Ottawa has a vibrant culinary community to explore year-round, but there’s something special about getting dressed up and out of the house during the winter months. Whether you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day date night restaurant, or simply a nice restaurant to help you escape from the cold, here’s just a sample of the great restaurants in Canada’s capital, in no particular order.
Triple threat: Beckta Dining & Wine, Play Food & Wine and Gezellig
Ottawan Stephen Beckta worked as a sommelier in New York City before returning to Ottawa to open his first restaurant in 2003. The restaurateur now runs three establishments that continue to impress:
- Beckta Dining & Wine Bar holds a CAA Four-Diamond designation and is known as one of the best restaurants in the city. Its location in a renovated heritage building on Elgin Street matches its personality. Enjoy an unforgettable meal in one of the elegant dining room spaces, or order from the curated wine list in the welcoming wine bar. You won’t forget the fresh flavours and impeccable service!
- Play Food & Wine is the more playful sister restaurant located in the vibrant ByWard Market neighbourhood. It specializes in small plates that are so good, you may or may not want to share them. Ask for a seat at the kitchen bar upstairs to watch the chefs work their magic in the tiny open space.
- Though Gezellig is the most casual of the Beckta restaurant family, it's just as impressive. It’s located in the trendy Westboro area just west of downtown, and the modern menu is designed for the loyal neighbourhood clientele. Gezellig is a fitting name: it means a convivial and cozy atmosphere in Dutch.
Tasty trifecta: El Camino, Datsun and Riviera
Chef Jordan Holley and his team have opened some of the most popular restaurants in downtown Ottawa over the past few years (and yes, they named them all after classic cars!):
- The first, El Camino, opened on bustling Elgin Street and was so popular that a second location opened in the ByWard Market neighbourhood. The trendy and laid-back eateries serve Mexican-inspired dishes with bold flavours. At the original location, taco lovers line up at the handy take-out window (perfect for late-night cravings).
- Next, the power duo opened Datsun next door to the original El Camino. Sit back in the casual and hip space and order a few of the Asian-inspired small plates. Try the gooey steamed buns, rich ramen or tasty dumplings. The drinks are equally delicious.
- The third sister restaurant, Riviera, is perhaps the most stylish and revered of the three. The grand, neo-classical space inside a former bank building on Sparks Street near Parliament Hill will remind you of the most stylish Manhattan restaurant. The perfect atmosphere to enjoy exquisitely-crafted cocktails and locally-inspired cuisine.
Hip hotel fare: feast + revel
Feast + revel at the Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market is not your typical hotel restaurant. Chef Stephen La Salle offers up inventive Canadian cuisine with local flair in a sleek space on the ground floor of the chic property. After your meal, head up to the hotel’s rooftop lounge, Copper Spirits + Sights, and enjoy some of the best sunset views in the city. Both the restaurant and lounge have a great selection of some of Ottawa’s popular local craft beer.
Classic elegance: Restaurant e18hteen
The posh Restaurant e18hteen, located in a historic building in the ByWard Market neighbourhood, boasts a CAA Four-Diamond designation. Their seasonal menu features modern French cuisine carefully prepared using local ingredients. The high ceilings and rustic exposed stone walls are punctuated with modern elements. A stylish space to share a memorable meal with that special someone!
Fusion perfection: SIDEDOOR
Located behind Restaurant e18hteen, SIDEDOOR serves dishes inspired by the street food of Southeast Asia, with the unexpected touch of Mexican flavours. Try the char siu pork belly tacos or crispy maple tofu, and leave room for the hand rolled mini-donuts. You won’t regret it!
Magical meal: Atelier
Atelier, located near Ottawa’s Little Italy, is a foodie's dream destination. The multi-course tasting menu is prepared using hypermodern culinary techniques and technology (think molecular gastronomy). Each dish is Instagram and award-worthy: innovative chef/owner Marc Lepine is the first chef to win the gold medal at the Canadian Culinary Championships twice!
Modern Middle Eastern: Fairouz
As a very multicultural world capital, Ottawa boasts many well-respected ethnic restaurants. One such restaurant is Fairouz, where you can dine on elevated Middle Eastern cuisine in a lovely historic building in the ByWard Market neighbourhood. Chef Walid El-Tawel creates dishes that are as tasty as they are pretty. If you’re a regular at Ottawa’s popular shawarma and falafel shops, you must try Fairouz!
Modern Quebecois : Le Cellier
Le Cellier (The Cellar) is a foodie favourite in the charming Vieux-Hull sector of Gatineau, Quebec. The classy yet cozy interior is the perfect setting for expertly prepared Quebecois cuisine paired with impressive wines. Take advantage of the cheekily named weekly specials, including “Tartares tard tard” (late night tartares) on Thursdays, and “mercredi 5@huître” (oysters, Wednesdays 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.). Bon appétit!
Looking for satisfying but meat-free fare? Try these delicious vegetarian and vegan food options in the Ottawa area.