Are there any two words sweeter than "patio season?"
In a regular series, the Free Press explores five great things. Got your own preferred patio? Let us know where it is and why you love it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we’re finally emerging from a decidedly grim spring, the urge to get out on some of Winnipeg’s rapidly proliferating patios is stronger than ever. Even the tiniest strip of sidewalk can serve as seating for people desperate to make the most of our short summers (see the handful of chairs outside Modern Coffee at the corner of Main Street and Inkster Boulevard, or the narrow space stocked with small picnic tables in front of Barn Hammer Brewing on Wall Street).
Below are five fabulous al fresco patios to enjoy, whether you like a social spot to watch the world go by or a more secluded getaway.
There’s no question that the buzziest new patio in town is the sprawling space at The Forks, where practically every seat has a river view. The concept basically takes all the amenities of the Common, the indoor market and bar, outside, with a licensed area stretching all the way down the first set of stairs leading to the water. It can seat 250 at bistro tables for two, chunky wooden communal tables that seat 10, and low-slung Adirondack chairs.
The full range of 20 wines and 20 beers chosen by internationally renowned sommelier Veronique Rivest can be purchased from an outdoor kiosk, and food from any of the vendors in the Common can be brought outside to enjoy with a beverage.
It’s an idea whose time has come — a relaxed approach to outdoor imbibing where wandering with a drink is encouraged.
The Roost (651 Corydon Ave.) was the only Manitoba watering hole named to Canada’s Best Bars in 2019, coming in at No. 27 on the list of 50 voted on by a panel of judges across the country. The accolade is well-deserved — not only does the Roost serve up a bevy of beautiful beverages, but it does so on a small but welcoming rustic rooftop, tucked away above the bustle of Little Italy.
Among the innovative offerings on the summer menu are such spicy concoctions as Fried Green Tomatoes (charred corn-infused mezcal, tomatillo, habanero agave and lime), refreshing quaffs as Munson Park (hibiscus-infused gin, St. Germain, sour beer and grapefruit), milky as Toasted Shake (amber rum, iced Earl Grey, coconut milk and Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and sparkling sippers such as Cup of Stars (pisco, creme de violette, cava, mint and grapefruit).
Cocoabeans Bakeshop and Cafe (772 Corydon Ave.) is Winnipeg’s only 100 per cent gluten-free restaurant. The patio space on the south side of Corydon features a beautiful blond wood bench in one corner and a tall tabletop with stools in the other, with red awnings to provide a smidge of shade.
Whether you have allergies, celiac disease or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, Cocoabeans has options for you — including a children’s menu full of kid-friendly faves, such as chicken fingers with maple-dill sauce and cupcakes. Most sauces are dairy-free, all the buns, breads and desserts are gluten-free. Brunch, which features such dishes as omelettes, classic breakfasts and GF pancakes, is served between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. The regular menu, which spotlights burgers, salads and sandwiches, is served from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
There are grown-up bevvies, of course, but they too fit the concept, with hard cider, wine and gluten-free beer on offer.
The huge, greenery-enclosed patio at Stella’s in the Centre culturel franco-manitobain (340 Provencher Blvd.) might be St. Boniface’s best-kept secret (though the pretty space at Resto Gare is a close second). With wrought-iron bistro sets and plenty of umbrellas, it has a Parisian feel, which only adds to the feeling that you’re no longer in the city when you step into the quiet.
Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, the licensed patio serves up breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner of all the regular Stella’s specialties, whether you want an omelette and a latte, Mexican breakfast and a mimosa or Thai curry and a lemonade. There’s also a good chance of some live musical accompaniment to your meal.
Sure, there are those who love nothing more than to soak up the rays like a lizard on a rock, but for folks who slather themselves in SPF 30 and prefer to stay in the shade, the spacious covered patio at Fionn MacCool’s at Grant Park Shopping Centre (1180 Grant Ave.) is a godsend (not to mention you don’t have to run for cover if the weather turns and it starts to rain). There’s an assortment of seating — high tables, low couches and picnic-style tables — with a couple of tables set in a sunny corner of the west-facing space for those who do want to work on their tans.
Service of the standard Irish pub fare, such as burgers, meat pies and fish and chips, is super-friendly, there are a couple of local brews — including a TransCanada rotating tap and the Torque Red Line IPA — among the beer offerings at the Canadian chain. Also, in a big selling point for customers with pooches, the patio welcomes dogs.
Senior copy editor
Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.