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9 Must-Try Restaurants in Ottawa: Discover the Best Places to Eat in Canada’s Capital City

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When people think of cities they’d like to visit in Canada, Toronto, and Montreal come to mind, or Calgary and Vancouver if they’re out west. Ottawa doesn’t get much attention from prospective visitors, even though it’s the capital of Canada. It has a reputation of being a “boring city full of government buildings.”

People who visit Ottawa are surprised to find it’s a fun, vibrant city with a fascinating history and fun attractions. It’s also gaining a reputation as a mecca for foodies. It offers a wealth of international dining options because of its large and diverse immigrant population, and six restaurants in Ottawa made the 2024 list of Canada’s Best Restaurants.

Table of Contents

  1. BeaverTails
  2. 1 Elgin Restaurant
  3. JOEY Rideau
  4. La Bottega Nicastro
  5. Metropolitan Brasserie
  6. Pure Kitchen
  7. Shafali Bazaar
  8. Social Restaurant and Lounge
  9. Starling Restaurant and Bar

9 Must-Try Restaurants in Ottawa

BeaverTails

Address: 69 George Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 1K1

Phone: +1 613-241-1230

As any local will tell you, your visit to Ottawa isn’t complete until you’ve tried a BeaverTail. It’s a pastry pulled by hand and shaped to resemble (you guessed it) a beaver’s tail.

After it’s deep fried, toppings and garnishes can be classic, like the traditional cinnamon and sugar, whipped cream, or fancy, like chocolate, Nutella, fruit, apple pie, cookies, or cheesecake.

A family in Killaloe, Ontario, a town west of Ottawa, invented BeaverTails and sold them at a community fair. When they opened their first store in Ottawa in 1980, BeaverTails became so popular that the city asked them to set up stands along the Rideau Canal during the winter and sell them to ice skaters.

The company now has locations in many Canadian cities and all 50 US states, as well as Mexico, Japan, France, and Dubai. At last count, it had sold enough BeaverTails to circumvent the world twice.

The original store by the Byward Marketplace is still there, and that’s where I tried the Killaloe Sunrise, which is topped with cinnamon and sugar and drizzled with lemon juice. The store is open from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 am to 12:00 am Friday and Saturday.

On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday. Several public parking lots are nearby, and the Rideau O-Train station is down the street.

1 Elgin Restaurant

Address: 1 Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON K1P 5W1

Phone: +1 613-947-7000 (press 2 after you select English or French)

1 Elgin is an upscale restaurant in the National Arts Center. It features contemporary Canadian cuisine made from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. It sponsors a Resident Chef program that allows aspiring chefs from all over Canada to showcase their vision of progressive cuisine while working side-by-side with professional chefs.

My Sumac Rack of Lamb was a perfect medium-rare and was served with mint pea puree, mixed grilled vegetables, and pickled shallots.

Elgin Ottawa restaurants

The dessert list included many intriguing choices. I chose a pear poached in white wine and mulled spices on a bed of mascarpone and pistachios with apricot sorbet.

1 Elgin is open from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm daily. Seating is available inside and outside. If you sit inside, ask for a table in the glassed-in room overlooking the Rideau Canal.

Parking is available in the National Arts Center parking garage. Enter from Elgin St to the left of Confederation Park, go to the P2 level and park at the far end. The building entrance is between the G1 and G6 parking spots. Take a picture of your parking spot, and the staff will help you find your car when you’re ready to leave.

JOEY Rideau

Address: 50 Rideau Street, E106, Ottawa, ON K1N 9J7

Phone: +1 613-680-5639

JOEY Rideau is located downtown in the historic ByWard Market district next to the Rideau Center shopping mall. Its theater kitchen, chef’s table seating, and wrap-around lounge give it a relaxed, contemporary vibe. It’s one of two locations in Ottawa, and there are JOEY restaurants in several other Canadian cities and some in the U.S.

I tried Lobster & Prawn Sushi Tacos, an item my server said was recently added to the menu. The tacos were served in crispy won ton shells along with avocado mousse and salad topped with mango and coconut lime dressing. The dish normally includes sushi rice. However, I asked to substitute JOEY’s famous loaded Crispy Mashed Potatoes–spring rolls filled with mashed potatoes topped with cheese, bacon, and chives. They lived up to their reputation!

