purpose. Yes, it’s a great spot to soak up some rays while sipping on a Rooftop Climb, which Taylor described as a berry-infused "Dark & Stormy." But those plants growing in one corner, next to a set of decorative birch limbs? Almost all of them are edible, she pointed out.
"We have tomatoes, lavender, two types of basil and some sage growing up here. We try to use as much as we can from our garden, in the kitchen."
Stella’s, 1463 Pembina Hwy.
Meghan Thiessen never used to give the forecast a passing thought. But ever since Stella’s opened its seventh Winnipeg location in April, she’s caught herself checking the Weather Network "about every five minutes or so."
Not only is the Pembina location the chain’s newest restaurant, it’s the first Stella’s where diners can get a bird’s-eye-view of the city while chowing down on their café breakfast or Stella’s Club.
"Capacity up here is 60 and the minute it started getting nice out, customers wanted to come up and check it out," said Thiessen, the locale’s general manager.
Thiessen said the all-wood deck, which is open until midnight seven days a week, weather permitting, is its own best advertisement. People driving past at night have pulled a U-turn, she said, after spotting the elevated strings of lights in their rear-view mirrors.
"We’ve already had a few inquiries from people interested in booking the entire deck for receptions or parties and we’re completely open to that."
La Roca, 155 Smith St.
One of the first things the new proprietors of what used to be Gio’s Club and Bar did after taking over a few months ago was add an 800-square-foot extension to the north side of the building. The addition led them to come up — emphasis on the up — with a second idea.
"It literally was a case of us thinking now that we have all this extra space, wouldn’t it be great to have a rooftop patio, too?" said Kristi Stoesz, one of the owners of the Mexican-flavoured restaurant and lounge.
Capacity on the upper level, which opened May 5 (Cinco de Mayo, natch) is 40, Stoesz said. Last week, when the mercury in downtown Winnipeg spiked to 31 C on the same night the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks were still playing for the Stanley Cup, Stoesz couldn’t help but wonder how crazy a fiesta it would be if her down-the-street neighbours, the Jets, were enjoying a June playoff run of their own.
"Could you imagine... sitting up here in your shorts with a margarita and some tacos, then heading over to the rink for that night’s game?" she asked.
Oh, there’s one other benefit to La Roca’s patio the ownership group hadn’t counted on, Stoesz said.
"Everybody fights to work out here, for sure, but the stairs are a bit of a challenge. By the end of the summer, we’re all going to have killer legs."