Are you ready to start a new patio season? Let’s escape to somewhere more private and fall in love all over again with some of Vancouver’s rooftop patios. Vancouver is world-renowned for its beautiful scenery and breathtaking skyline, though rooftop patios are not as common as you might expect. In most cities around the world, and especially those overlooking the ocean, the best place for Friday-night drinks — or drinks on any other night of the week — is always a rooftop bar. What are the best bars to visit and the finest restaurants to dine at in Vancouver that offer rooftop patios?
Joe Forte's Seafood Chop House
1. Joe Forte’s : Heaven in Your Mouth
Everyone over 5 years old living in Vancouver knows Joe Forte’s. Some of you think of it as a tourist trap, while some of you know it as the place to be, but mostly Joe Forte’s is associated with superb seafood, excellent service, and the promise of a very nice evening.
This restaurant is located right at the corner of Robson and Thurlow in downtown Vancouver. As you enter, a large winding staircase and wooden and brass finishings accompany you to the rooftop level. This place has an incredible old-school charm. Even though Joe Forte’s rooftop patio is not located on the tallest building in the area, it takes your breath away. There is a variety of seating offered, including the bistro and bar area on the first floor — the busiest spot in the restaurant. The mezzanine is the best place to enjoy the view of the ground-floor rush and live piano. If you wish to dine privately, book one of the mahogany-walled wine rooms. Finally, the rooftop patio (closed in the winter) complete with high tables and another horseshoe bar is the absolute best place at Joe Forte’s. As your waiter shows you to your table, you will suddenly feel the perfect vibe for sipping some bubbles or a cold pint while you wait for your appetizer.
Restauranteuring somehow changed in the 21st century. Now, we kind of divide the service between the hospitality, the emotions, the feelings and the skills. The skills are obviously very important. However, the only way is really about the guests, it’s about the experience. Six months later after a great meal, what you remember the most is not the wine or how done your steak was but rather how people made you feel.
So says Neil Charlesworth, restaurant manager, who believes that building lasting relationships with Joe Forte’s diverse guests is the only way and the right way to keep the restaurant at the top.
Maybe you’re asking yourself how much truth there is in their claim that they offer world-class seafood and service. I must say it’s all true!
It’s very hard to object to the venue, the staff, or the food. The restaurant prides itself on using only fresh and top-quality ingredients. The oysters are always a must in seafood restaurants, and Joe Forte’s is no exception. If you love oysters, you should visit between 4:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. They offer a happy hour menu that includes 50 per cent off bar food and of course $1 shucked oyster. If you aren’t picky about the type of oyster you get, then this is a great opportunity to taste some for a really great price.
?There is so much to gush about with this place. Joe Forte’s is the perfect destination for any celebratory occasion, with its casual vibe, piano tunes, and great hospitality that really help you to relax after a long week.
2. LIFT Bar & Grill: Am I Dreaming?
Lift Bar & Grill is located in Coal Harbour’s most scenic area, and the super-modern Lift definitely offers the best view in the city. Unlike Joe Forte’s, Lift is located on the shore, and it feels like you have the whole of Vancouver in the palm of your hand when you dine here. You can admire the landscape from the top floor patio or through its enormous walls of glass, which open like French doors in the summer to let the light breeze in.
Restaurant manager Michael Wilkings explained to us what makes Lift Bar & Grill so popular and when the real patio season begins at Lift.
Mother Nature dictates the patio season, generally mid-April to mid-October. Its popularity is its location — Lift sits right on the water, overlooking mountains, harbour, and park, with views of float planes taking off, cruise ships docking, and seals playing in the water.
The interior is very neat, classy, and upscale — and combined with the surrounding waters, it immediately takes you to your favourite summer holiday destination. It’s very hard to leave — even after you finish your meal and foot the bill. Lift has a great atmosphere.
Unlike at any other restaurant, diners sitting both inside and on the rooftop patio get to look out over Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, and the North Shore Mountains. The fireplace-warmed roof terrace is open throughout the year, and this is definitely one of the biggest advantages compared to other restaurants. Once the sun sets, the backlit bar, softly glowing aquarium, and two flat-screen TVs create a lounge-like background for enjoying the menu of eclectic small plates, which they call “whet plates” here.
