BEST OPEN BAR/PATIO - 2006
The era of the smoking ban here in the Twin Cities produced an unlikely by-product: Can anyone remember a year that saw a bigger proliferation of patios at drinking establishments across the metro? Some, of course, were nothing but makeshift shanties, little awnings propped up above back doors that open to parking lots. Not to say these weren't welcome—a smoker's got to smoke when a smoker drinks. But others were more adventurous. The folks at the Monte Carlo in downtown Minneapolis, for instance, should get credit for building a lush, inviting patio in what was essentially a blocked-off alley just a year ago. But for a truly elegant patio experience, the Liffey, the Irish pub in downtown St. Paul by the Xcel Energy Center, wins hands-down. The rooftop patio has what is perhaps the best view of St. Paul just about anywhere in the city, offering glimpses of the downtown skyline, the Cathedral of St. Paul, and even the state Capitol. More than that, the rooftop is smartly laid-out with a spacious, oval-shaped stainless steel bar in the center, and high tables scattered throughout. Short concrete walls create sections within the patio's layout, making for an intimate setting that somehow never seems crowded. The end result is a place that seems far away from the regular patio fare in the Twin Towns, and the Liffey's generous selection of tap beer and underrated food make it a pleasure to linger. And, oh yeah, you can smoke there, too.