Stephen Avenue (aka 8th Avenue) is Calgary’s original entertainment and commercial district. Along with a few more modern additions, it has more than 30 buildings that were built after a fire in 1886 destroyed downtown and up until the 1930s. Architectural styles including Edwardian and Beaux Arts were preserved and restored and the names of the buildings are a who’s who of Calgary history. Those buildings as backdrop, and the perk of having the Avenues between 1 Street S.E. and 3 Street S.W. closed to vehicles during the day, make it prime patio territory. The combination of visitors spilling out from the hotels and workers taking long, lazy lunches and ditching out early for happy hour mean that on a sunny day, the patios on Stephen Avenue are packed.
Here are all the patios along Stephen Avenue between 1st Street S.E. and 3rd Street S.W.
The patio at Teatro is tucked away in plain sight in Olympic Plaza. Look for the giant orb-like light hanging above it. That light casts a beautiful glow for a dinner of contemporary Mediterranean cuisine.
What to order: The six-course chef’s tasting menu. It’s $110 per person and totally worth it.
200 8 Ave. S.E., 403-290-1012, teatro.ca
This location of the local coffee roaster is tucked into the Telus Convention Center. In the summer, tables are also out on Stephen Avenue Walk and is a good place to rest or meet up with friends and business colleagues.
What to order: Espresso and a breakfast sandwich. The espresso is made using the fancy La Mazocco Linea PB. The breakfast sandwich is on a cheddar and chive biscuit, which is salty and delicious.
140 8 Ave. S.E., 403-264-7900, rossocoffeeroasters.com
This is the patio for the Hyatt Regency’s hotel bar and its menu has all the delicious things you want on a bar menu – burgers, nachos, cobb salad, steak sandwiches – but slightly elevated because it is the Hyatt. Think brie and apple flatbread with maple bacon and pear butter. Sandstone will validate your parking, which is a bonus if you are coming from out of downtown.
What to order: Anything on the seasonal cocktail menu, including the mai tai, sangria and lemonade.
700 Centre Street S.E., 403-717-1234, calgary.regency.hyatt.com
The range of dishes on the menu of this Vancouver-based chain includes plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options, making it easy to go with groups who have different tastes. Milestone’s patio is one of the biggest on Stephen Avenue.
What to order: Go on Monday when the special is four bellinis or a pitcher of beer and four appetizers for $40.
107 8 Ave. S.E., 403-410-9521, milestonesrestaurants.com
The second local brewer with outdoor seating on Stephen Avenue is Phil & Sebastian. It’s in the Hudson Block, which is an old building that has been updated and decorated with greenery from Plant and products from local artisans involved with Market Collective. The coffee here is some of the best in the city and there is a selection of sandwiches and treats if you are hungry.
What to order: Cold brew. Drink it while you can. Phil & Sebastian only bring it out for the summer.
102 8 Ave. S.W., 587-356-0905, philsebastian.com
Saltlik has all the steakhouse classics, including French onion soup, wedge salads and apple pie that is baked to order, to go along with its prime sirloin, filet mignon, New York striploin and bone-in rib-eye.
What to order: Steak is a solid choice, but so is the black and blue burger with blue cheese, sauteed onions and crispy onion rings.
101 8 Ave. S.W., 403-587-1160, saltlik.com
Blue Vinny Diner
Blue Vinny is only open for breakfast and lunch so this will have to be your patio of choice for the first half of the day. Order omelets, breakfast bowls, French toast and macaroni and cheese to enjoy on the small patio.
What to order: There’s nothing fancy about this place so keep it classic with a breakfast bowl of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns and Hollandaise.
105 8 Ave. S.W., 403-263-3880
OJ’s is up to 12 locations across Calgary. If you like any of those, you’ll like the Stephen Avenue location with all the same salads, bowls, burgers and salads.
What to order: The Original Double Dog made with two wieners that are butterflied and stuffed into a toasted baguette. Bonus: All of OJ’s burgers and sandwiches come with your choice of two sides.
109 8 Ave. S.W., 403-262-7248, originaljoes.ca
The menu is a tight collection of dishes that combine simple, seasonal ingredients into delicious entrees. Blink’s wine list focuses on family-run wineries, which makes the carefully selected options a little different than other restaurants.
What to order: Dessert. Blink has some of the best desserts in the city so always save room. If you can’t decide which, go for the chocolate torte.
111 8 Ave. S.W., 403-263-5330, blinkcalgary.ca
The menu here is described as “True North” which means it takes its influences from across Canada. You’ll find oysters, beef and duck on the menu along with veggie dishes that will remind you how delicious a beet can taste. The cocktail list is a combination of classics and Canadian drinks along with a few new inventions.
What to order: Its One Punch Lunch with a daily feature, choice of side, mini butter tarts and a coffee or mocktail all for $16. That deal is offered Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
110 8 Ave. S.W., 403-262-8100, kleinharris.com
Inside, this pub gets its Irish flavour from the Curran family artifacts on display. Outside on the patio, it’s the lively atmosphere and Guinness umbrellas that give it some Irish spirit.
What to order: Get the waffle fry nachos with bell peppers, onions, jalapenos and cheese. Or the Irish potato boxty with your choice of curried chicken, steak and Guinness or vegetarian curry as a filling.