Whether you choose seared scallops hugging al dente veal cheek ravioli, tender sea bass, lip-smacking crab rolls, chicken breast and warm honey potato salad, or classic moules frites, panko-crusted calamari, and a trio of wild salmon—gravlax smoked with blini and sockeye tartare, you can always find the perfect wine to pair with your meal. Lift’s wine list is extensive. They offer some of the best local as well as international wines, and their experienced staff is there to help you choose.
Lift is a great place to host events. For the best party experience, you are recommended to use their Exclusive Use Program to enjoy full access to the restaurant and the oceanfront rooftop patio. Lift can host a seated dinner party for up to 100 diners or a cocktail reception for around 200 guests. Smaller parties and family gatherings can be booked without the Exclusive Use Program, but the number of attendees should not exceed 48.
Watching hockey games in a bar with your friends has been taken to a whole new level here at Lift. By purchasing a $100 voucher, you can enjoy any Canuck home game from a 300-level seat in Rogers Arena and a $40 food and beverage credit for dinner at Lift. There is a complementary shuttle bus service that begins at 6:15 P.M. — 45 minutes prior to the puck drop. For more information and ticket reservation, click here.
Lift is open Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 A.M. to midnight and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 A.M. to midnight.
3. Reflections — Relaxed Elegance
Reflections Outdoor Restaurant & Lounge could well establish itself as the best patio in Vancouver. It’s named Best Bar/Lounge in Vancouver by Urban Weekly’s Best of the City Dining Readers’ Choice Awards. This restaurant is located in downtown Vancouver, close to Coal Harbour, at 801 West Georgia Street. Reflections is situated within the inner courtyard of the hotel’s fourth floor. The lounge was opened last year, and it quickly became a popular place among Vancouverites. Manager Shon Jones-Parry observes:
It’s a bit of an urban oasis. We have private cabanas that are covered, and there’s also a waterfall and an open fire pit.
The patio makes you feel like you’re on vacation at a five-star resort, and the service is good. The venue was designed to mirror both the tranquility of the neighbouring spa and the vibrance of downtown. Reflections offers a very generous space, where each table is afforded its own privacy. You can choose to sit in VIP private cabanas or in oversized teak couches. When dusk falls, lanterns and upbeat music combine to create an amazing and positive atmosphere. You don’t need to worry about getting cold. Heaters and soft, fluffy blankets are available on cool, breezy evenings. Although Reflections is located in an upscale, five-star hotel, the dress code is laid-back.
We definitely get the after-work crowd — people who come somewhat dressed up — but we get the casual crowd in shorts and T-shirts as well,
Reflections’ cocktail list is tremendous, and if you haven’t tried the Hotel Georgia cocktail yet, you might be the only one missing out. The Moscow Mule is another favourite drink here at Reflections. It’s made with vodka, ginger beer, angostura bitters, lime juice, and a touch of mint. This is a very strong drink — definitely made for sipping. The cocktail is served in a copper mug rather than in a stemmed cocktail glass. Another drink that will surely catch your eye and tastebuds is the Boulevardier. Actually, it isn’t so much the drink as it is the ice cube. Bourbon, Campari, and a sweet vermouth are mixed together and poured over a gigantic ice cube that takes up more than half of the glass. If you prefer something that’s not on the list, feel free to order off-menu and let the bartender create a unique drink for you.
Those of you looking for some appetizers or entrées to follow your drinks don’t need to go elsewhere. Reflections serves salads and dishes from the grill in tapas style. All ingredients are fresh and local. The wine selection at Reflections is divine. Their sommeliers put great emphasis on boutique BC wines and renowned international wines.
Reflections hosts many events, and one of the best on their offer is definitely Sunday brunch. Chef Ken Nakano offers up West Coast–inspired brunch tapas (crab legs, smoked salmon, and candied salmon) along with amped-up twists on classic brunch items. You can easily spend the whole afternoon in your private cabana, sipping Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial, which is featured at Reflections. It is served over ice, as intended, to bring out the essence of the champagne. Sliced grapes and fresh mint leaves are added to each glass, and you have the option to add even more local fruit and berries. Sunday brunch is served from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., and Reflections is open Monday to Saturday from 12:00 P.M. until late.
These patios are just a selection of the great places to visit in Vancouver that offer charming outdoor seating. Now, with spring setting in, we can all start looking forward to evenings spent drinking and dining on the lovely patios and terraces of the city. Cheers to that!