48 Hours of Eating: A Winter Guide to Ottawa Restaurants
I visited Ottawa not once, but twice in 2017. The first in the lingering frigid days of winter and the second in the midst of a warm(ish) fall. Needless to say, I wasn’t strolling around Byward Market in a t-shirt. While many travellers opt out of visiting Canadian cities in the winter, it does have its benefits — small lines into Parliament, lower hotel rates and all those hole-in-the-wall restaurants are that much cosier. Just take a look at my guide for exploring the Chicago restaurant scene in winter. Snagging hard-to-get reservations comes easier when there’s snow on the ground. So pull on the parka, lace up your boots and venture out to eat everything at these Ottawa restaurants.
Here is my quick guide to Ottawa restaurants in the winter.
My sister Maggie had a conference in Ottawa at end of the beginning of March so I decided to take the train from Toronto and make a sister weekend out of it! Basically we chatted, shopped and ran from restaurant to restaurant. If you want more help with what to pack for shoulder season travel to Ottawa, check out my post about packing here!
Burgers and adult milkshakes are king
We both arrived in the late afternoon and of course we were starving. Burgers needed to happen stat, so we headed to Byward Market to The King Eddy, a 24-hour diner serving up all-day breakfast and boozy milkshakes (Dad’s rootbeer float with Amaretto, Jameson, vanilla ice cream and root beer went down reallll easy). I devoured The King Eddy Burger — a double cheeseburger with all the fixings — and a pile of hand cut fries. Maggie got a poutine with her’s because on sister weekend you can’t gain weight.
To Spain, with love
After gorging on mid-afternoon burgers, the sisters were in need of a nap so a late dinner at Bar Laurel in hipster Hintonburg was the perfect choice. The menu at this dimly-lit romantic eatery spotlights Spanish influenced dishes like Boqueronés laden with sardines, piquillo, capers and goat cheese, with Mediterranean shadows of salt cod fritters. Cocktails run the gamut from classic to copa and a good selection of craft beers flow from the tap.
I like brunch a waffle lot
While any blogger, Ottawa restaurant guide or brunchophile will tell you Wilf & Ada’s is the place to go, there’s something to be said for waiting in line for brunch in -20 degree weather. Typically I don’t have a problem waiting for Eggs Benny but I do have a problem with frostbite. After being told we would have to wait an hour or more in the cold, Maggie and I opted for warmer pastures and hot coffee. Pressed , a friendly neighbourhood fair-trade joint on Gladstone Avenue, boasts bountifully-topped waffles. You can order half and half of any two you want! My Benedict waffles juxtaposed with my New South’s smoked chicken fritters and berry compote in the best kind of way, and Maggie’s Big Apple waffles with apples, cheddar cheese and house smoked bacon made a big splash.
The only men on sister trip is Ramen
I don’t think there is a better way to warm up from a cold Ottawa day than with a steaming bowl of ramen. Santosei Ramen is actually a Japanese chain with several locations in and around Toronto. Ottawa’s location is situated on the bustling Bank Street and is typically full of office workers at lunchtime. Maggie chose the Miso Black ramen, full of bold flavours and topped with black garlic oil while I went with classic Tonkatsu because I’m all about pork on pork on pork.
Industry night for the win
For out last night in the capital city, we decided to follow the neon lights. Datsun is the next door neighbour and sister of Ottawa’s well-known taco destination, El Camino. When it comes to Ottawa restaurants, these guys know what they’re doing. From the tantalizing Tiki-themed cocktails to the fried chicken steamed buns with ranch dressing, and tuna sashimi with wasabi crema and pickled ginger, Maggie and I demolished plate after plate. We ended up drinking a few extra brewskies because Monday is industry night and Sapporos are $6. Plus $3 steamed buns…who wouldn’t want to hang out all night?
Ottawa is anything but boring
While some people complain Ottawa can be boring after 9pm, I never went without a good meal: My Ottawa restaurants list is just the tip of the Rideau Canal iceberg. After a skate on the canal, hit up the delightfully deep fried BeaverTails (you can read about the history of this place in my column for Food Bloggers of Canada) or go for a fancy Middle Eastern feast at Fairouz. Vegetarians line up for Pure Kitchen and as someone who eats everything, I was shockingly surprised at how good the cauliflower wings are. Needless to say, in Ottawa any time is a great time to eat!
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