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Where to eat in Ottawa [split from the Quebec board]

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(Note: This thread was split from the Quebec board at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847326 Here's the original poster's request:

We will be making 2 back to back business trips to your lovely country. In Ottawa I think we are staying at the Lord Elgin. In Montreal we will be at the Le Centre Sheraton. We will be celebrating my birthday in Montreal and our anniversary in Ottawa. Suggestions for special places to eat in each city would be most welcome. We will eat anything that won't bite us first with the exception of sushi. Hubby does not like to get dressed up. We prefer local eateries to chains, and will have a car, so we can go most anywhere.

-- The Chowhound Team)

Ottawa recommendations are Beckta for a special meal, and Play in the ByWard Market area for a more casual meal (same owner, both very good food).

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  1. I'd vote for Play over Beckta, and would say to avoid anything above mid-range in Ottawa. Was really let down by Atelier given all the hype. Town is fun, Whalesbone as well, Fraser Cafe is also nice.

    Taxis are convenient but I woudn't call them cheap in either city, at least compared to USA.

    You could also add la Porte, La chronique, graziella, le comptoir, and many others depending on what your looking for in montreal.

    Without bashing Ottawa too much, someone should state the obvious that the Montreal dinning scence is a lot better than Ottawa's so if your looking to splurge in only one, look here rather than there.

    Your not missing anything by avoiding sushi by the way, it is not a strength of either city by any means.

    1. In Ottawa I would recommend eighteen york for good food and great service:
      http://www.restaurant18.com/en/defaul...
      Very good oysters if you like that, everything else great too. Approx 90 CDN pp with wine.
      and also it's more casual sister down the lane beside it, it's called the "Side Door" and has some very good Asian style tapas:
      http://www.sidedoorrestaurant.com/
      I would recommend the shrimp in betel leaf.

      1. Ottawa isn't great for food but there are a few decent spots. I've been able to frequent most so here's my two cents:

        Town is probably my most favourite for it's quality, consistency, value, service and ambiance. Whalesbone and Play are great too in this regard but I find them a little more expensive.

        Beckta used to be among my favourites but the last time I was there (which admittedly was probably over a year ago now) there menu seemed to be converging on Play's menu yet you were paying the price of a full plate. For example, there filet mignon was the price of a full cut but you were served three slices... so they kind of lost me after that. It is great food and excellent service, no doubt about that, just not sure if it's worth it.

        18... decent food, except their menu hasn't changed in forever. It's not the most expensive but I'd say a little pricier on average. Service is completely random. Sometimes it's fantastic, other times it's horrible.

        Similarly with Sidedoor. Normally I don't like fusions--especially Asian fusion. But Sidedoor actually does it okay. However, I would say it provides less value in terms of price, quality and portion. The service, however, I find horrible. They do tell you up front that food is served as it's prepared but I can handle that. I find all other aspects of their service not very good. I don't find staff very attentive and when I was there with a party of 20, the server asked if we would like to have him arrange our orders for us, we said sure but when people wanted to order additional items, he wouldn't accept their order-- I don't get it. We want to eat.. eat a lot .. and you're telling us no??? If I go back, it'll be with a party of no more than 4.

        Les Fougeres in Chelsea is also very good. About a 20min drive but quality, consistency, value service--all good. You can be casual to dressy. Only downside is that you are a bit out of the way.

        Otherwise, there are a bunch of other restaurants that some might say are mid-range, others not, like Murray Street Cafe, Domus, Back Lane Cafe, Black Cat Bistro. All of these I find decent, but nothing to write home about. The nice thing about Black Cat Bistro is that after dinner you can hop into the Moonroom that's a few doors down and grab a drink -- that combo I like.

        What I do know is that my wife and I have a newborn and for our first dinner alone out in a while, I'll be looking into a reservation at Whalesbone, Town or Play, in that order.

        Two places that you should hit for brunch while you're here are:
        Egdar cafe in Gatineau
        Art-is-in for brunch/lunch/bread to go

        Hope this helps.

        6 Replies
        1. re: streetmeat

          18 did not have reservations available at a reasonable time on my birthday. What do you think about Social?

          1. re: mrsphud

            Social has very sub-par food. It does have good ambiance and a fantastic patio in the courtyard in the back that's great for evening drinks--but I can never find anything that's decent to eat on the menu.

            If you want to stick to somewhere in the market that you would like to get somewhat dressed up for, there's of course Play that myself and others have already mentioned and also Luxe. Several years ago I had a horrible experience there but have gone back a handful of times over the past year or so. Based on my more recent experiences, it's not bad. People are generally a little more dressed up there and it's in the market if that's what you're looking for on your birthday. Not a place I really feel like staying at for drinks after dinner for whatever reason though--but you can always then hit Social for drinks on their patio after!

            Good luck, hope this helps.

            1. re: streetmeat

              cancelled Social, was able to make a reservation for Play! they don't have a menu online, so suggestions as to best dishes would be welcome. Thanks for advice.

              1. re: mrsphud

                It probably depends on what you feel like at the time as there is a wide variety of small dishes to choose from (meats and seafood), but we enjoyed the mixed charcuterie plate. If you're into cheeses, there are quite a few choices there as well. Enjoy.

                1. re: mrsphud

                  Menu is here: http://www.playfood.ca/Portals/77/cus...

                  They do change up items on their menu so dishes are different since I've been there last. Best to order a few dishes and share, these are all small plate style. For what it's worth, the hanger steak is one of the staples on their menu and I do usually include it in my order. I agree that the charcuterie plate is great. The cheese selection is also fantastic, do the wine and cheese flight if you're looking for a good sampling. And stay to have the chocolate pate for desert. My wife loves it. I prefer sitting on the main floor simply because the bar is there. Hope you enjoy.

                  1. re: streetmeat

                    Play is a good choice. Went there for my birthday before.

                    Other restaurants I like are and the Wellington ones you need a car are:

                    * Domus Cafe on Murray

                    * Wellington Gastro Pub - on Wellington

                    * Petit Bill's Bistro - on Wellington

                    * Murray Street Restaurant - especially nice for lunch and brunch at the patio

                    * Benny's Bistro (back of the French Bakery) and only open for lunch on Murray

                    * Lyon 222 - on Lyon Spanish style tapas