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ON THE PLATE: A toast to the opening of patio season (finally!)

Vancouvers top 10 spots to sip cocktails al fresco Im a sucker for good, marginally esoteric top 10 lists, and Ive certainly dished a few of my own in these pages (the more hyper-specific they are, the more of a challenge they present).

Vancouvers top 10 spots to sip cocktails al fresco

Im a sucker for good, marginally esoteric top 10 lists, and Ive certainly dished a few of my own in these pages (the more hyper-specific they are, the more of a challenge they present). In this instance, and in honour of our annual Summer in the City issue, I give you my top 10 local establishments that apply themselves best to the art of outdoor elbow-bending.

10 | Crave On Main | 3941 Main Street | 604-872-3663 |

There are actually two patios at this East Side comfort food joint: one out front with a couple of tightly arranged tables and an open air oasis tucked away in the back. It is the latter that gets Crave a spot on this list. It is unpolished, slightly haphazard and irresistibly charming (guests feel in the belly of a residential neighbourhood because they are). The martinis are ridiculous inventions possibly dated to the second season of Sex in the City, but they table a good wine card. Best bet: after dinner pastis and then brandy.

9 | Havana | 1212 Commercial | 604-253-9119 |

I shudder to remember some of the abysmal food and terse service Ive had to endure at this Commercial Drive restaurant on ugly days, and its a good thing the glory of summer always causes me to forget. The patio seats (there are many but never enough) face a steady panoply of pedestrian traffic that is far from uniform. Such diversity is refreshing, as are the full evenings of tree shade-dappled sunshine. And then there are the margaritas. Oh, the margaritas!

8 | CinCin | 1154 Robson | 604-688-7338 |

CinCin is know for some of the best table service in town and a succession of very talented chefs plating superb Mediterranean fare. But my best memories of CinCin are of drinking cold beers and celebrating on its secluded, second floor patio overlooking the heart of the Robson drag after the Canucks had put away some long forgotten play-off series. If you want a place to watch Robson erupt in malice or joy this week as the Stanley Cup finals get underway, book now.

7 | Lift | 333 Menchions Mews | 604-689-5438 |

At some point, Vancouvers biggest asset its stunning natural environment must come into play on this list, and Coal Harbours slick rooftop deck is my first pick of those that deal in sight lines and beauty. Trying to score seats around the idyllic central fire pit is a lottery worth playing (even if you lose, youre still on a roof overlooking the water). Avoid the whimsically-named, cougar-suited martinis and aim for Red Truck on tap or two bottles of wine at last call (the better to milk the atmosphere late).

6 | Teahouse | 714 Pipeline (Stanley Park) | 604-669-3281 |

It might have earned its reputation for catering to tourists, grandmothers and the terminally unadventurous out for an anniversary, but the Teahouse in Stanley Park continues to dazzle in the patio department. Besotted by the breeze-blessed ocean view, I could linger here for hours after dinner (and have), watching the stars wheel after soaking up a postcard sunset. Its the view that counts in this instance, and since much better food can be had nearby for less, it counts for just about everything.

5 | Abigails Party | 1685 Yew | 604-739-4677 |

I had a superb dinner with family at this casual Kitsilano mainstay a couple of weeks ago, and it pained me that it was too nippy out to enjoy the little sidewalk sliver of an excuse for a patio again. The ingredient-driven spot is located on the steepest leg of the hill on Yew up from the beach. There are much larger patios nearby that have significantly better views, but their food and service play in a lesser league and when it comes to respecting beer, wine and cocktails, no restaurant in Kits is more sincere.

4 | Six Acres | 203 Carrall | 604-488-0110 |

With cocktail heavies like LAbattoir and The Diamond both bereft of patios (and Chill Winstons massive outdoor sprawl being somewhat of a disorganised gong show), Gastowns core has but one reliable option: Six Acres. There are just a handful of seats on the sidewalk, but if youre into people-watching, it sees as broad an assortment of passersby as can be had in Vancouver. The story here is beer. They have plenty, and so should you.

3 | Brix | 1138 Homer | 604-915-9463 |

I dig all the lively, street-facing decks of Yaletown, but all one ever sees when people-watching are the wealthy, the attractive and a steady stream of yahoos just off the SkyTrain (it gets stale by the second glass). I much prefer the dreamy, evocatively bricky and miraculously-lit courtyard at Canadian cuisine-themed Brix. Their cocktail program has improved over the years and their accessible list of wines by the glass still includes dozens of gems.

2 | Market in the Shangri-La | 1115 Alberni | 604-695-1115 |

Barman Jay Jones is certainly no slouch, but what attracts me most of all to his workplace is its gorgeous deck. While theres no view to speak of, its second floor location makes it something of a rarity. Its also dripping with a style that is so modern and unabashedly urban that I feel like Im in a different city. With its top-drawer food and beverage program and experienced, well-trained service, its the full meal deal, and experiencing it outdoors borders on the surreal.

1 | The Keefer Bar | 135 Keefer | 604-688-1961 |

A miniature, streetside hideaway on a lesser block of Chinatown is Vancouvers best patio for drinks? I know that sounds odd, but dont knock it until you try it. The Keefer Bar has everything going for it, beginning with the often outstanding, apothecary-inspired cocktails conjured by the charming, award-winning talent of Dani Tatarin (a wizard with both classic and new-fangled cocktails). The patio is small, simply arranged and exposed to the elements, but an open flame turns up the cozy. Best of all, its so far removed from the madding crowd that it bizarrely borders on the tranquil.