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Ottawa - unique hidden gems

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Was re-reading question about desert-island picks below (okay, so we got off-topic)and was wondering about other Ottawa hounds' hidden gems - the spots that you wouldn't find elsewhere. I'm thinking not just high-end, but lower end or street-food too. If you're not making it yourself, where do you find the best tabouleh, samosas, rice-paper rolls, etc?

A few of my examples:
-the special effort I make for rice-paper rolls at Cam Kong (with sautéed shallots and mushrooms) even though the rest of the menu is less exciting
-picking up fresh scones at the Sconewitch when I have houseguests

What are your unique hidden gems?

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  1. Some I can think of at the top of my head...

    Zuni Grill on Greenbank - Good food for Great Value
    Kanata Sushi - Affordable Sushi in the westend
    Nokham Thai - Great and Different Dishes
    Khao Thai - Best Yellow Curry in town
    Pasticceria Gelateria Italina - Great Italian Baked Goods.
    Mama's deli - Barrhaven (Great place to pick up European treats & meats)

    5 Replies
    1. re: JOJO

      You know, having just moved here last year I never know if something is 'hidden' or just new to me because everything is new to me.

      But haven't noticed people mentioning 'Chez Lucien' much here. On Dalhousie and Murray maybe? Great place for beer and a burger, cool building, amazing jukebox. And the prices are incredibly reasonable.

      Love this place! Chez Lucien and The Manx really do put me in mind of great old pubs in England.

      1. re: Piali

        -German Towne Deli at Bank and Slater at lunch for liverwurst on a bun and salami on rye (got to go early!).
        -Nicastro's on Merivale for anchovies that I can't get at the Byward Market or Glebe locations (it's in a clear jar at the back, forget the name).
        -Stubbe Chocolates on Dalhousie for thrice-dipped chocolate hazelnuts.
        -Wasabi's in the Byward Market for the best agedashi dofu in town.
        -Pho Bo Ga La on Somerset in Chinatown for their S7 special, a shrimp/garlic noodle soup.
        -Place Bell Bakery in the Place Bell building on Elgin Street at lunch for pinwheel sandwiches (got to go early!)
        -Farm Boy in Barrhaven for walnut bread.
        -Ottawa Organic Famer's Market at Bank and Heron every Saturday from 10 - 2 for wild BC salmon fillets. Same place for pretzel buns (if there's any left) from Beck's Bakery. Same place for organic pork chops and salami from "the pork man" who comes once a month.

        Ooh, now I'm hungry....

        1. re: Anijunga

          Di Rienzos on Beech for Italian sandwiches and Andrew the cheese guy at Nicastro's on Wellington & oh yeah thespicy chorizo at the Europa food centre on Beechwood

          1. re: bruce

            If you like healthy, fresh bread that doesn't taste like a brick, try Bread and Sons (bad name, good products.) They are completely committed to buying grains from local mills who grind mainly locally grown grains. Ingredients are organic.... skip the spelt bread, but do try whole wheat and whole grain loaves. Fab for sandwiches or toast.

            The turnovers are great and so are the brownies (spelt brownies that taste amazing, go figure.) Skip most of the cookies unless you like 'em crunchy.

            The owners are lovely and just getting the business going. Hope they stick around.

            You can find the place on Bank St. just south of Laurier on the East side.

      2. re: JOJO

        Mama's Deli has shut down. It was really close to my house, and the first time I was gonna head over and try it out it was all gutted out....but there was still a chalk menu board up...ghost of deli past :(

      3. Hopefully not too obvious, but: "Fettucine's." On Elgin, vaguely near Somerset. Pasta, Italian take-away stuff (though if desperate, it can be thrown in an oven there and eaten at one of the two chairs in the place...). Better than anything I cook -- which is no insult to me; it's also better than almost any other Italian place in the city.

        Also hopefully not too obvious: "Ahora." Mexican place on Dalhousie in the market. Very tasty, fantastic prices, remiscent of Southern California (as opposed to, say, normal Ottawa "Mexican").^

        Boushey's, also on Elgin a few blocks further south, is not a restaurant or even largely take-away, but what take-away is there is often -- especially the in-house stuff -- worth going for; makes a great picnic in the parks nearby or office lunch. (See especially a very well-done fruit salad; 4.50 for a big bowl of a good variety of good stuff -- their produce is usually excellent -- plus pasta salad, baked goods, etc.)


        "Place Bell Bakery in the Place Bell building on Elgin Street at lunch for pinwheel sandwiches (got to go early!)"

        It's a deli, too, and in response to "got to go early," have to point out "got to go late" -- salads & some other take-aways are half-price late in the day. Much better than usual office-building fare.

        1. The Ritz on Elgin street is quite good: don't be put off by the name: Ritz restaurants are now all independently owned and operated, so the quality of the food varies a lot between locations.

          the elgin st. location is a small place, their specials are usually south american in origin, quite tasty and reasonable!


          1. I haven't lived in Ottawa for years but I still miss Boushey's. Their tabouli and their rice pudding especially. I used to send people out for their rice pudding when I was sick. I think I picked my apartments to be within walking distance of Bousheys.
            I don't know if Lightning Bakery is still open in the Glebe but they had awesome pumpkin pie.

            1. Its not actually in Ottawa itself but i'd highly recommend the trip to Plantagenet to visit: "Mariposa Duck and Goose Farm"

              Actually, nevermind forget I mentioned anything. I want to keep this gem to myself *wink* and still be able to get a reservation (which is a must IMHO).

