Ottawa restaurants and shopping

Ottawa is a fairly typical small North American city, transformed in the post-war by “urban renewal”, highway infrastructure, removal of streetcars and suburbanization.

It’s important to understand that the downtown core (Centretown) only has a population of about 20,000.  Most people commute to downtown.

Updated January 5, 2017.

Some good tourism articles and guides:

Restaurants – Map & Data

A map with some restaurants – mostly ones I have been to (and like a lot), as well as a few others that are highly recommended.  Most of these places fill up fast, so you should make reservations.  NOTE: As this map is from 2011, some restaurants have closed or moved; I will (eventually) be making a new map and an open data list.

There are restaurants and pubs along Elgin Street and Bank Street.  There are also lots in the Byward Market, but I don’t know the Market very well.

Restaurants – Downtown / Centretown

The downtown core is basically the Central Business District (CBD) north of Gloucester, and Centretown, south of Gloucester to the highway (the Queensway).  I know this area best.

The good news is there are many excellent places to eat in Centretown.  The bad news is there are many terrible places to eat (mostly serving the lunchtime commuter crowd).

The trend in Ottawa is small plates, with locally-sourced ingredients.

I have grouped somewhat arbitrarily into lunch/supper/brunch/takeout just based on when I usually go and what I usually do but obviously your schedule will be different.

Breakfast sandwiches:

  • Bread and Sons, 195 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 6:45 – 18:30, Fri 6:45 – 20:00, Sat 8:30 – 19:30, Sun 9:00 – 4:00
    • this is a small bakery so mostly just grab and go
    • I usually get the bean rolls.  And the jalapeno quiche (but they don’t always have it).
  • Cafe Delice, 197 Kent Street

Note: DON’T go to Cafe Saffron (next to Cafe Delice).  Cafe Saffron is not good.

Here are a few places I like for lunch:

  • Grounded Kitchen, 100 Gloucester, Mon 7am – 4pm, Tue – Fri 7am – 9pm, @groundedottawa
    • if you have a large party or want a seat by the window, reservations recommended
    • also open for supper
  • Bread and Sons, 195 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 6:45 – 18:30, Fri 6:45 – 20:00, Sat 8:30 – 19:30, Sun 9:00 – 4:00
    • this is a small bakery so mostly just grab and go
  • The Scone Witch, 150 Elgin Street (I haven’t been to the new location), Mon-Fri 7am – 7pm, Sat-Sun 8am – 4pm, @sconewitch

These are good for lunch or supper:

  • Clover, 155 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 11am – 2pm, Fri-Sat 11am – 2:30pm and 5:30pm – 10pm, @CloverFoodDrink (I haven’t been)
  • North and Navy, 226 Nepean Street (between Bank & Kent), Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, @northandnavy
  • Fauna, 425 Bank Street, Mon-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, Sun-Wed 5:30pm – 10pm, Thurs-Sat 5:30pm – 11:30pm (or “till late”), @faunaottawa
  • Whalesbone Oyster House (Whalesbone Bank Street), 430 Bank Street, Mon-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, 7 days a week 5pm –
    • reservations highly recommended (small space, very popular)
    • online reservations for lunch only, otherwise call 613 231-8569
  • Ceylonta (fantastic Sri Lankan food), 403 Somerset Street West (between Bank & Kent), Mon-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, Mon-Fri 5pm – 9pm, Sat 5pm – 9pm, Sun 12pm – 2pm, Sun 5pm – 9pm

For supper:

  • Town (this is my favourite restaurant), 296 Elgin Street, Wed-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, Sun-Thurs 5pm – 10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm – 11pm, @townlovesyou
    • reservations highly recommended (small space, very popular), call 613-695-8696 (613-695-TOWN)
  • Union613, 315 Somerset Street West, Mon-Sat 5:30pm – 10pm, Wed-Sat 10:30pm – 2pm, @unionlocal613
  • Share Freehouse, 327 Somerset Street West, @sharefreehouse (I haven’t been)

Brunch:

  • The Manx, 370 Elgin Street, Saturday and Sunday 10am
    • you will have to line up by 9:50am or so if you want to get in to the 10am first sitting
    • the Manx is downstairs (in the basement); you line up at the top of the stairs
  • Wilf & Ada’s, 510 Bank Street, Saturday and Sunday 8am, @wilfandadas (hipster brunch)
    • unless you get there by 9am you’re pretty much guaranteed to have to wait outside
    • they will take your number and text you when your table is ready, if you want
  • Erling’s Variety, 225 Strathcona (east of Bank), Saturday and Sunday 10am, @ErlingsVariety
    • this is in the Glebe (south of the highway), not in Centretown
    • can be a good alternative if Wilf & Ada’s is full as usual

Resturants – Lansdowne

Lansdowne is pretty much all generic chain restaurants, mostly Toronto chains.

The only local restaurant I know of is SEN.

Joey’s (a Toronto chain) also has a nice patio.

If you head north up Bank, a couple places are

(I don’t know the Glebe restaurants well.)

