Centretown restaurants and shopping

My personal list of local, independent places to eat and shop in Centretown, with information about nearby neighbourhoods.  I’ve been to all these places, unless indicated.

(This post was originally for Can-Con 2013.)

Building on blog post Places to Eat, Drink or Get a Coffee at Can-Con, I thought I would add my perspective.

Ottawa: What it is

Ottawa was a small prosperous lumber town, transformed by the Gréber Plan vision of a modern capital city.  Unfortunately in the post-War era when it was transformed, the best thinking of the day was that everyone should live in the suburbs and commute by car to the Central Business District (CBD) downtown.

Downtown: Where you are

If you’re south of Parliament Hill, you’re probably in the Central Business District, between Gloucester and the Ottawa River.  The CBD is the northern part of Centretown.  Centretown is between the highway (Queensway, 417) and the Ottawa River, bounded by Bronson Avenue in the west and the Rideau Canal in the east.

If you’re east of Parliament Hill, you’re in Byward Market (“the Market”).

Food and drink

The Scone Witch
Good for breakfast or a snack. Many delicious scones.
388 Albert Street 150 Elgin Street

Bridgehead coffee
all over the place in Ottawa, but some CBD outlets may be closed weekends and evenings
Bridgehead at Bank and Albert (109 Bank Street) will be open

Bread & Sons
bakery and pizza, open until 8pm Fridays, opens 8:30am Saturday, closed Sundays
195 Bank Street (Bank Street just south of Gloucester)

Som Tum
260 Nepean Street (Kent & Nepean)

excellent Sri Lankan (spicy)
403 Somerset Street West (Somerset near Kent)

Grounded Kitchen
good lunch service, open Fridays until 11pm, Saturday 5pm-11pm, closed Sundays
100 Gloucester Street (Gloucester east of O’Connor)

Reservations recommended (open seating at the bar).
62 Sparks Street

fine dining.  reservations recommended.  check the menus to see if it’s in your price range.
226 Nepean Street (Nepean between Bank & Kent) 150 Elgin Street

Dosa Inc.
a food truck that parks on the north side of Dundonald Park, serving Indian food
south side of Somerset, between Bay and Lyon
check their Twitter feed @dosa_inc to see if they’re open (summer only)

other food trucks
not many are open on the weekends.  Check Streetfoodapp Ottawa for what’s open (summer only).

Social Thai
I recommend the Burmese tofu.
399 Bank Street (Bank at Waverley)

Whalesbone (Bank)
Oyster House, sustainable seafood and fish.  reservations recommended.
430 Bank Street, Bank north of Gladstone

Whalesbone (Elgin)
231 Elgin Street

small plates of delicious things.  reservations recommended.
296 Elgin Street (Elgin north of Gilmour)

The Manx
opens at 10 on weekends for a delicious and interesting brunch.  recommend lining up by at least 9:45 unless you want a long wait for a table.  also popular as a pub.
370 Elgin Street (Elgin at Frank).  Manx is downstairs.

El Camino
380 Elgin Street (Elgin north of Gladstone).  El Camino is downstairs.

there are lots of places for Vietnamese soup (pho), including
Pho Bo Ga Truc at 275 Bank Street (Bank north of Somerset) and
Viet-Thai at 312 Bank Street (Bank at Maclaren)

there are lots of diners including
Wilf & Ada’s at 510 Bank Street (Bank at Arlington) – highend diner
Bramasole Diner at 428 Bank Street (Bank north of Gladstone)
Elgin Street Diner at 374 Elgin Street (Elgin south of Frank, next to The Manx, more or less)

bakeries & pastries

Three Tarts Bakeshop.  Tarts, cookies, cakes.  The wafer-thin ginger cookies particularly recommended.  464 Bank Street Unit #3 (Bank between McLeod and Flora)

The best pâtisserie is Macarons & Madeleines, 46 Lorne Avenue.  1323 Wellington Street West. (not in Centretown)

The Middle East Bakery has baklava.  605 Somerset Street West.

Art-is-in is another top Ottawa bakery but far from Centretown, in an odd location (if you walk down Somerset Street West, then turn north onto Preston, then west on Spruce and across the City Centre parking lot, behind the drycleaners, you’ll get there, it takes about half an hour).  (not in Centretown)


Perfect Books
great bookstore
258A Elgin Street (Elgin north of Somerset Street West)

Stroked Ego
clothing & accessories
224 Bank Street 131 Bank Street (upstairs)

Comic Book Shoppe 2
comic books
228 Bank Street

Flowers & Vintage
What it says on the tin: flowers and vintage clothing.  I haven’t been.
502 1/2 Somerset Street West

Neighbourhoods & Quebec

There are some main streets, often old street-car streets.
In Centretown there’s Bank Street, but it doesn’t have a lot other than what is mentioned above, and Elgin Street, which has a good strip of bars and restaurants (it’s near uOttawa).

If you continue south on Bank underneath the highway you’re in the Glebe, and a few blocks south of the Queensway there’s pretty good shopping along Bank in the Glebe.

Somerset West has Chinatown, officially west of Bronson at the Chinatown gate


but really these days starting west of Bay Street.  UPDATE: Charles Akben-Marchand tells me that Chinatown officially starts west of Bay already.  ENDUPDATE

If you continue west on Somerset you’ll eventually hit Preston Street, which has Little Italy.

If you continue west even farther on Somerset you’ll go on a bridge over the O-train tracks and then you’re in Hintonburg and Somerset soon turns into Wellington Street West.  There is good shopping and lots of restaurants starting in Hintonburg all down Wellington Street West continuing into Westboro.

If you go north-east from the hotel instead, the Byward Market is walkable but touristy.  Murray Street Kitchen is a good nose-to-tail restaurant.  If you go east to Dalhousie Street there’s some good shopping, including L’Hexagone menswear and Cylie Chocolaterie.

If you continue quite a bit north-east from there you’ll reach New Edinburgh, where there’s another good strip of shopping and restaurants, including Books on Beechwood.

Chez Edgar is good (but tiny), in Quebec.

Please let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions or feedback.

See also: Ottawa restaurants and shopping.