114 8 Ave. S.W., 403-262-0708, jamesjoycepub.com
Inside, it’s a retro-style lounge over two levels with the basement level especially darker and moody. But, outside the sun shines on the patio.
What to order: The Vesper Martini with vodka, gin, Lillet Blanc and lemon zest. If you are there with a group, you can order all of the items on the Shared menu for $180 and dig into more than a dozen dishes including ceviche, tartar and chicken fried cheddar.
100, 118 8 Ave. S.W., 403-452-5080, wednesdayroom.com
This started as a bank and still has some of the architectural elements (like the safe room). It’s currently operating as a pub with appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches and salads on the menu. There are plenty of daily specials and house wine is $5 everyday. If you are out on the patio, make sure you look up at the building. It is one of the most beautiful and historic.
What to Order: Thin crust pizza. Veggie, wild boar sausage and capicolla are regularly on the menu and on Thursdays a chef’s creation is $10.
125 8 Ave. S.W., 587-293-9688, bankandbaronpub.com
This patio is actually a balcony on the second level of the Alberta Hotel Building. The seats are lined up side-by-side facing out onto Stephen Avenue, making it the perfect vantage to people watch. Live music from inside the lounge spills out onto the balcony.
What to order: Westcoast hot pot with mussels, prawns, scallops, chorizo, potato, onions and tomato in a green curry coconut broth.
200, 808 1 St. S.W., 403-269-7707, murrietas.ca
This patio is in one of the most iconic locations on the avenue. Find it among the pillars of the Hudson’s Bay building. The menu here is meaty with bone-in striploin, porterhouse and roast pork belly as options.
What to order: Go for social hour every day from 2 to 6 p.m. when there are deals on highballs, beer and bar snacks.
200 8 Ave. S.W., 403-770-2313, theguildrestaurant.com
This superpub covers multiple levels that combine three bars – Celtic Cellar, Classic Calgary and Sports Cantina – in one building. If you can’t get a seat on the street-level patio, try to get one at the window on the second floor. The Unicorn has 20 beers on tap and plenty of patio-friendly cocktails. You can turn your pint of beer into an iceberg by adding lemon or lime slush for $1.
What to order: Wings. One pound of chicken wings are typically $13.50 and flavour options include root beer barbecue, habanero mango, salt and pepper and maple bacon. Go to The Unicorn on Wednesdays for 29 cent wings after 4 p.m.
223 8 Ave. S.W., 403-265-3665, superpub.ca
This patio is basically a beer garden on a rooftop. Come here to be social – there are communal tables and games like ping-pong. And, of course, there’s a huge beer selection too.
What to order: Happy hour runs every day here from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. so everything on tap is $0.25 per ounce. Or, if you are feeling like something really fun and summery, order one of the four adult slurpees on the patio menu.
360, 225 8 Ave. S.W., 403-237-5556, ntnl.ca
The beer taps at Local rotate often with many of the permanent taps favouring the British Columbia roots of this chain. Trash Buckets with a can each of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lucky Lager and Old Style Pilsner for $15 is an indication of how casual this restaurant is.
What to order: A press burger to go with your beer. Local’s burgers are made with patties that are pressed by hand and served on buns that are made in-house.
310 8 Ave. S.W., 403-264-7808, localon8thave.com
The Met has been in Calgary since 2000 and the upscale casual restaurant and bar’s patio is a mainstay of Stephen Avenue.
What to order: A cucumber Caesar or cointreau mimosa and maybe a phylo baked brie so you aren’t just drinking.
150, 317 7 Ave. S.W., 403-263-5432, themet.ca
The casual counter service restaurant has tables inside as well as outside. It focuses on healthy bowls and flatbreads and caters to the downtown morning and lunch crowd.
What to order: Toast. You think you can make toast at home, but you are never going to put ingredients like whipped honey goat cheese, mango, pomegranate, basil, pumpkin seeds and balsamic glaze on your bread so you might at well get it on toast here.
163, 317 7 Ave. S.W., 403-454-2987, wiseandwright.com
This patio is tucked near the Galleria Trees (those giant white sculptures) right beside the shipping containers that make up the restaurant’s enclosed atrium.
What to order: Sante Fe Chicken Salad. Earls switches up its menu every now and then, but the Sante Fe Chicken Salad remains a fan favourite. It also added a lineup of non-alcoholic drinks to its menu like The Spring Gimlet made with Seedlip if you want to go for drinks on a patio, but don’t want alcohol.
315 8 Ave. S.W., 403-265-3275, earls.ca
The Cactus Club Caf’s patio is an L-shape at the corner of 8th Avenue and 3rd Street S.W., but the best part about this restaurant is that the walls open. You can be sitting indoors at the bar or in a booth and still feel like you are outside.
What to order: The Modern Bowl. It has tabbouleh, pineapple salsa, roasted cauliflower, roasted broccoli and cucumber over fresh greens and jasmine rice with miso carrot ginger sauce.
178, 317 7 Ave. S.W., 403-454-9399, cactusclubcafe.com
Just past the Galleria Trees technically beyond the area where Stephen Avenue is wide open to pedestrians are patios at Hy’s Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar (order the steak, any steak), Cucina (get the Caesar salad with anchovies and porchetta) and Barcelona Tavern (order from the tapas and gin and tonic menus).