I’m going to admit it: I’m not a foodie-traveler. I believe it’s very important to eat local food when you are in a new place, but I’ve never actually researched them beforehand. I know, shocking! I mean, I research EVERYTHING before I go; from things to do to public transportation to hostel reviews, absolutely nothing is left to chance. That is, except for places to eat (Hah! I can’t even tell you where the logic is in that!). I guess I figured there are a ton of restaurants in any given city, so we can just wing it and walk in as long ad the menu and the prices look good. As a result, I always miss out on the hot/hip spots in the city, only finding out from friends after I got back or when I stumble across an article or a blog post weeks or months later. This is why it’s awesome to go to places where you have friends. I don’t have to do any research since they know all the best places to eat in their city (at least I would hope so!). It’s a win-win situation, really.
That said, I’m lucky enough to have several friends living in Ottawa: Rue, Vanessa, and Kainat among them. These wonderful ladies took me places and showed me a different side of Ottawa I otherwise wouldn’t find out if I were going on my own. Now, I’m going to share these spots with you and hopefully you’ll get a chance to try them when you visit the capital city!
119 Murray Street – Ottawa – ON – K1N5M5
Rue puts it eloquently: “Whenever you want to smell Paris, just step into the French Baker and inhale!”. A small store on the side of Byward Market, this bakery sells french-inspired pastries and artisan bread. You don’t even have to step inside, you will catch the delicious whiff of fresh baguette by simply walking past it! For something around $2.80, I had the almond croissant and it was pretty damn delicious (even after I dropped it on the floor)!
64 George Street – Byward Market – Ottawa – ON – K1N 5V9
This small food market has everything you ever want from Europe, from cheese, to cookies, straight down to the authentic Italian coffees. We were there for a mid-morning snack, so I didn’t have any of their hot food. However, I’ve been told their $5 sandwiches is very popular, not to mention delicious, lunch item. Also, Kainat and I may or may not have spent a good chunk of my money on Milka chocolate bars.
Saigon Boy Noodle House
648 Somerset St. W. – Chinatown – Ottawa – ON – K1R 5K4
Head to Chinatown and hop into Saigon Boy for a bowl of authentic Vietnamese noodle bowl. It’s definitely not better than Pho Hung in Toronto, but it’s certainly better than other Vietnamese places I’ve tried. The generous portion is also a bonus!
For Afternoon Coffee:
130 Anderson St. – Ottawa – ON – K1R 6T7
Located on the side of the Bridgehead Roastery in Little Italy, this brew bar is a unique experience for coffee-drinkers. For $2.55 you get to choose which coffee beans and which brewing method you want to try, with each method producing a different taste.
When you go with a friend, it’s a good idea to choose exactly the same coffee beans but different brewing method. That way you get to actually taste the difference in tastes.
Be aware, though, that it is a fully functioning roastery, which means their roasters run during the week. That said, it does get a little bit noisy in there, so it’s probably not the best place to be if you’re looking for a quiet coffee house.
For Happy Hour:
77 Clarence St. – Ottawa – ON – K1N 5S7
Who else would take me here other than Kainat, a self-professed lover of all things Spanish and European football-related?
We each ordered a glass of sangria and shared a plate of patata bravas. The atmosphere plus the food instantly transported me back to greatest place in the world: Barcelona.
575 Bank St. – Ottawa – ON – K1S 5L7
2 things you need to order: Kolsch Beer and Pub Chips. The beer was light and the chips savory, together they make excellent snacks to munch on while catching up with friends.
Homemade french onion soup
I included this one because I have been wanting to have a bowl of French Onion Soup since I came back from Paris several years ago. So, when Rue asked me what I want to eat (as Vanessa is a chef specializing in European cuisine), I quickly requested she make French Onion Soup. And she delivered! Served steaming hot and topped with a cheese-smothered bread, it was nothing but DELICIOUS. Thank you, Vanessa!
What about you guys? How do you eat when you travel? Do you research your restaurants? Do you go by local recommendations? Or do you wing it like I do?
*Special thanks to my awesome friends: Kainat, Rue, and Vanessa, all of whom played the role of gracious hosts when I was in Ottawa. Natasha – I didn’t forget you; I’ll just have to spend some time with you next time I’m back in Ottawa!