Ottawa City Guide

Here are my favourite places for food and drink in Canada’s National Capital Region (NCR) for your next visit to Parliament or a tulip festival.

Cafés and Bakeries

Would definitely recommend:

Arlington Five: Really cute coffee shop that has a tiny garden patio in the summer in the downtown-ish area.

Maison Oddo: With the disclaimer that this bakery is technically in Gatineau, it is definitely worth visiting. They serve a multitude of beautiful pastries, breads and sandwiches prepared with classic French techniques and every bite I had was excellent.

Ministry of Coffee: A nice, comfortable, independent coffee shop in Hintonburg where you can get all the cafe staples.

Planet Coffee: Other than La Bottega Nicastro, this is the place I come to the most often when I have a break between events, or just need a break from walking in the Byward Market.

Scone Witch: This is a place, obviously, for scone lovers. They have four locations now, and they’re one of the only places that you can go get a, well, scone-wich. Great for a quick lunch or afternoon break.

The French Baker: Just a solid selection of French pastries and treats from France located on Murray Street. See Benny’s Bistro below for more info!

Honourable Mentions:

Art-is-In Bakery: Art-is-In was the special bakery that Ottawa was known for, and they still pump out really fun things. However, it is by no means the same quality it used to be Pre-Pandemic. They have a warehouse that is super fun to visit, but very out of the way if you are not driving through. Still, fun. Still, nostalgic. (Note: photo below definitely has outdated prices).

Bridgehead Coffee: You can throw a rock and hit a Bridgehead in Ottawa, which is very popular and reliable Ottawa “mini chain” of coffeeshops. Recently however, they have looked to be closing down several of their locations, and are losing a little bit of their former energy.

Restaurants and Bars

Would definitely recommend:

Benny’s Bistro: If you only step in for a few moments, you may think that this is just a cute French cafe (as in, the one behind The French Baker), but there’s actually a whole restaurant in the back! They focus on local ingredients and the menu changes all the time, but there’s always some kind of egg, pasta or salad dish I just end up loving.

El Camino: A fun restaurants serving up generous portions of tacos and other contemporary-ish dishes, this is perfect for a group gathering. There are at least two locations.

Hintonburg Public House: This is a solid place to grab a plate of eggs, bacon and potatoes, or whatever else you’re craving for a very “Ottawa-style brunch”. Cute vintage details around the restaurant, and very laid-back.

La Bottega Nicastro: This looks like a touristy Italian grocery store from the outside, and it is, but it is so much more than that. The sandwiches are excellent, and the Illy espresso continues to only be $1.50, the same price it has been for years. If you really want a good meal, however, see if you can snag a spot in the tiny restaurant in the back, where they do classic dishes like Cacio e Pepe and Margherita Pizza super well.

Sidedoor: Fun, playful restaurant with some interesting dishes. Conveniently located but just a little out of the way in the Byward Market.

Supply and Demand: This used to be my “wow” restaurant in Ottawa. I haven’t been for awhile, but they seem to still be doing great.

The Whalesbone: If you like seafood, you’ll love what they serve up at The Whalesbone, with one location on Elgin and the other on Bank. Reservations definitley recommended as these restaurants are popular and don’t have a lot of seating.

Honourable Mentions:

Château Laurier’s Zoe’s: I hate to sound like “that person”, but I end up spending a lot of my time in Ottawa at this specific hotel bar, which has been greatly improved since before the hotel’s big renovations. If you haven’t had a chance to stay at the Château, the bar is a great place to get a feel for it!

Chez Lucien: I loved this place when I was in university, and they never fail to deliver quality for value in a cozy bistro environment (think classic burgers with a mountain of fries and steak frites). It is however, for better or worse, still feeling like it did when I was in university.

Mati: This is a very nice, elegant venue that features modern, Mediterranean food. I think the food was of high quality, but there are not a lot of options to choose from if you’re not willing to splurge for a seafood tower, steak and crudo. On Fridays and Saturdays, they also have a cute bar called Sidecar that I haven’t had a chance to see yet.

Riviera: This is an honourable mention only because I would not choose to go here if I had other choices on Sparks Street, but it is objectively the best restaurant for blocks around, and has a lovely interior (it used to be a bank) for cocktails, and the service is excellent.

The Elgin Street Diner: I hesitate to even put this place down on the list because the food is NOT THAT GOOD, but the vibe is fun and very nostalgic, and you can definitely feel the essence of Ottawa at 2:00 am here. This place is an institution, and they are open 24 hours a day.

Wilf & Ada’s: It’s a cozy, unpretentious cafe that serves up good brunch. Nothing too exciting, but it is a good choice for when you need something just like this!

Other Food Experiences:

Moo Shoo Ice Cream and Kitchen: Fun place to grab ice cream with modern Asian flavours. Takeout window only for now.

Last Updated: March 2024

Please note: There are a lot of popular restaurants in Ottawa that I have left off of this list for a reason. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions!