Several times a day, Eric and I turn to each other and say, “we’re moving… to… Jordan? We’re moving to Jordan. What?” It doesn’t seem real yet; the Lonely Planet sits on our kitchen table but we still can’t seem to make out how this is different from a vacation.
What helps the idea to sink in is thinking about leaving Ottawa. Parts of that make me very happy – saying goodbye to salt caked onto the hems of my pants, -40 windchills, and curiously slow drivers who inexplicably seem to hate cyclists with a particularly righteous fervour.
And yet there are certain things I’m going to really miss, especially eating. Ottawa tends to get looked down upon from people who come from Toronto or Montreal (or who have ever been to either of those cities), but it has a vibrant food scene. In the hopes that these places might still be around and great whenever we’re back, here’s a list of my favourites. Should you ever find yourself in Canada’s frosty capital, enjoy!
Bridgehead is a local chain that sells fair-trade, organic coffee. But unlike a lot of places that stick an organic label on crappy coffee and feel justified in charging $2.50 for a tepid cup of sludge, their coffee is really good, especially since they opened their own local roastery last spring. Their baristas are generally quite talented, too – they know not to burn the milk, and the espresso is generally well-pulled. We spend an embarrassingly large amount of money there.
Suzy Q doughnuts
rocky road; one of the constantly revolving flavours
This place opened up last year in the old Hintonburger shack (see below), and I haven’t been able to look at a mass-market doughnut since. I’ve written about them before – pillowy mounds of dough, covered in fresh and creative glazes. My all-time favourite was the pumpkin pie, although a close second is the raspberry white chocolate.
A burger joint that serves phenomenal burgers using local, free-range beef, local cheese, and amazing fries. They used to be located in the shack now occupied by Suzy Q; when a KFC closed down up the street they relocated (but kept the bucket). Go expecting a 15-minute wait at minimum; half an hour if it’s a gorgeous summer night.
Hintonburg Public House
This eclectic gastropub has adorably mismatched everything, but don’t let the awesome decor distract you from the menu. They make a mean burger, pull pints of local beer, and host fun events (including bingo and open mike nights). They used to have a duck confit hash on the brunch menu that made me want it to be groundhog day in my mouth. I’m eventually going to steal their electric blue bar (pictured).
We used to live right near Town, but never got around to eating there before we moved. I finally made it there this year and have been kicking myself for missing out on years of ricotta-stuffed meatballs ever since. It’s cosy, italian-inspired small plates that are impressive without showing off.
Murray St Café
This 100% locally sourced restaurant does a ton of cool in-house charcuterie and puts together a great cheese board, but the real deal is their lunch menu. Fantastic sandwiches, spatzle mac-n-cheese, and a s’more pudding in a mason jar. I trick work colleagues into going there every time there’s a goodbye lunch to be had (a common occurrence when one works in the foreign service).
Ask three Ottawaians where the best shawarma is, and you’ll get three different answers… but they’re all wrong, unless they say Shawarma Palace. This Lebanese joint on Rideau makes amazing shawarma and falafel that were entirely responsible for my freshman
15 20 35 (sad but true) back in first year. I don’t let myself walk by more than a few times a year.
Whalesbone / Supply and Demand / Elmdale Oyster House
Oysters at the Elmdale with fresh horseradish and a bevy of sauces
I call this the seafood trifecta of Ottawa. My understanding of the kitchen line-up composition of these restaurants is that they’re all vaguely intertwined and awesome. Whalesbone is pretty special-occasion-y (read: pricey but worth it), but Supply and Demand is incredibly reasonable and the freshly opened Elmdale is dangerously low-priced (considering the huge number of oysters I ate last weekend, I thought they had made a mistake on our bill).
This little dining room is right around the corner from us, and they have a really clever way of packing the restaurant on a Monday – tapas! The menu is always changing and everything is delicious. In the spring and summer, they grow fresh herbs out front in big planters.
The Foolish Chicken is what Swiss Chalet dreams of being – succulent roast chicken and ribs, great fries, and amazing cheesecakes. Sometimes our whole block smells like rotisserie and the dog goes nuts (okay, so do we). They also have a lot of gluten-free options.
The Wild Oat
This veggie heaven is up in the Glebe. When I used to work beside it, I would love to grab an Americano and a maple hemp cookie (I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to reverse-engineer them for years!). They also make amazing sandwiches – my favourite is the beet and sprouts!
Like shawarma, everyone has an opinion on the best indian food in town. My vote goes to Coconut Lagoon, a South Indian eatery in Vanier that has the best thali around.
Anyways, I’m sure I’m missing some Ottawa favourites, but this town is seriously full of great food. I’d like to try and get to them all one last time before we leave, but it’s coming up so fast that we’re going to have to start eating out a lot more to squeeze them all in!