I love eating at the bar. There’s always plenty of pouring and mixing action behind the bar, you’re usually sitting in the middle of the restaurant so you can watch the comings and goings of people and food, and if your date is boring, you don’t have to make direct eye contact and you can talk to the bartender instead.
But not all restaurant bars are created equally so here are a few of Avenue’s favourites to sidle up to.
If the consistently great food and service aren’t enough of a draw, Brava Bistro also has one of my favourite bars at which to sit for drinks and a light bite of one of the excellent salads or even a full dinner. Brava’s bartenders make a damn good martini and it’s fun to watch the constant buzz of activity behind the bar on a busy night. The warm interior, soft lighting and sturdy, comfortable bar chairs are perfect for all occasions and the purse hooks are a definite bonus. (723 17 Ave. S.W., 403-228-1854, bravabistro.com) -Jennifer Hamilton, executive editor
The bar at this tapas restaurant is big. It takes up a huge dining space and literally glows with light from the skylight above. The chairs are comfortable and not too close together and you’ll keep the attention of the bartender, which is important when you want a hot mess cocktail with muddled raspberries vanilla and raspberry vodka with cranberry and pineapple. (1919 4 St. S.W., 403-719-0049, candelalounge.com, @candelacalgary) -Jaelyn Molyneux, web editor
Fleur de Sel
Sitting at the crossroads of hyper-energetic waitstaff, an ornery French owner prone to outbursts and a kitchen clad in traditional horizontal stripes might be a little overwhelming for some. But for those who don’t mind a bit of a floorshow, there’s no better seat at Fleur de Sel than the curved nub of the bar that runs along the back edge of the dining room. With trs gnreux by-the-glass wine pours and a menu of traditional French fare, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped into an off-the-beaten-path neighbourhood brasserie somewhere in gay Paris. (2015 4 St. S.W., 403-228-9764) – Shelley Arnusch, staff writer
The bar at the excellent Mercato in Mission offers a front-row seat to the theatre of cooking going on in full view and with all the drama, pyrotechnics and main and supporting characters of an average Cirque de Soleil performance. None of the intimacy of a dining table or attention from the wait staff is forfeited sitting on a high stool rubbing elbows with strangers. As well, the bar allows the sometimes-debatable benefit of actually hearing what your dining companion is saying. Let’s hear it for conversation. Oh, and order the grilled steak and haricots verts with pine nuts on the side. It’s magnificent. (2224 4 St. S.W., 403-263-5535, mercatogourmet.com) -Jay Winans, managing editor
The Oyster Bar at Catch always has a wide and interesting selection of oysters to look at.
If the upside of sitting at the bar is to absorb the energy and witness the skills of the service staff, then the Oyster Bar at Catch is award-winner theatre. From your perch at the bar you’ll overlook a wide array of fresh, flown-in-daily oysters from both the West and East coasts and see the deft hands of the chefs shucking the oysters with skill and finesse. If oysters aren’t your thing, there are plenty other fish and seafood options from the menu which emphasizes sustainability. There are even a few excellent meatatarian dishes. (100 8 Ave. S.E., 403-206-0000, catchrestaurant.ca, @catchcalgary) -Jennifer Hamilton, executive editor
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