Local 'hound favorites in downtown Ottawa?
I finally have a chance to get the heck out of Kanata to get into the city proper for dinner.
I wondered if local 'hounds have some favorites to recommend in the Byward Market or Elgin Street areas, specifically something below the topmost price tier, anywhere from high-middle down to quite inexpensive. Extraordinary food is paramount, more important to me than atmosphere and service; something locally unique and wonderful is a plus. Thoughts?
Oh, and Kanata isn't a complete wasteland. I have had some excellent meals at Darvish (Persian shawarma), Fratelli (Italian, about the only good middle/high-end meals I've had in the neighborhood, though its menu has big holes as well, like a really sub-par antipasto), Ox Head (Vietnamese), Rideau Restaurant (Chinese), and Sukothai (Thai). I thought that Cabotto's in Stittsville was decent in a very traditional Italian-Canadian way, but not really very evocative of the old country.
The torture of working in Kanata is being forced to endure some pretty execrable chain stuff, like Baton Rouge, which is beloved by some of my local colleagues but that I consider typical casual-dining chain awfulness: I think my mashed potatoes came from a box. I've had some pretty horrible Indian at Haveli and Bombay Masala; I thought the local Indian ex-pat population might drive demand for something better. There seems to be dozens of very interchangeable casual-dining chain menus: burgers, fake Mexican, mediocre steaks, giant bland pasta dishes. British-style pubs seems popular, too, but what I've had at places like Royal Oak and The Glen, a Scottish place, has been really unremarkable, like English food from the era before the gastropub revolution. I thought that Perspectives is admirably ambitious but not worth the money. I'll keep digging, and still welcome any suggestions for the non-terrible in Kanata, too.
Much to my dismay, I was quite disappointed with the Black Tomato on my last two visits. One meal featured grossly undercooked "roast" poatoes, no bread (they were "out"... of bread!), and halfhearted service. The next featured long waits, lukewarm mains (again, a server issue), and a side salad swimming in oil. It's been ages since I've been back, which is sad, as I really ejoyed the place on its good days.
I second The Scone Witch and Ichibei. Friends who moved to Ottawa from Japan for a year said it was the only place they would ever go for Japanese...I miss it (live in Toronto now).
Not a big fan of The Black Tomato, find it oily and garlicy.
LOVE The Domus Cafe in the Market for Lunch, Brunch, Dinner whatever.
Cafe Shafali (I think on Dalhousie) has delish but expensive (IMHO) indian.
Ahhh...I'm an ex-Ottawan as well who (in my broke student days) lived across the street from the Manx. My best friend, boyfriend and I would save our pennies for lazy Sunday mornings at the Manx. We knew well enough to set aside *easily* an hour and a half for b.fast (things happen slowly around there!). Love it--my dad and I go for food in the winter when I come home! Summer on the other hand...that Mexican place across the street (Pancho Villa) is HANDS DOWN the best patio in the province (yup, bold statement!)--a canopy of trees, ample space and the perfect people-watching spot. I'm always confident that the food will be solid, unlike *sniff* anywhere in The Big Smoke...Oh! I miss it now!!!
Glad you had a good night out, MC! I've only had brunch at the Manx (excellent huevos rancheros, horrid waitress, but I'd still go back) but they have an excellent rep and many regulars.
I would have suggested Elgin St. Freehouse to you, but I haven't been in over a year so I have no idea if 1)they are still in business or 2)if they are under the same ownership. When I was there, the food was sensational and the atmosphere lovely - it was a dead night and the manager chatted with us and had the chef send out samples of some of his favourite dishes on the menu for us to try. I need to look into going back.
Other downtown favourites of mine include Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro (a little pricey, but excellent for a special meal), Memories (hippy food, awesome desserts), Black Thorn Cafe, Ahora (it's on Dalhousie near Clarence), and Wasabi.
Appreciate the responses, folks! I will keep these for future use.
I ended up at the Manx Pub, which turned out to be very enjoyable: great small-pub atmosphere, some good draft beers, excellent friendly service, and food that was way above average for this kind of place. We had apps of a roasted red pepper-based spread with Indian flatbread and crispy fried spring rolls, followed a couple of wraps of a curried lamb and an enchilada-like number. These came with an excellent side of a spicy vegetable soup. Very tasty, and a good deal at about $60 with a total of three beers. We only had to wait about 20 minutes for our table; the line was long by the time we left at 9pm.
re: MC Slim JB
Grew up in Ottawa and go to the Manx when I return. It is awesome. One time when it was just too packed (kinda the norm), and I was starving we went to the Mexican place across the street - it actually really surprised me. It was pretty respectable. I also used to like the Indian restaurant on Dalhousie past Rideau - can't remember the name, but it had Rose in it and it was on the second floor. The service was always friendly.
I think the Mexican place is probably Pancho Villa, and I'd agree it's pretty decent for Ottawa Mexican. I usually have the mole chicken dish and it's not bad. I'd rate Ahora ahead of it easily, but if we're out around Elgin St. I'd be happy to go there.
The Indian place was the Rose's Cafe, I think. The Dalhousie location closed, but it's still at two locations, one on Gladstone and the other on Wellington. It has southern Indian food and I like it as an alternative to the more common northern Indian restaurants.
Agree about the Manx, it's a gem if you can manage to wrangle a table.
This is an incomplete list, just off the top of my head, of places in and around downtown:
East African Restaurant (or is it Palace?) on Rideau
Khao Thai on Murray
Le Boulanger Français/Benny's Bistro on Murray
The Black Tomato on George (I think)
Kasbah Village on Laurier
The Scone Witch on Queen (I think)
Ashtar on Sparks
Ichibei on Bank
Ahora (somewhere in the market, I don't remember where)
More caffeine on board now, hopefully I can answer your question better! Kanata does appear to be a wasteland for fine dining, were you here when the "Fox Bistro" was around? Boy do I miss that place! If you venture into Bells Corners at all, there is Taste of Japan, a most wonderful sushi place, my hubby enjoys the more "cooked" offerings they have and always leaves happy. Not downtown, but a nice local and new place is "One Fish, Two Fish" a seafood and steak place down on Merivale Rd near Baseline, they just opened in November, but it is the former director of a well know Seafood store chain in the area that went into the restaurant business about 12 years ago. This former director has now opened his own place but has attracted all the top staff that made the old chain a success. Sorry I cannot name names, but rules are rules, anyways, check out One Fish..., easier drive, no parking hassles, and a lovely dining room with great food.
kaymanti posted about the Fox Bistro which used to be located on Terry Fox. It was well known for great service, and superior menu. I recommend that you check out Bistro 54 in Perth if you want to revisit the Fox dining experience. That is where Fox owner, Dave, is now. Lucky Perth. :)