As the weather warms, patio–goers spill out onto makeshift street–side structures, down unexpected alleyways, and into secret urban courtyards, all in search of the latest sun–soaked spaces. Here are some of the hippest spots in Canada right now.
Canadians know how to make the most of their slim summer months. Here are eight brand new outdoor dining spots to try right now.
When the minds behind top taco joint La Taqueria summon you through a back alley with the promise of a hidden courtyard wielding regional Mexican flavours and creative spins on boozy classics, there’s really only one way to go. Opened in May 2021, this seasonal spot sandwiched between brick and concrete is a favourite for its seafood aguachile (literally “chili water”), tostadas and tacos, and its namesake Chupito, a shot of iced margarita, all slung from a maize–coloured shipping container surrounded by a sea of gravel. With parasols and string lights strewn overhead, Chupito manages to keep things cozy all the same.
Try: The Zipolite, a clarified milk punch with rum, pineapple, coconut and ginger.
Award–winning chef Justin Leboe oversees the kitchen at this breezy new downtown spot that channels the perennial bustle of the Italian marketplace. Lupo looks out to Banff’s emblematic Mount Rundle with a second–storey patio worth the visit for the sweeping views alone. Combine that with a bevy of buttery, cheesy, all–around decadent northern Italian staples, and your alfresco evenings at Lupo are poised to be a howling success.
Try: Their cacio e pepe made with spaghetti alla chitarra.
Fu's Repair Shop
Fu’s Repair Shop, Edmonton
Tucked behind the facade of a 1980s–era repair shop is this Chinese cocktail and all–day dim sum bar — and concealed behind that lies a sunny, summer hangout. The folks at Fu’s Repair Shop have done an impressive job transforming a once barren alleyway with the addition of red lanterns, wooden picnic tables and a dogs–are–always–welcome policy. Come for the festive cocktail list, stay for the medley of truffle dumplings, hoisin–glazed duck tacos and chili oil wontons. Menu items are priced to end with .88, denoting good fortune in Chinese tradition — like the moniker “fu” itself.
Try: The Melona Soju, a cocktail made with the Korean spirit and choice of a melon, coconut, ube or mango popsicle.
Fonda Fora, Calgary
Hotels are generally reliable bets when it comes to comfy, capacious outdoor set–ups, but they frequently lack the originality born from independent (read: scrappy) restaurateurs. Not so, at new boutique hotel The Westley, where Yucatan–born chef Rafael Castillo channels his roots into compelling and artfully plated Mexican breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Located on the ground floor of a former 1970s office building that was revamped by local firm Frank Architecture and Interiors, Fonda Fora’s enclosed, though open–air patio features a stunning wrought iron gate, beachy woven chairs and raw concrete walls that project luxe vacation villa vibes.
Try: The braised beef short rib draped in a poblano mole, with turnips, cauliflower and baby carrots.
Bar Pompette, Toronto
The sweet, petite backyard patio at this French drink den may be out of sight from passersby on College Street, but it isn’t out of mind for patrons who return to be plied with easy–drinking wines, eye–opening cocktails, and all the olives, cheese and charcuterie a memorable summer night may require. Tall leafy trees offer shade in the early evening, string lights and lanterns add some brightness after dark, and the team of food and beverage experts at Bar Pompette — the same behind the establishment that bagged the title of enRoute best fine dining restaurant of 2020 — handle all of the rest.
Try: The Nitro Colada, made with pineapple, coconut, rum and a curry leaf falernum.
Riverest, L’Orignal (Ontario)
Head to Riverest in the small Franco–Ontarian village of L’Orignal (which translates to ‘moose’), in the province’s eastern reach, for a proper introduction to all the local terroir has to offer. Fisherman, forager and chef Colin Marshall oversees the kitchen, where he’s been known to get adventurous with whatever is seasonably available and sustainably sourced from nearby land and lakes. Located on the grounds of what was once a stately bicentennial stone residence, Riverest’s waterside patio offers up to 80 diners — equivalent to about 4 percent of the village’s population — a front–row view of the Ottawa River and Laurentian Mountains.
Try: The wild striped bass crudo served with pickled green strawberries and black garlic in a rhubarb and fennel broth.
Wills | Photo: Matthew Perrin
Kick back like a local at this effortlessly cool new bar and craft brewery in Mile–Ex, the mostly industrial slice between Montreal’s Little Italy and Park Extension neighbourhoods. The bar is housed in what was once a garage, so it’s only fitting that its no–frills patio — decked with picnic tables that set the tone for low–key group hangs — occupy what was once an adjacent parking lot. Beer is the obvious choice here, but local musician and mixologist Devojka gets creative with cocktails, while sommelier, manager and workers’ rights activist Kaitlin Doucette assembles an approachable list of natural wines. For food, they have Nouveau Palais’s burger–slinging food truck stationed right on–site.
Try: The brewery’s very first beer, an IPA brewed in collaboration with Vermont’s lauded Hill Farmstead Brewery.
Drift | Photo: Sarah Merriam
An unfettered view of the Halifax harbour and the art installations in neighbouring Rise Again Square, plus a lineup of decidedly regional fare, make Drift’s patio among the most covetable new outdoor dining options on the East Coast right now. Dig into chef Anthony Walsh’s reimagined Maritime classics, like his take on the Blueberry Grunt or the Hodge Podge (a creamy Nova Scotian veggie stew amped up here with haddock, scallops and mussels), plus a fine list of low–intervention wines and local–leaning cocktails.
Try: The fish cakes made with lobster, shrimp and haddock, paired with a brown butter remoulade.