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Ottawa vs Toronto

I will be making a trip to Ottawa this coming long wkn and need to find out if there are "can't miss" restaurants/bakeries/food shops that Toronto lacks. I heard Ottawa has some great southeast asian restaurants, any other unique places I must visit?

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  1. the only thing that Ottawa has that Toronto doesn't is a longer Stnaley Cup losing streak...if it's still around Khao Thai pretty good thai food

    1. I'd say check out the local farmer's market at Lansdowne Park on Sundays. There's a small food court there as well that you can have breakfast or lunch at with crepes, thai food and wild game stews, etc. Check out the selection from Bearbrook Farms, they are a wild game and animal farm. Great selection of charcuterie made from meats such as bison, elk, ostrich, etc. We've also got a local beef co-op that has some great prices on top quality meat. Their cattle are mostly pasture raised and grain fed (during the colder months). Bryson farms also have some great organic and often heirloom varieties of fruits and veggies. It's also a great time to get local strawberries. Also if Art-in-Bakery is there, they've got some good sourdough bread.

      The market is a great way to spend a nice leisurely morning in Ottawa.

      1. I would have to recommend Domus in the Byward Market for brunch. When I was there I guess two years ago I had probably one of the best brunches ever. Other places I have heard good things around are Beckta and Sweetgrass. The whole Market area is really quite nice to walk around!

        It really is a lovely city. I hope you have fun!

        1. Haven't found Crerar's honey in Toronto, but it's all over Ottawa (or at least it was up until 2 years ago...). www.crerarshoney.com I had an aunt who always asked us to mail it to her in the states, she loved it so much. My dad loved the hard kind...

          1. Walk Byward 'til you find what you like. Plenty of choices. There is a wood-fired pizza joint east of UofO that looked inviting, but I didn't get a chance to sample it. Sparks St. Mall has some decent places as well. For breakfast try EggSpectation on Bank St.

            2 Replies
            1. re: thequickervicar

              Second Byward Market. A goodly number of fine bakeries, cheese shops, boucheries and delis in a an easily walkable area. Prices and selection of quality cheeses are noticeably better than in the Big Smoke.

              Try Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro for a unique and tasty dining experience.

              1. re: thequickervicar

                Byward market is a fun place for visit. But if you dine at any restaurants inside Byward marekt, be prepared to pay more! Since you are from Toronto, don't bother visiting any Chinese restaurants since you won't find the same quality as those in Toronto.

              2. Ottawa has a spectacular food scene. I recommend checking out Ottawa Foodies at http://www.ottawafoodies.com which has a lot more Ottawa-centric information than this place.

                I haven't lived there in many years, but Sweet Basil on Bank Street by Huron is *the* best Thai food I've ever eaten in Canada by such a huge margin that it's almost incomparable to other restaurants. Toronto doesn't really have any good, authentic Thai offerings, so if you want to take advantage of this opportunity to try solid, amazing Thai food, I highly recommend you don't pass it up. Note that the portions are small (I recommend an appetizer and two dishes per person) and the prices are a bit higher than many Thai places, but it is definitely worth it. Dishes not to be missed are the panang beef curry (you will have to try very hard to resist the urge to lick the bowl with this one), the pad kee mow, and the bamee pad. Their homemade mango-pistachio ice cream with fruit coulis is the perfect ending to the meal. This is the one place that I will not miss on a trip back up there.

                There are also some outstanding Indian restaurants, although I've had comparable in Toronto at a couple places. The two that jump into my mind in particular are New Nupur and the Taj Mahal, both on Bank Street as well. Ceylonta, a Sri Lankan restaurant on Somerset just west of Bank (IIRC), used to also be very good, and better than any Sri Lankan I've had here, although not so fantastic that I'd recommend a special trip.

                For a quick lunch, make sure you hit up one of Ottawa's better shawarma places (I can't think of names off the top of my head, but the people on OttawaFoodies will be happy to help). It's another food that Ottawa seems to do much better than Toronto.

                There are also some really, really good croissants in the city. I don't remember the name of the couple places that I used to buy them from, but again, the OttawaFoodies should be able to help you out there.

