Cari and I spent the weekend in Ottawa, Ontario. It had been many years since I visited my nation’s capital, and in an attempt to find an easy-to-get-to weekend getaway, all signs pointed to Ottawa for our last weekend away before the baby is born.
Visiting a new city or country provides a foodie with the great opportunity to discover the best eating and drinking a city has to offer. At the same time, the opportunity is too often blown by the daunting process of finding the right places to eat. Thankfully, as we had exercised on our latest trip to New York City, the right research will often lead you to some fantastic restaurants. In the end, our food experiences in Ottawa were varied in that we were led our way by an Internet search, a word of mouth recommendation from a chance encounter in an elevator, a piece of hotel literature and an Urbanspoon search for “Bagels.”
So Good Restaurant (717 Somerset St. W.) – website
Leaving my office at 4:30pm on Friday, I encountered Louise, a friendly woman who I don’t regularly interact with but who sometimes will make small talk while waiting for the elevator. When I mentioned in passing that I was on my way to Ottawa, she suggested we visit So Good Restaurant. Run by Peter So, this restaurant looks quite modest but is clearly popular with the locals. One of our first visions when entering the restaurant, was of Peter So himself, trimming an enormous pile of green beans at one of his tables. Periodically, he’d get up and make small talk with the patrons, recommending dishes and asking people if they enjoyed their food. We ordered two lunch specials and ate a bit of each others. From the beginning, we could tell that this was going to be one of the better Chinese meals we’ve had. The spring rolls were huge and filled with fresh, crunchy vegetables that actually tasted like fresh crunchy vegetables. Our chicken dishes – one with black bean sauce, and the other with a spicy peanut (Wu Se sauce) were equally tasty. We will definitely be making a return visit on our next trip to Ottawa.
Wellington Gastropub (1325 Wellington St) – website
This restaurant came up on a list when we Googled “Best Restaurants in Ottawa.” For the uninitiated, a gastropub is essentially a pub that steps up the food and ambience by a few notches. This place was no exception. It was more than dinner out, it was an experience. It started with the ambience, dark and trendy without being pretentious. Locally baked bread was served along with corn oil for dipping. The menu at Wellington Gastropub changes every day, which is definitely part of the appeal. Rather than load the menu with safe choices, the chef clearly wants to provide a unique experience to everyone who walks through the door.
As an appetizer, Cari ordered fish cakes that were very lightly fried and mostly made of salmon. She followed this with a risotto dish served with sunchoke crisps. I had a delicious roasted cauliflower soup that was loaded with all sorts of fantastic flavours, followed by a ribeye steak served atop potato mash with King Eryngii mushrooms (jokingly, I asked the server who King Eryngii was. He didn’t know). Outstanding. One of the best steaks I’d ever had. My meal was paired perfectly by the draught stout, Scotch Irish Brewing’s Black Irish Plain Porter. For dessert we shared some housemade ice cream – hazelnut, caramel and lavender honey. All three were delicious. The exciting thing about Wellington Gastropub is that we know when we return – and we will – we’ll be greeted by a new menu of culinary delights.
Kettleman’s Bagels (various locations) – website
Our initial plan was to have brunch at the Urban Pear on Sunday before making our way back to Toronto. Unfortunately, we failed to realize that the restaurant wouldn’t open until 11am and it was only a little after 10am when we showed up. We took a quick drive over to Kettleman’s Bagels. The place was small and crowded but felt very much like an authentic Montreal or New York bagel restaurant.. Behind the counter, bakers assembled uncooked bagels, placed them on very long, wooden planks that were pushed into a fire oven. The bagels themselves were very good, Montreal-style bagels. Nothing more, nothing less, but it’s nice to know that Ottawa has good bagels.
The Flour Shoppe (617 Bank Street) – website
The cupcakery trend is sweeping the continent, and The Flour Shoppe in Ottawa is one place that seems to be doing it right. Not only are their cupcakes delicious, they’re inventive. They think outside the box by offering mostly unique assortments. We had to get half a dozen just to try a bunch of them. The vanilla latte, pumpkin spice and macaroon were all tasty, but our mutual favourite had to be the smore. Not only was the marshmallow topping crazy good, the cupcake itself was even layered with cookie flavour occupying the very bottom and chocolate the rest of the way up to the topping. I will dream about that cupcake for a while.
So Ottawa, you did good in our books. We’re thrilled with our eating experiences, despite such a short visit. Until next time…