A short imperfect list of Ottawa restaurants by cuisine & specialty:

There’s lots of Chinese, Vietnamese (pho) and other cuisines along Somerset Street West starting roughly west of Percy and running to Preston.  The Chinatown Gate marks the notional entrance to Chinatown at Bronson and Somerset.

Little Italy runs along Preston.

Coffee:

I don’t know anything about coffee.  Some popular places I think are

Shopping

There is good local shopping along Dalhousie, from York to St. Andrew.  L’Hexagone, Victoire, Wunderkammer, Cylie artisans chocolatiers, Goods Shop, …

On Gladstone, Seed to Sausage and Red Apron have lots of local food items.

Bookstores & Magazines

The very good Perfect Books, at 258A Elgin Street.  Also Books on Beechwood, at 35 Beechwood Avenue in the New Edinburgh neighbourhood and Octopus Books at 116 Third Avenue in the Glebe neighbourhood.

Most of the magazine stores have closed.  The Gifted Type at 254 Elgin Street is still holding on, but is mostly a gift shop now, along with its sister store boogie + birdie next door.  Byward Market News, which is now located in the Westboro neighbourhood, and is also the Toy Soldier Market, 1242 ½ Wellington Street West.

To Market, To Market

Despite its name, the Byward Market is no longer the central farmers’ market in Ottawa.  People still go to buy from various shops (cheesemonger, butcher etc.) but not so much from the stalls.

The primary farmers’ market is at Lansdowne Park, in the Aberdeen Pavillion and outside.  It’s open Wednesdays & Fridays (11am) and the biggest market is on Sundays (8am to 3pm).  http://ottawafarmersmarket.ca/lansdowne-park-ottawa/ Twitter: @OttawaFarmMkt
The market is the main reason to go to Lansdowne, everything else there is a chain store or franchise.

There is another market closer to the downtown core, the Main Street Farmers’ Market which is temporarily (for the next two years) located at the Canadian Museum of Nature.  It’s open on Saturdays (9am to 2pm).  http://mainfarmersmarket.org/ Twitter: @mainfarmmarkott

Restaurants – Byward Market area

There is a restaurant in Nordstroms in the Rideau Centre (attached to the convention centre), one of their Bazille brand.  I’ve eaten there, it’s ok.  It has a patio.

Just east of the Rideau Centre, at 408 Dalhousie (east of Nicholas), is Kothu Rotti – Sri Lankan food, mostly for takeout.  You can get a generous portion of curries for $9.  Anne DesBrisay gave it a positive review.  I also really like its parent restaurant Ceylonta.

The Byward Market has a reasonable selection of restaurants and a nice street experience.  It is mainly visited by tourists and the lunchtime crowd, so it (like Sparks Street) has a bit of an artificial quality.

Some good places to eat in the market are:

You can get excellent sandwiches at La Bottega Nicastro, 64 George Street.  Go way in to the back of the store to the sandwich section.

If you want a really quick meal in the market, Shafali Bazaar is a small curry shop at 55 Byward Market Square (in the Byward Market Square building).  Shafali has two other locations in Ottawa.

Corazón De Maíz, 55 Byward Market Square (in the Byward Market Square building).

Ottawa’s inexpensive, ubiquitous fast food is shawarma, to the point that Ottawa calls itself the unofficial shawarma capital of Canada.  See e.g. The city of shawarma.  There are shawarma places everywhere.

Please don’t go to Metropolitain, on Rideau at the edge of the market.  It is not good.  I’m told Milestones (a Canadian chain on the upper part of the same location) is ok.

There is good shopping and some good eating along Dalhousie at the edge of the market.  It’s the only Market street I actually go to consistently.  It runs up basically to Das Lokal, at Dalhousie and Saint Andrew.

If you want a high-end dining experience, just go to Beckta.  It’s at 150 Elgin (a new location).

Food Trucks / Food Carts – downtown core

Yes, Ottawa has food trucks.  You can see 2014 vendors and added 2015 vendors.  At the time of writing, I haven’t tried most of them, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Dosa Inc. (truck), north side of Dundonald Park, Somerset St. West between Lyon and Bay, @Dosa_Inc
  • Sula Wok & SuzyQ doughnuts (cart), Bank & Sparks – east side of Bank Street, south of Sparks Street, @sulawok
  • Stella Luna Gelato Café (cart), Bank & Sparks – west side of Bank Street, south of Sparks Street

Many of the food trucks and carts can be tracked using http://streetfoodapp.com/ottawa/

The Street Food Vendors open data (for the locations only) was updated March 27, 2015.  (Check the History to see updates, don’t look at Date First Published.)

Some street food vendors close in the downtown core are:

(This is a modified crosspost from my work blog.)

Previously:
October 1, 2013  Centretown restaurants and shopping

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
Thai
260 Nepean Street (Kent & Nepean)

Ceylonta
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)

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

Bekta
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

Town
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
Tacos.
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)

Shopping

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
http://www.herdmag.ca/flowers-vintage/
IMG_6520

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

IMG_3402

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.