I recently ended up in Ottawa and was pleasantly surprised with our Capital’s food scene. I collaborated with Ottawa Tourism who provided excellent suggestions and advice regarding where to dine. Here are my picks:
Burger and Fries forever
This cute Ottawa based chain is a must. It’s affordable but a little bit pricier than the typical burger joints you would go to. They have a huge variety of burgers to select from and they always have something interesting as a feature item. When I visited, they had a burger on special which came with a pretzel bread bun in honour of Octoberfest. You can select from a variety of dips and toppings, I loved the curry ketchup which has an awesome kick to it. If you haven’t gotten to know me yet, I absolutely love brunch. Clearly, I opted for the Brunch burger and I was so pleased. The brunch burger is topped with a hashbrown, bacon, cheddar, and an egg cooked to your liking. The gentleman sitting next to me saw my meal and wished he had opted for the Brunch Burger as well. I found the burger to be extremely hearty and would not recommend a side unless you are famished.
As I mentioned, be sure to get some of the curry ketchup with it as it elevates the overall flavour of the burger. There are several other options available including deluxe poutines, milkshakes, and more. If you’re vegetarian, you will find there to be some reasonable vegetarian options available on the menu. One last thing to mention is that you should only go to the Byward Market location as it is very clean and fresh looking. The other Burger and Fries Forever location is extremely dated and you will most likely not be impressed.
Datsun belongs to a family of trendy restaurants in Ottawa. Each of Datsun’s siblings (Riviera and El Camino) are also worthy of a visit. Now, let’s get back to Datsun. This is where the cool kids hang out in Ottawa. If you think that Ottawa is a government town and is completely shutdown after 5, you have never been to Datsun or it’s adjacent sister restaurant El Camino. These two stay open late and people line up outside. If you’re in a rush, both of them have take-out windows where you can grab and go. Be sure to bring enough cash as that’s the only method of payment for the take-out windows.
The menu at Datsun offers elevated pan-asian cuisine and the ambiance is a bit hipster. This is a great place for a date night or for a late night gathering with friends. I travel a lot to Ottawa on my own and find that this restaurant is great for the solo diner as you can request to be seated at the kitchen bar and watch the chefs in action. On the menu, you will find one of my go to items – the bao. There are about three kinds of baos available but my favourite is the chicken bao which is topped with their house made ranch (I know, it doesn’t sound very Asian but you gotta try it!). The best way for me to describe the menu is that I found it is inspired by Momufuku. I also tried the Cauliflower Curry which had slivered almonds, green onions, and bay leaves. It was an excellent dish. I would recommend sharing everything on the menu except for the Baos so that you can try a variety of dishes. The cocktail list is inventive and you can’t go wrong with any of the options. The menu has just been refreshed so if you’re from Ottawa, you will find something new that you haven’t tried before.
If you’re looking for tacos, El Camino the adjacent sister restaurant is probably your best bet. If you’re from Toronto, you will find El Camino to be the ‘La Carnita’ of Ottawa.
This hidden gem is perfect for brunch but you must go early as they have serious line ups. The menu is distinctly French and the kitchen is open so you can see first hand the care and passion that goes into making your brunch fantastic. I have been to Benny’s Bistro several times and was never disappointed. The hollandaise sauce is the right consistency and has a wonderful flavour. I find that restaurants often don’t have the right recipe for hollandaise but Benny’s most certainly does. I usually opt for the special so be sure to ask what the brunch feature is. This restaurant is hidden behind a bakery and if you don’t know about it, you would simply walk by missing what may be the best brunch you’ve ever had. It’s located in Byward Market behind the French Baker.
If you’re a fan of waffles, Pressed is the best place to go. Pressed offers a curated selection of waffles. They also have features which are amazing. If you check out their Instagram, you will be able to drool over several images of past feature waffles. You can ask for half and half so that you are able to try two different types. This is an excellent option but it is a lot of food so I would recommend that you select the half and half option and share it between two people. I ordered the half and half and had to take an entire half away for take out as I could not finish it at all. I like to compare things to Toronto. This restaurant is similar to one you would find in Queen West and it also has a little bit of a hipster vibe with vintage décor and a very casual welcoming feel.
The Café within The National Gallery
If you want a café with a view, go to the Café within the National Gallery. Make sure you look up as the ceilings are an architectural delight. From the large windows in the Café, you get the perfect view of Parliament. If you visit in the fall, you will see all the leaves around parliament changing colours – it’s a lovely sight. The menu offers great lunch dishes as well as a variety of appetizers and kid-friendly options. I was stuffed after eating waffles at Pressed so I ordered a tea and dessert. The server suggested the chocolate option. It was sinfully delicious and garnished with a macaron and strawberries. I managed to peek at the dishes being served next to me and must say that the food display is on point and each dish is presented beautifully. The service also stood out to me as it is superior and friendly. This is a great stop as you get to check off a beautiful Ottawa Café, a must see national gallery, and a well-known spider sculpture off your list all in one visit.