Joey Rideau restaurants in Ottawa

I’m glad I had room for dessert so I could try the Créme Brûlée Cheesecake with fresh strawberry compote and whipped cream.

JOEY Rideau is open from 11:00 am to 12:00 am daily. Seating is available inside and outside and dogs are welcome outdoors. On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday. The Rideau station O-Train station is across the street.

La Bottega Nicastro

Address: 64 George Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 5V9

Phone: +1 613-789-7575

La Bottega Nicastro is a deli and specialty Italian grocer that Joe and Rocco Nicastro opened in 1972 to cater to Italian immigrant families. It has grown into Ottawa’s favorite Italian grocer and a supplier of quality Italian foods.

Bottega Nicastro Ottawa places to eat

Since it’s located in the heart of the historic ByWard Market, it’s the perfect place to grab lunch or a snack while sightseeing. You may also end up doing some grocery or gift shopping once you see the items in the store. The café serves custom-made sandwiches, salads, antipasti, and treats like cannoli and biscotti. I chose bread, a few meats, and cheeses and added the toppings I wanted.

A special chef menu of homemade pizza, pasta, and hot sandwiches is available from 11:30 am until 3:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday and from 5:30 until 8:00 pm on Friday. La Bottega Nicastro is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday. Seating is available inside and outside and dogs are welcome outdoors.

On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday. The Rideau station O-Train station is around the corner.

Metropolitan Brasserie

Address: 700 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON K1N 1K4

Phone: +1 613-562-1160

Metropolitan Brasserie is a slice of Paris in the heart of Ottawa. Locals and visitors alike come to enjoy breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, as well as the relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Rumor has it that it’s a favorite of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Whether you’re seated inside or outside on the spacious patio, it’s the perfect place to relax, chat with friends and business associates, and watch the world go by.

The Metropolitan Brasserie is also the home of Ottawa’s largest raw bar. If you’re a seafood lover, you can order a platter of raw oysters, shrimp, mussels, or a combination.

Metropolitan Brasserie Ottawa fine dining

During “Hill Hour,” Parliament Hills’s answer to Happy Hour, there are discounts on oysters and shrimp from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm Monday through Friday. Buck a Shuck is on Thursday and lasts all day!

The Metropolitan Brasserie is open from 11:00 am to 12:00 am Monday through Wednesday, 11:00 am to 2:00 am Thursday and Friday, 10:00 am to 2:00 am on Saturday, and 10:00 am to 12:00 am on Sunday. Seating is available inside and outside and dogs are welcome outdoors.

On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday. There are also several public parking lots nearby.

Pure Kitchen

Address: 115 Rideau Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 5X1

Phone: +1 613-845-1818

Pure Kitchen is a vegetarian restaurant that I visited on the C’est Bon Ottawa food tour. Co-owners, Kyle and Olivia Cruickshank, wanted to open a restaurant. They met Amber Stratton, who owned a yoga studio and wanted a vegetarian restaurant nearby, and Pure Kitchen was born.

It soon developed a reputation for innovative vegetarian dishes made with locally sourced products, pressed juices, and a focus on wellness. The juices even have names like “Nourish,” “Hydrate,” “Glow,” and “Heal.”

I had Belle Poutine and Radical Cauliflower Wings with a glass of Relieve, a pressed juice made with cranberry, apple, carrot, lemon, and ginger.

Belle Poutine is a vegetarian version made with local cheese curds and mushroom gravy. Radical Cauliflower Wings are marinated in a Korean BBQ sauce with scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and buffalo hot sauce.

Pure Kitchen Ottawa vegetarian restaurants

Seating is available inside and outside, and dogs are welcome outdoors. Pure Kitchen is open from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 am to 10:00 pm Thursday through Saturday. On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday. Several public parking lots are nearby, and the Rideau O-Train station is across the street.

