Ottawa - Fun, Casual, and hopefully Cheap
I am taking a last minute trip up to Ottawa. I am looking for a fun, casual place to go out to dinner, 2 younger and 1 middle aged (but immature) people. I am not looking for the best wine list or fancy food, but I am hoping for something a that is either good home-style stuff or a little funky. And it would be great if it was a fun place, or a something with character. Will have access to a car, so we can travel a bit.
Neither are "cheap" but I quite enjoyed Whalebones Oyster House on Bank and in particular, The Wellington Gastropub. Casual atmosphere, electic clientelle, excellent wine by the glass options and good food.
You didn't mention a price range ("cheap" can mean many things) or a cuisine, so I'm mentioning whatever comes to mind:
Kasbah Village, on Laurier
Khao Thai, on Murray
The Black Tomato, on George
African Palace, on Rideau
Savana Café, on Gilmour
Taj Mahal, on Bank
I'm a bit out-of-date with the latest developments on Somerset, but you can find tons of cheap Asian food (from various countries) in that area.
The Black Tomato is hipster central. think of what Terroni's is to Toronto. Food is good...but not really outstanding.
for cheap and damn good, here's your must hits:
So Good - not the best chinese food i've ever had, but they have 2 signature dishes (wu se vegetables and salt pepper tofu) that are hands down, the most unique and best chinese dish (save Wah Sings - Toronto - Lobster) i've had. Be warned, it gets packed really quickly so make a res or get their early. On Sommerset. http://www.sogoodfood.com/
ESD (elgin street diner) - this is a staple for after bar or before bar eats. on going debate about it having one of the best poutine's in the city.
The Works - over 100 burgers. Really do i have to explain more? They have a bunch of locations.
Promise Perfection Satisfaction - its near ottawa U. great vegetarian/krishna spot that has very unique takes on dishes. Their hours are weird though so give them a call before hand. www.perfectionsatisfactionpromise.ca
i have to disagree with So Good, it is always packed, but the food is mediocore. there are a lot better restaurants in china town to go to besides this one.
right across the street is cam kong (vietnamese), really good vermicelli bowls. down the street is northern han, home made dumplings and green onion pancakes.
the works is a good spot, but very busy. there are a few around town.
what area will you be in?
restaurant thing has reviews for ottawa restaurants:
for funky, you could go to shanghai diner. it is also in china town. more expensive, but good dumplings. on saturday night is drag queen karaoke with china doll. they have a big selection of martinis.
We will be over just north of the Ottawa Hospital campus, kind of by the railroad station (sorry, not familiar with the area much). But we have transportation, and can drive around. I guess too much Asian is not a good idea, but the burger works sounds great.
As an aside, I don't suppose there is anyplace in Ottawa you can get Steak Tartare?
zero ambiance in china town is too true, piccola, except for shanghai, it is a funky spot which cloudship asked for. i can't think of any places that are fun with lots of character. are there some toronto examples maybe?
out in the east end by the train station, i don't know of anything around there.
in the byward market, i like ahora (mexican, home-style cooking, cheap) it is on dalhousie http://www.ahora.ca/.
black tomato has good sandwiches and simple dishes.
steak tartare - no idea, but it would not be cheap.
another place to ask is ottawafoodies.com
cheap in ottawa means ethnic and most of the places are just good food - no ambiance and not the kind of place you linger at for long.
i really like the manx pub on elgin street. it is very small and hard to get into in the evening, but a good spot for lunch. right near there is pure gelato, a huge range of flavours and really good.
I agree and disagree. Ambiance doesn't solely ensure 'fun'. I think the attitude and patrons of the places you eat at, can dictate the amount of fun to be had. I've been to restaurants such as Colborne Lane, or Globe (in Toronto) which are chic, sleek and supposed to be funky, but trust me, from a 20-something year old's perspective, they are far from that. Most of the time, the patrons have been old, staunchy rich folks that are grasping at the youth straw. Boring.
Agreed, So Goods isn't the best chinese (never said it was...just has two really good signature dishes) and the ambiance is well...what it is; a hole in the wall chinese staple.
All that stuff you mentioned, I include in "ambiance" - much more than decor and so on.
I would say Ahora (which I love, by the way, if only for the micheladas) has ambiance, even though it's kind of a hole-in-the-wall; but a place like Ashtar, with its bright lights and cafeteria-like seating, does not - even if the falafel is awesome.
Oh, and I second the Manx rec, though I've only been for brunch.
".....Most of the time, the patrons have been old, staunchy rich folks that are grasping at the youth straw. Boring..."
Hey, I "resemble" that remark! Minus the "rich" factor [smile]
I was advised by Shane, one of the owners of Wellington GP that Chef Chris is well known for his tartare. I was not in the mood for it that evening but was given a "taster" and it was all that it had been cracked to be. It was bison that evening rather than beef. As their menu is done daily you would have to check as I do not expect it is always featured.
Enjoy your visit. I think I will be revisiting Ottawa toward the end of the month.
re: Bob Mac
Haha. Sorry Bob...didn't mean to throw that low blow! ;)
I guess, being in my late 20's (and i consider myself a very "boring" late 20's) I'm trying to think of places that I really enjoy when I want to jeans/hoodie it up for the night.
Definitely second Ahoras. Not authentic Mexican (not many care) but definitely delicious and its near the Market. Kinki if you are into sushi (apparently its one of the better sushi restos in Ottawa although I cannot confirm this as i haven't been to others).
I know nothing of Mexican food, so I can't judge on authenticity, but Ahora is much better than whatever else we have in Ottawa that calls itself Mex.
Kinki's good but fusiony - the avocado desserts are great. I've heard Sushi 88 on Somerset is good for rolls,etc, but it's a tiny little storefront.
I have got to say, for a fun, unusual place, you have to try Works Burger...and believe me, it is not a run of the mill burger place....it is an experience. Every time I am in the 'Twa, I have to go for visit. It can sometimes take a while, as they do make your burger to order...but....DAMN is it ever good. And may I recommend the "Tower O' Rings"....delicious....
I agree with hipfunky . . . Manx Pub is pretty good . . . the daily specials are decent and the crowd is usually friendly...
Well, plans didn't go perfectly. The first night we Shawarma at some hole in the wall somewhere vaguely by the airport - don't ask me where, I was so thoroughly lost and confused by that point I was still trying to work out which country I was in. I know almost nothing about Shawarma, but I thought this place was excellent - very succulent, nice rice.
They didn't want to do Mex, as they came from Denver and didn't even want to bother with it. We ended up doing Indian - as we were all craving it something bad. Went to Taj Mahal. It was pretty good, too. Not the best I have had, but better than a lot I have tried. It was a tad more upscale of a place than I am used to for Indian, and perhaps a touch more "Americanized", but we enjoyed ourselves.
We also ended up at the Food and Wine festival they had. It was quite pricey, but good and large. I had some great wines, although again I am not an expert. I particularly enjoyed the iced ciders a few wineries had. This trip was really quick, but there are a lot of things I want to try next time. It's a beautiful city, too.