Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Where to Eat in Ottawa? This turned out to be a very intriguing question!

In her opinion:

Ottawa is the capital of Canada.  The second largest city in Ontario and the fourth in all of Canada.  It is where the Prime Minister lives (not necessarily something or someone I want to blog about).  It is the home of Winterlude and Maman (a personal favourite of my six year old). 

It is a place I travel to for work quite a bit without knowing too much about it as a foodie destination. I really haven't paid too much attention to what it offers foodies as a whole.  So today I was very intrigued when someone on Twitter asked a very interesting question.  Where to eat in Ottawa?

I pride myself with being a foodie and knowing a lot about different food scenes.  However, I don't think I could honestly answer that question from my own personal experiences.  I've been to Ottawa several times both for business and pleasure. The last time I was there was just this last December but that was for business and it usually means grabbing something a the airport or a food court near where the hearing is taking place.  My last trip to Ottawa for pleasure was May, 2011, when it was combined with a trip to Montreal. I've already blogged about having Afternoon Tea at the Chateau Laurier but what else is there to say.  This made me realize that my food dealings are quite limited as far as Ottawa is concerned.  As far as I know there are no celebrity chefs cooking in Ottawa.  It doesn't buzz in regards to food like Toronto or Montreal.

My husband had told me about Le Cordon Blue Ottawa - Culinary Arts Institute that also offers you an opportunity to dine at their Bistro At Signatures in the historic Munross Mansion at a very reasonable price.  He mentioned this on our last trip to Ottawa.  However, our timing just didn't work out in order to dine there, so I can't honestly provide my feedback regarding this restaurant.

I do know that you can get some amazing things to eat at the Byward Market; either from their many restaurants or their many vendors selling anything from sausage, cheese, baked goods, etc.  We actually ate breakfast at Zak's Diner in the Byward Market on our last trip to Ottawa.  This is a 50s style diner which I wasn't too crazy about.  I thought the prices were a little high and the calibre of food not really up to par with its pricing.  We also visited Le Moulin de Provence in the Byward Market.  A bakery which makes the famous Obama Cookies...I kid you not.  A simple shortbread cookie in the shape of a maple leaf that President Obama bought at this bakery during his February, 2009 visit to Ottawa.

The Byward Market is also famous for Beaver Tails. A fried dough pastry topped with several topping options.  My favourite is cinnamon and sugar.  These guys were also made famous by the February, 2009 President Obama visit to Byward Market when the president stopped just to buy one of these pastries on the way to the airport.  Thus the "Obama Tail" was born! 
I also know through my food truck obsession that there is a food truck named Stone Soup Foodworks usually parked at the University of Ottawa. And from my experience, most food truck food is extraordinarily good. But that is really my only dealings with food in Ottawa. So besides suggesting Afternoon Tea at Chateau Laurier, picking something up at Byward Market or taking a chance of some food truck food, I really can't answer that question.

But if you know me, you know that I couldn't leave that question unanswered in my little head.  So, in my quest to answer, "where to eat in Ottawa?",  I found several spots that give you some good advise about where to eat in Ottawa.  The Sweet Spot has a whole write up on Ottawa and where to eat and drink. provides an online restaurant guide of where to eat in Ottawa and according to them the hottest places to eat as well.  Things to do in Ottawa is another blog with lots of restaurant suggestions. I even looked at TripAdvisor. 

What I have noticed in my all of my research is that Ottawa really is not that great of a culinary destination.  Don't get me wrong...yes, there are some amazing places to eat in Ottawa but they are few and far between.  Blogs like Eat, Drink, Ottawa whose tag line is "What and where to eat in Ottawa Restaurants...also share this belief.  You would think that the capital of Canada would be a great culinary destination but in my opinion, it really is not! 

However, after all my perusing I think I know how to answer the question. Where would I eat in Ottawa?...I would eat at Beckta. I would eat at Social. I eat would at Restaurant E18hteen. I would eat at Luxe Bistro. These place are sexy, classy and trendy and have established themselves as some of Canada's premier restaurants.  These type of restaurants may be a dime a dozen (sorry, I didn't want to be so cliche) in Toronto and Montreal but they are not in Ottawa and that makes them the right places to eat in Ottawa! 

In his opinion:

Ottawa heh?

What can we say about our Nation's capital? Well, there are some amazing things to do and see and even eat in Ottawa.  It is definitely not where foodies run to, with their sharp, witty and adventurous palate to get wowed!

In 2011, Trip Advisor named Ottawa of of the top 10 food destinations in Canada and I'm still to understand what kind of drugs these critics were on.

Granted my trips to Ottawa have been few and far in between. But given that I love researching destinations I travel to, I have consistently come up short in my findings, even when asking Ottawa locals.

Now, to say that there are no great restaurants in Ottawa would be lying. But, there just isn't an overall idea that you can travel there, simply for the food.

Enough of the negative and let's focus on the positive for a minute. I have had a couple of good experiences in Ottawa and know of many other restaurants that are worth the reservation in that area. Starting with the Bistro at Signatures, the restaurant at the Cordon blue Institute. I have never dined there, but a chance to try out the food of the "great chefs of tomorrow" in a 4 diamond award restaurant? I'm in...!

Then obviously, there is the Byward Market. Lots of choices in this area and my favourite is by far KINKI......and not just cause of the sexy name and the provocative lady in the website main page. 

The food there is great, and in my last visit I had the Midori Asian green salad and the Panko Chicken Bento Box (Asian greens, Hoso Maki roll, lemongrass chicken skewers and Nigiri). It was fantastic and I recall the portions being very good for lunch. It is an Asian infusion type restaurant that has a menu filled with all things Asian. It is often referred to as a Sushi restaurant but it has a wide variety of Asian cuisine.

Other hotspots at the Market are Luxe restaurant, Empire grill, Must for tapas and Vineyard's for Wine. These are all critically acclaimed restaurants and great reviews for them can be found consistently online.

Other worthy mentions are of course, Chateau Laurier for Afternoon/High tea (covered on our Tea blog entry), Atelier, Bistro St Jacques and Castlegarth.

Here is the list of top 10 restaurants in Ottawa as per Ottawa magazine.

In summary...we don't want you to think that Ottawa is not a good destination for eating but it surely should be better given the size, the importance of the city and it's French Canadian influences.
The good news...recent years have shown a great improvement and it seems to be headed in the right direction. Oh Canada!


  1. I'm personally from toronto but I love visiting ottawa! I particularly enjoy the vietnamese and lebanese cuisines, and of course....beavertails! :)

  2. Thanks for the the feedback. Yes, you are right...vietnamese and lebanese cuisine are huge in Ottawa!