                Many people rave about the Ethiopian scene in Ottawa. Frankly, I disagree: I didn't like Ethiopian food until I moved to Toronto and decided to give it another try at Ethiopian House, which made a convert of me.

                I've never been to Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro, but I've only ever heard excellent things about them, so do make a point of checking them out, too.

                I think that, if you're anything like me, you'll find that the Ottawa food scene is less pretentious than Toronto, and most establishments are consistently good for their price point. Unlike Toronto, it has very few upscale restaurants with outstanding fine food (I don't think that there's any equivalent to Susur, Splendido, etc), but when you're at my level of income, such things are irrelevant :-).

                Hope this helps! I'd love to hear how you enjoyed your food experiences!

                5 Replies
                1. re: vorpal

                  Hopefully I can get a reservation at Sweetgrass! sounds amazing!

                  I'll be staying around MacLaren and Elgin area, right between the farmer's market and Byward market~ I'll be definitely checking out both if i have the time!

                  1. re: vorpal

                    How could I forget shawarma?? Honestly, if you eat shawarma anywhere in Ottawa (and they have joints all over the place) you'll be amazed at the difference. Prepare for garlic! And also, get the turnips - I haven't found them at too many places in toronto (although Sarah's has them). My memory is failing me at the moment (mainly because I think this place is generally known as the shawarma Nazi place- not my name!!!), but if you're heading to the Manx, the shwarma place a few doors down (and in the basement) is one of the better known places in ottawa. The portions are huge, so if you're not too hungry, you can get a 'baby'. He'll ask you if you want full service - which just means ripping off the top portion of the wrapper so you can eat it right away. Buy lots of mints or gum - you will need them!

                    1. re: tochipotle

                      There's nothing sexier than a man with garlic breath! thanx for the tips!

                      1. re: oohlala

                        You've probably already seen this - but just in case - there are some other tips here www.chowhound.com/topics/415361

                    2. re: vorpal

                      For a higher-end meal, Beckta is the not-to-be-missed choice. I've lived and/or spent lots of time in some of the world's big food cities (London/New York/Montreal) and, Beckta still rates as one of the most enjoyable experiences. Food, wine and service iare top-notch, but without any pretentions. It's not so much a buzzy, go to be seen place, but if it is good food and wine you are after, Beckta is definitely worth a visit. http://www.beckta.com/

                    3. The Market and the stores around it is a good place to start. Coming from Toronto, you should really get some poutine off of a chip truck. Bank & Laurier or the courthouse at Elgin are good places to look. As mentioned Ottawa also has great shwarmas. There is a plethora of inexpensive French inspired bistros in Ottawa and on the Gatineau side of the river. Panache in Gatineau used to be good, not sure which is the one to go to right now.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mikeb

                        not sure what is open on canada day, but one of our best places for casual and fun food is whalesbone oyster bar. the chef is the steve vardy who used to chef beckta (one of our best establishments). they are having a canada day party of oysters, pulled pork sandwiches, live bands, micro brew beer and is very close to parliament hill for all the festivities there.

                        here are the details for the event:

                      2. I personally can't go to Ottawa without going to Nate's Deli for a Big Smoked Meat Sandwich. It's comfort food for me and unfortunately Toronto doesnt have a smoked meat that can live up to Nates. Not as good as Schwartz in Montreal but really darn good. I think you will find some really fun, interesting restaurants any where around the Market. Great area to walk around, have a drink, great view of parliament and the canal. Have fun and let us know how it went...

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: LeTimmy

                          ok, how should i start..... I LOVE the food scene in Ottawa (guess it might be biased cause it's Canada Day weekend)! I love how close everything is to the downtown core. People are nice and food's cheap (ok, slightly cheaper than TO).

                          Anyhow, shortly after arriving on Saturday, my gf and I were treated to various croissants (regular, cheese & ham, and chocolatine) from Boko bakery on Elgin St. It was a bit on the tougher side, but still decent. Later went to Manx (also on Elgin) for brunch. I had the egg benedict and my gf had poached eggs with ham. Great mashed potato on the side and the hot sauce (salsa style) is refreshing. Walked by the market and saw Domus and Sweetgrass, however, both of them were booked solid for the day. Stopped by Yayora express for a quick bite. Moist chicken, great lentil salad. Good but not great. We later headed to Moulin de Provence for dessert (forgot the name, had glazed nuts on top of the sponge cake, which is soaked with more honey). Man, it was good! After, went across to a 2nd bakery and bought a sugar tart?! At first, I thought the store mis-labelled the tart (butter tart maybe?), but aparently they also sell butter tarts, tried it and hated it. The tart tasted like jelly with sugar, definitely not for my style.

