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Al fresco dining in abundance, if sun also rises

Is there any summer pastime more pleasurable than lounging on a patio while sipping prosecco as the setting sun ignites the horizon aglow?

Fellow hedonists, rejoice – but keep those fingers crossed. Though it may have been slow to arrive, it looks like Vancouver's patio season is finally here. And the choices for al fresco dining have never been better.

The city already boasts many spectacular outdoor venues. Lift, Cardero's, The Teahouse in Stanley Park, Monk McQueens and The Galley Patio and Grill at Jericho Sailing Club rank high among our waterfront favourites. Downtown, Brix's old-world courtyard, the rooftop patios at Joe Fortes and the Yaletown Keg, and the casual Gallery Café at the Vancouver Art Gallery rival some of the nicest terraces in the world.

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But in a location so abundantly blessed with natural beauty, there can never be too many outdoor dining spaces. Thus, this year's crop of new (or newly improved) patios is making us giddy with thoughts of warm summer days drifting away into sultry summer nights. Let me tell you more:

Breezy Beach Vibe Cactus Club English Bay: 1790 Beach Ave., Vancouver; 604-681-2582. Wow, this is the patio Vancouver has been longing for. And judging by the lineups (reservations not available), most will still have to cool their heels before getting in. But with warm sand crunching under those flip-flops (the 104-seat, ground-level patio blends almost seamlessly into the seawall) and panoramic views of English Bay, these tables are well worth the wait. Rob Feenie's classics are all available here (if you haven't tried his breaded-chicken rocket salad, do yourself the favour). Still, this menu rises above other Cactus Club restaurants with several site-specific dishes and a premium (yet value-priced) wine list. Best sundowner bet: scallop-salmon ceviche with the lightly fizzy azul vinho verde.

South Beach Cool Reflections: 801 West Georgia St., Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver; 604-682-5566 . Vancouver meets Miami at this swishy fourth-floor courtyard that features a central fire pit, infinity water pools, private cabanas and plush teak sofas. Howe Street traders have never had it so luxe. Good thing their days finish early because this urban oasis doesn't take reservations in the evening (and by 6 p.m. on Friday, the wait is about two hours), though there is always Sunday brunch. Best sundowner bet: grilled albacore tuna with Moët Ice Imperial.

Tiny Tiki Bar The Hideaway at Narrow Lounge: 1898 Main St., Vancouver; 778-737-5206. You don't always need a view to create a fantabulous outdoor venue. This 20-seat nook, nestled into an east-end parking lot, has been a hipster secret for a couple of years. But now that tiki aficionado Rocket Rod is manning the bar, his Pernod-flecked, fruit-layered rum punches live up to the lushly thatched, twinkly lit exterior. Best sundowner bet: fish tacos with an authentic Trader Vic mai tai.

Flower Power Truffles Café: 5251 Oak St., VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver; 604-505-4961. The magnolias may be fading, but the laburnum and rhododendron walks are ablaze in blooms. And for a mere $28, you and a friend can enjoy a three-tiered tea service with a front-deck view from the new $22-million visitors centre. The daily panini, scones and croissants don't come close to comparing with the city's finest. But the macarons and chocolates are pretty good, the price is sweet and the garden view is unparalleled. Best sundowner bet: Afternoon tea for two.

Lofty Mountain Views Seasons in the Park: 33rd Ave. W. and Cambie Street, Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver; 604-874-8008. Oh, my! If you've never had the pleasure of being perched over the city with verdant gardens below and the snow-capped North Shore mountains in the distance, get thee quick to this newly redesigned peach of a restaurant. The experience is astounding, especially now that the bar had been punched out with windows and the kitchen has been equipped with a new fire-burning apple-wood grill. Best sundowner bet: Tuscan flatbread with a tequila margarita (honestly).

Smooth Sailing Pier 7 restaurant + bar: 25 Wallace Mews, North Vancouver; 604-929-7437 . We haven't been yet, but we just know it's going to be great. Dino Renaerts (formerly of Fraiche and Diva at the Met) is the head chef and director of operations for this newly launched two-storey restaurant (with patios on both levels) that graces the water's edge of the North Shore's funky Shipbuilders' Square. Where else are you going to find live theatre under landscaped cranes? Best sundowner bet: Seafood platter with creative cocktails.

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About the Author
Vancouver restaurant critic

Alexandra Gill has been The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver restaurant critic since 2005. She joined the paper as a summer intern in 1997 and was hired full-time as an entertainment columnist the following year. In 2001, she moved to Vancouver as the Western Arts Correspondent, a position she held until 2007. More

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