              1. Green Earth Restaurant on Preston St. It's a 98% vegan restaurant with dishes influenced mainly by asian recipes. Highlights are the Crispy Wontons, Summer Rolls, Smoothies, Sweet and Sour Sensation, Gourmet Hawaiian Fried Rice. For dessert, they have an amazing Fried Banana Rolls with Vegan ice cream, as well as a dynamite vegan carrot cake.

                Meals come at a great price. Me and three other adults split 2 apps, each had a meal and a drink, then split 2 desserts for an unbelievable $65 bill! Usually when we eat out the bill easily surpasses $100.

                1. Ottawa Bagel Shop on Wellington, which carries a wide array of jams, preserves, baked goods and prepared take-away items. www.bagelshop.ca

                  St Laurent Bakery on St Laurent for rye bread.

                  Piccolo Grande on Murray in the Byward Market for gelato. www.piccologrande.com

                  Chez Lucien on Murray in the Byward Market for great burgers and atmosphere.

                  Il Negozio Nicastro on George St in the Byward Market (also on Wellington) for Italian specialty items.

                  The Manx pub at Elgin/Frank for fantastic pub fare and casual, chill, yet lively vibe.

                  Social on Sussex for the duck entree.

                  Pub Italia on Preston in Little Italy for a vast beer selection. www.pubitalia.ca

                  The Green Door on Main St for ultra casual vegetarian with a crunchy vibe. www.thegreendoor.ca

                  The Wild Oat on Bank in the Glebe for organic, whole grain breads, pastries and take-out (vegetarian).

                  Art-Is-In bread. Not sure if they have a retail location, but you can find their bread at some local groceries, inlcuding the Loeb on Bank St in the Glebe.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: topbanana

                    Life of Pie on Leonard St in the South end of town, a tiny little storefront operation, she posts the weeks pics on email to her subscribers, but can do walk in on a small scale, cash or cheque only. Makes a to die for Strawberry-custard pie, but anything Ive had from there is wonderful.

                    1. re: kaymanti

                      Tried Life of Pie for my birthday dessert after reading this posting. Loved it. She`s not kidding about the pie feeding 8 people - I was worried about not having enough to feed my dessert-obsessed family (there were 8 adults and 10 kids) so I bought 4 pies, and had 1 a half pies left. They look small, but are rich and tasty, so you don`t need as much! We had the chocolate haupia (very rich) and apple (a bit tart, especially after the chocolate one) pies and Pascale`s White Chocolate Pistachio ice cream. Delicious! BTW, she takes Visa and MC now.

                    2. re: topbanana

                      I second Ottawa Bagel Shop bagels - a local tradition and always wonderful. The shop is great for other yummies too, as mentioned.

                    3. Thyme and Again on Wellington just a bit west of Parkdale. They make all sorts of lovely things, like homemade marshmallows, a wide variety of delicious desserts (their flourless chocolate cake is possibly the best cake that I've ever put in my mouth), all kinds of beautiful little sauces and jams, frozen pies (savory, including things like elk tourtiere, and sweet), homemade ice cream, etc. It's a lovely place to stop for a few high end products or for lunch (they have a food counter) and a coffee.

                      Best of all, they sell Art-Is-In bread, which is the best bread in town.

                      1. I second Kanata Sushi for affordable sushi. I usually have the Kanata Sashimi combo - 20 pieces for $20.

                        Nicastro on the market is La Botega, not Il Negozio. I like the amareto and pistachio tartufo there (and at Merivale).

                        Stubbe Chocolates also has a branch in Kanata (Hazeldean and Terry Fox).

                        Truffle Treasures on Richmond Road, just East of Churchill, has some nice ice cream, made on the premises.

                        1. Le Boulanger Français for croissants
                          Kettleman Bagels for, well, bagels (or challah)
                          Middle-East Bakery for zaatar pita
                          Pure for gelato
                          So Good for Chinese food, esp. eggplant in black bean sauce
                          Sacred Garden for vegetarian Thai food

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: piccola

                            DEFINITELY, DEFINITELY second the French Baker for croissants. Unbelievably good.
                            I also think Kettleman's is nice for Montreal-style bagels.

                            As for Chinese, I forgot to mention: Veranda D'Or. Really good, reasonably authentic Chinese food prepared from scratch and MSG-free. Excellent service, too. Every time I visit this gem, it's empty and I can't understand why, as they serve some of the best food I've had in Ottawa.

                          2. I would add ice cream from Pascale's Icecream - she's at The Piggy Market on Winston (across the street and a bit west of MEC on Richmond Rd.) You can also find her ice cream at The Red Apron and at the Sunday Farmer's market at Landsdowne. Also for wonderful tea, to buy, to have lunch or an afternoon pick-me-up is Nectar, on Wellington just west of Holland Ave. Another great bread bakery is True Loaf on Gladstone east of Bronson.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Sue

                              Just got back from a few days in Ottawa. I used to live there, but am now sorely out of touch with the food scene. Went and tried to True Loaf mainly because of this rec, but also saw it in the current Ottawa Life (don't know if I got that name right) mag. The woman (presumably owner) was fantastic. I wanted to try their bun with almonds, chocolate, orange peel and ginger but didn't see any. When I asked she apologized and said that they had been a little overbaked that day so she hadn't put them out. She showed them to me, and while they were a little on the dark side I knew it was my only chance to try them so I took 2, which she sold me at a discount. They were delicious! I stuck my head back in the bakery as she was closing for the day to let her know I loved them. I then got in my car to head home and as I backed out she tapped on my window and gave me her 2 remaining buns. Great bread and great, friendly service!

                            2. Definitely Nokham Thai on Richmond Road.
                              1000 Sushi Islands on Carling
                              New Mee Fung on Booth
                              Mekong on Somerset
                              Ceylonta (Carling location)