                          Second day, started off by going to Bridgehead for an organic free trade coffee. The coffee tasted lovely! The store was packed! Glad to see people are opting for better coffee! Stopped by Brown Loaf on Elgin for some almond tart, butter tart, cheese & bacon danish, and a sugarless cranberry cookie. None of the items wowed me except for the ginormous size of the butter tart (the size of my fist). In the afternoon, stopped by the market again and ordered the infamous Beavertail (cinnamon and sugar). I was surprised by the quality (not greasy and cinnamon and sugar were coated evenly) considering they were all made by bunch of high school kids. For dinner, we went to Azteca and had one of the most delicious mexican food! Service was prompt (maybe TOO prompt at some time) and attentive, 2 thumbs up! Finally, finished the night with poutine from one of the ubiquitous chip trucks scattering in front of the parliament hill.

                          Finally, monday, went back to the market and bought some croissant, chocolatine, apricot/ginger bundt cake, and a chocolate macaron. The croissant was so buttery, it stained my BLACK t-shirt when i dropped few pieces on it, crazy~ definitely a not-to-miss place in ottawa.

                          I'm so coming back for the sweetgrass bistro again, thank you, ottawa~!

                          1. re: oohlala

                            let us know your next visit, so we can point you to more places. now that i see what type of food you like, you have to go to the french baker for chocolate croissants (best i have ever had), and your beaver tail will have to be killaloe sunrise next. similar to what you had, but squeeze 1/2 a fresh lemon on top.

                            1. re: hipfunkyfun

                              I did tried french baker's chocolate chroissant. I was impressed, but i can't say it's the best i've had, sorry :P

                              My gf mentioned about the killaloe sunrise, but we were unsure what's gonna be on top, so we settled for the original style.

                              ha, i love little eats~ next time i come, i definitely have to try out some of the shawarma places this thread has suggested. Definitely sweetgrass and another shot at the poutine.

                              1. re: oohlala

                                depending on where you bought your buttery croissant on monday, it could have come from the french baker, they secretly supply most of the coffee shops and cafes in the byward market.

                                you will have to tell me where your best chocolate croissant is, so i can compare!

                                another place you will have to try next time is the scone witch. a variety of sweet and savoury scones. though they usually make you wait a few minutes in order to give you one right out of the oven. yum.

                                1. re: hipfunkyfun

                                  ha, my friend from ottawa suggested scone witch~ I'll definitely get that next time, heard the scone-wich is excellent!

                                  I did get the croissant around 9ish @ the french baker shop~

                                  the best croissant i had was from "apple pie bakery" from culinary institute of american at Hyde Park, NY. The bakery freeze their dough overnight and bake it straight from the freezer. My friend secretly told me the ratio of butter and the flour, but i totally forgot~ I think i was in denial when i heard the ratio, ha

                            2. re: oohlala

                              I'm jealous! I really miss the Ottawa food scene. Glad to hear that you (largely) enjoyed it!

                          2. I would second Moulin de Provence, a great French patisserie and other things in the market.... eat it on the patio or take it to go and eat it on Parliament Hill!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: snoopyloopy

                              I have to disagree about Moulin de Provence, since I've always thought the food there was quite mediocre. On the other hand, the best chocolatine/pain au chocolat in Ottawa is, in my opinion is a place in the "back" of the market area on Murray near Dalhousie (if I remember the names correctly). Don't remember the name, but it's a French Bakery. According to Google Maps, it's Le Boulanger Francais, 119 Murray St.

                              1. re: Blueicus

                                Yes, le Boulanger Francais is spectacular, and their croissants should not be missed.

                            2. thought it was already said...the shawarma and byward market. also.......i've had panini in a couple of joints near capitol hill that was amazing.