When you’re craving world flavours, Ottawa’s international food scene more than hits the spot. Thanks to the city’s diverse multicultural population, culinary offerings range from the comforting and familiar, to the unique and unusual. Here’s a guide to some of the best international cuisines you can enjoy in Canada’s capital.
At the Corazón De Maíz kiosk in the ByWard Market building, your burrito, taco or tostada can be filled with Cochinita Pibil (pork), Barbacoa Norteña (beef), marinated chicken, or veggies. Top Chef Canada winner René Rodriguez focuses on Mexican street food such as ceviche, Cubano sandwiches and churros at Mercadito in the Queen St. Fare dining hall. Try the cactus, bistec, pastor and arrachera tacos, as well as alambre peppers at Mona’s Taqueria in the Glebe neighbourhood. And casual Casa México in the commercial Merivale corridor offers gorditas, tamales, mole and carnitas, as well as tacos filled with traditional beef tongue, stew, and many other options.
Little Italy is full of family-run restaurants that serve Italian comfort food, such as Farinella, La Favorita and Trattoria Caffé Italia. With cicchetti and specialty pastas on the menu, North & Navy in Centretown may be the most authentic Italian food in Ottawa, while nearby Mamma Teresa is a traditional favourite. Other highlights include Fratelli’s friendly locations in Westboro Village and Kanata, as well as authentic Napoletana pizza at The Grand in the ByWard Market neighbourhood.
Family-run Ayla’s Social Kitchen in Little Italy offers dishes ranging from labneh and halloumi poutine to kababs and braised lamb. Their vegetarian lentil meatballs and stuffed mini pitas are equally tasty, and the decadent desserts are worth the calories. The menu at Fairouz Cafe in the ByWard Market neighbourhood features modern Middle Eastern items including muhammara, eggplant mashi, a meat platter, a family feast and an impressive wine list. The brunch-centric Mazarine, located downtown, blends similar flavours in dishes like shakshuka eggs, ashta pancakes, halal shish tawook sandwich and sweet osmalieh.
Although shawarma is not a region or country, it deserves its own category since Ottawa has more shawarma shops than anywhere else in Canada! The Lebanese specialty, along with shish kababs, falafels, garlic potatoes, Fattoush salad, and even shawarma poutine are available at favourite spots like Shawarma Palace (several locations), Fattoush Lady (downtown), Shawarma King (Bank Street in Centretown), and many others.
You can satisfy your “Canadian-Chinese” cravings for chop suey, chicken balls and egg rolls at local favourites such as Won Ton House in Wellington West or Golden Palace on Carling avenue. Visit the numerous eateries in Chinatown for everything from Asian fusion to traditional Chinese, including Yen Fung Ding Dumpling Shoppe (fresh or frozen dumplings); Cafe Orient (casual Hong Kong fare like congee, hot pot and milk tea); or Yangtze (fine cuisine and dim sum delicacies like chicken feet and beef tripe). Harbin Restaurant in the suburb of Kanata offers a range of regional dishes such as Sichuan-style chicken wings, Harbin casseroles, and meatball soups.
Ottawa’s numerous thai restaurants all have their own delicious versions of popular pad thaï, stir fry and curry dishes, as well as addictive savoury dumplings, creamy khao soi curry and spicy pad kee mao noodles. Order these fragrant options and more from favourite restaurants such as Siam Bistro and Anna Thai (Wellington West), Wandee Thai (Little Italy), Khao Thai (ByWard Market), Talay Thai (Centretown), and Pookie’s Thai (southwest of Westboro).
Transport your tastebuds to Sri-Lanka through dishes from Ceylonta Restaurant’s two locations (Centretown and west of downtown) or Kothu Rotti, a takeout joint in Downtown Rideau. Their dhal, buryani, dosai, kothu and curries are prepared in ways that are unique to the island. Great places to get your mutton fix!
From aloo gobi to vindaloo curry, the regional flavours of India are well represented throughout the city. Try Kochin Kitchen (Keralan) and Shafali (Bengali), both in the ByWard Market area. The East India Company is known for its five-star food and large buffet selection at their two Ottawa locations (Centretown and Ottawa West). Or try a wide range of authentic Indian dishes at Thali (downtown), led by award-winning chef and philanthropist Joe Thottungal.
Ottawa boasts one of the few Burmese restaurants in Canada: Rangoon Restaurant in Chinatown. The authentic offerings include salads with fermented tea leaves, comforting coconut curries and healthy stir-fries. Try the Mohinga, a hearty fish noodle soup thickened with legumes, which is regarded as the national delicacy. Rangoon lets you add spice to your own dishes.
Grilling and roasting over real wood charcoal is the specialty at no-frills spots such as YKO Chicken BBQ (in Vanier just east of downtown) and Pili Pili Wood Charcoal Grill (ByWard Market area and Orléans). Order seasoned chicken, fish, lamb, beef and goat, as well as tasty sides like plantains, rice and cassava. Similar dishes at La Teranga (in Sandy Hill near downtown) are uniquely inspired by Senegalese and other African cooking traditions.