Shafali Bazaar

Address: 55 ByWard Market Square, Ottawa, ON K1N9C3

Phone: +1 613-241-4412

Shafali Bazaar offers Bengali-style food as a family affair. When Salim Uddin immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh, he had 15 years of restaurant experience. So, he and his brothers, Ashraf and Shehab, opened a restaurant to serve fresh, healthy Indian food and named it Shafali after their mother.

I met Shehab and his wife Naheed at the bazaar location in the ByWard Market building during a food tour with C’est Bon Ottawa. The other location is a restaurant on Dalhousie Street. He served us his specialty Chicken Tikka Wrap, which, according to Ottawa Magazine, is one of “101 Tastes To Try Before You Die.”

He adds yogurt to his naan bread to make it fluffy and bakes it in a traditional tandoori oven. Then he adds chicken that has been marinated in his special blend of spices and cooks it in a wood-burning tandoori oven to give the meat a smoky flavor.

After adding lettuce and tomatoes, he serves it with his “secret” hot sauce made with 24 ingredients. He warned us to add it in moderation, and I’m glad I did. I kept adding small amounts until the sauce enhanced the flavor of the chicken without overpowering it.

The Shefali Bazaar location is open from 11:30 am to 6:30 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. The restaurant is open from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm daily. On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday.

Several public parking lots are close to the Bazaar location, and the Rideau O-Train station is down the street. At the restaurant location, parking is available on the street, and there are several public lots nearby.

Social Restaurant and Lounge

Address: 537 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 6Z6

Phone: +1 613-789-7355

Social Restaurant and Lounge is on Sussex Drive on the edge of the ByWard Market district. It’s the perfect place to enjoy French cuisine and hand-crafted cocktails in an elegant atmosphere.

My Mariposa Duck Confit was savory and tender with a hint of sweetness. It came with carrot purée, buttery potato fondants, braised red cabbage, and wilted kale.

During dinner, I talked with a local lady from Gatineau (i.e., across the Ottawa River), and she told me that the Peaches and Cream Cheesecake was one of the best cheesecakes she’d ever tasted. I tried it, and I agree!

Social Ottawa restaurants

The Social Restaurant and Lounge serves brunch from 11:45 am to 3:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. It features live music from local artists in its courtyard on Wednesday nights during the summer, and DJs spin music on Friday and Saturday nights year-round.

Seating is available inside and outside and dogs are welcome outdoors. On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday. The Rideau station O-Train station is a block away.

Starling Restaurant and Bar

Address: 54 York Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 6Z9

Phone: +1 613-421-0820

Starling Restaurant and Bar is located downtown in the heart of the historic ByWard Market. It offers substantial breakfasts and sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch, and a wide array of dinner choices.

My Kale Caesar Salad topped with lardon and white anchovies was so large I could barely finish it. My friend ordered the Starling Breakfast, which I know I couldn’t have finished. It includes three eggs cooked to order, ham, bacon and sausage, baked beans, fried tomatoes, and toast.

Starling Ottawa restaurants

As you’d expect, the Starling Restaurant is decorated with bird wallpaper, aviaries, and birdcage booths. The bird theme carries through to the cocktail menu. Some choices include the Scarlett Tanager, Fig Sparrow Sip, Elderflower Egret, and the Bird Watcher.

The basement is a speakeasy-style bar that used to be a mortuary back in the day. So, you can enjoy your drink while you imagine being surrounded by coffins. Check out the rooftop bar if a twilight view of Ottawa is more to your liking.

The Starling Restaurant and Bar is open from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm Monday through Thursday, 11:00 am to 11:00 pm on Friday, 9:00 am to 11:00 pm on Saturday, and 9:00 am to 10:00 pm on Sunday. Seating is available inside and outside and dogs are welcome outdoors.

On-street parking is free in the ByWard Market area after 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday. The Rideau station O-Train station is a block away.

Ottawa is often ignored because Toronto and Montreal get so much attention. However, it’s gaining a well-deserved reputation as a foodie destination where you can find excellent restaurants, enjoy craft cocktails, and sample local wines and brews.

You’ll also find plenty of attractions and activities to keep you busy and meet many friendly people. The restaurants on this list will help you plan your trip. Have fun visiting them and discovering others while you’re there!

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