Maple Leaf cookies

Maple Leaf cookies, Byward Market Ottawa

If you’re heading to the Nation’s capital for Canada Day, or any other day for that matter, you’re going to want a list of restaurant suggestions. So rather than go through pages of reviews (like I did before Henk and I visited), why not just check out our recommendations for 5 places to eat and drink in Ottawa:

1. For Teatotallers: Afternoon Tea at Château Laurier

Ottawa made in Canada Afternoon Tea Chatea

“Made in Canada” treats at Afternoon Tea in the Château Laurier

I could probably make a career out of sampling Afternoon Tea around the world (wouldn’t that be awesome!?). I’m that big a fan. So when I heard that Zoe’s Lounge at the Château Laurier offered an afternoon tea, I was IN. For me, half of the appeal of High Tea is the ambiance – and the more old-world and authentic the better; the other half is of course the selection of delectable goodies. Zoe’s definitely had the atmosphere, with its glass sunroom and the historic architectural details of its elegant room. Full marks also for the Canada 150th birthday-inspired menu that featured Made-in-Canada local flavours. And then there was the ‘tea sommelier’ who wheeled his samovar of boiling water and exotic tea selections from table to table, offering suggestions and descriptions of each tea. But if truth be told, my fave High Tea locale to date remains the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake who gets extra marks for their pretty bone-china English teapots and lunch service. (sorry, Zoe!)

2. For the Casual, Craft Beer Crowd : Clocktower Brewpub

If you’re downtown near Parliament Hill and looking for a place to have a casual lunch that won’t cost a fortune, the Clocktower Brewpub on Elgin Street is a great option. The food options are affordable and varied (standards like salads, pastas and burgers as well as oddballs like Wild Boar Panko Pogos!) and there’s even a sidewalk patio if the weather is nice. The downtown office crowd seems to like it here, too, which is always a good sign, and there was a good selection of local craft brews on tap – which always puts a smile on Henk’s face.

Clocktower Craft Brews

Clocktower’s craft brews, AKA “How to Make Henk a Happy Camper”

3. For Foodies and Cocktail lovers: Riviera

If you love the idea of a ‘banker’s lunch’, or at least lunch or dinner in a bank, check out the Riviera. Located in an art deco former bank building on Sparks Street, Riviera’s soaring 50-foot ceilings, marble-and-brass accents and massive windows make for a grand space that will elevate any dining occasion into something special. (If you have a small group, you can even reserve the former bank manager’s office at the front of the restaurant for a semi-private experience.)

Riviera windows

Riviera’s massive windows give a grandeur to the space

And Riviera’s food? It’s delicious, diverse, and with portions as large as the interior space! (Check out the Big Matt burger!)

The Big Matt Riviera burger

“The Big Matt” Riviera burger

Even if you just come to Riviera for one of their specialty cocktails, there’s plenty of room at the huge bar that runs the length of the room. Cocktail culture is alive and well here, so there’s plenty to choose from on their drink list, from a classic like their Smoky Old Fashioned, or something a little more creative like their Grapefruits of Wrath. (Isn’t being a grownup fun?)

4. For Downtown Locavores, go to: Town

town exterior
I had read a lot of good things about Town, so Henk and I decided to check it out on the Saturday night we were in Ottawa – a Saturday when the Ottawa Senators just happened to be playing. We soon realized that Elgin Street, where Town is located, is THE street for nightlife in Ottawa, and there was a real buzz in the air that night with all the sports pubs and patios filled with cheering fans. Passing them all by en route to our reservation, we were hoping our food would be deserving of a few high-fives as well.

Reviews promised a ‘modern take’ on Italian cuisine with a locally-sourced menu and a funky, casual vibe. Both did not disappoint. I ordered the dinner-sized portion of ricotta-stuffed meatballs with polenta (because who doesn’t love a good meat-a-ball!) and Henk opted for the pan-seared chicken thighs. Both were delicious, and while we may not have fist-pumped our approval, we literally went to town on the food before even snapping a photo!

(You’ll just have to check out their instagram feed if you’re looking for some mouth-watering imagery.)

Town restaurant Instagram

Townlovesyou! on Instagram

5. For Deep-Fried Dough Fans: Have a Beavertail®

Beavertail flavours

Beavertails come with different toppings, but I like the classic, too.

Beavertails in hand
Deep-fried, sugar-sprinkled dough is an Ottawa tradition, begun here in 1978 by a local husband-and-wife team named Grant and Pam Hooker, so it’s downright patriotic to have a Beavertail if you visit the city. And you’ll want to get your fix at the kiosk located right at the corner of the Byward Market at George and William Streets. If Beavertails are good enough for Obama, who swung by here in 2009 for an impromptu sampling of them, then it’s good enough for me. (as if deep-fried dough wasn’t enough of an excuse!)

And speaking of Obama…

Yeah, he made the rounds – there are now-famous cookies that he nibbled on inside the Byward Market, too!

Obama Cookies

6. For the Speakeasy Seeker: Union613

If you love a cocktail that comes with a splash of secrecy, head to Union613.ca, Ottawa’s only speakeasy (but you didn’t hear it from me). Upstairs is all about Southern-inspired cuisine (think catfish and grits), and communal dining. But wander downstairs, swing open the bookcase, and you’ll discover an even more intimate room that barely squeezes in 20 people. It’s underground, it’s, er, rustic, and just the right kind of ‘easy’ to make for a great experience.

Union613 speakeasy

Go underground at the Union613 speakeasy *Photo courtesy of website

7. For the Nightowl Who Loves a View: Copper Spirits and Sights

From underground to above ground, top off your night in Ottawa with a cocktail with a view. There’s no better place to do this than at the Andaz Hotel, whose rooftop bar, Copper Spirits and Sights, offers amazing views of the city either from inside their swishy lounge, or from their outside deck where you can lounge around fireplaces, sipping drinks and enjoying the view. I can’t say for sure that it’s THE best rooftop bar in town, but it’s the only one I’ve been to and it was pretty impressive! (Yelp.ca thinks so, too.)

Andaz-Ottawa-Rooftop-Night-View

Rooftop view of Ottawa from the Andaz Hotel •Photo courtesy of website

Although Henk and I couldn’t cover the dozens of great places to eat and drink in Ottawa, we hope these suggestions get you off to a good start. Special thanks goes to Ottawa Tourism, who hosted us at a few of these places.

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