Canada is perhaps more famous for its hockey than it is for its rich, culinary tradition. That might be changing. Ontario’s expansive agricultural region and its residents’ support for local food production combine for a distinctive foodie experience. Farmer’s markets and farm-to-restaurant seasonal kitchens are hallmarks of Ottawa’s culinary scene.
We outline the gastronomic delights visitors to Ottawa should not miss, the places to find these spectacular foods, and our city’s food festivals.
Experiencing the Farm-to-Restaurant Scene and Cultural Cuisine
Certain classic Ottawa dishes are Quebecois-influenced because roughly 600,000 Ontarians are ethnically French Canadian. For example, poutine is a dish with French fries, cheese curds and gravy. It is a Quebecois dish, but very popular in Ottawa. Variations of this dish, including lobster poutine, are a staple at many eateries in the capital city.
Other native Ottawa dishes stem from the region’s rich agricultural history. Pick-your-own apple excursions and local maple syrup production are common to this cold-weather region. Fall harvests bring a plethora of crops being utilized in city restaurants and markets.
Savour Ottawa attempts to keep Ontario’s agricultural economically viable and sustainable by incorporating local foods into the capital city’s evolving culinary scene. This farm-to-restaurant initiative focuses on making Ontario food secure. In other words, the organization’s goal is to make the province self-supporting through its own agricultural efforts. It encourages local shops and restaurants to purchase at least 15% of their products from a network of approved local farmers and producers. Members of the organization also host harvest tables at local farmer’s markets.
Each neighborhood has an exceptional gastronomic history, depending on where immigrants settled. At C’est bon Cooking, Chef Andree Riffou and her crew of food experts offer gourmet food tours of Ottawa. They take couples or groups to different regions of the city like Chinatown, Little Italy, ByWard Market, Wellington West, and Hintonburg. C’est bon also offers three-hour cooking classes.
Five Famous Restaurants to Try
These five establishments are nearly guaranteed to make the list of best restaurants in Ottawa—in no particular order. Make sure to have your concierge book your reservation in advance. Due to their overwhelming popularity among both Ottawa locals and tourists, it may be hard to get a seat. Each of these restaurants uses seasonal ingredients locally grown in Ontario or surrounding provinces.
- Courtyard Restaurant: Located in the ByWard Market for over 30 years, this seasonal kitchen has a changing menu for those who enjoy the most exquisite tastes.
- Sidedoor: This Byward Market restaurant features an open kitchen famous for its next-generation take on tacos.
- Union 613: Down on Somerset Street West, this casual dining experience includes what the owners call ‘inauthentic Southern food’ and communal dining.
- The Green Door Restaurant: Known as Ottawa’s oldest and best known vegetarian restaurant. The menu features items using locally grown organic produce only. Located on Main Street in Ottawa
- Café Mezzaluna: This fine Italian restaurant is located in the Cartier Place Suite Hotel off trendy Elgin Street. Traditional Italian favourites are prepared in the traditional ways – no short cuts – and with the freshest local ingredients.
Don’t Miss These Events
If you have more time to plan your vacation to Ottawa, then you should consider coinciding it with one of the capital city’s famous festivals. These events combine cultural celebrations, native Ottawan foods, microbrews, wines, and spirits.
- Greek Fest: For ten days in mid-August, Ottawa celebrates the heritage of its substantial Greek population. The festivities includes cooking demonstrations, olive oil tastings, and Hellenic dancing.
- Poutine Festival: During the first week of May, the poutine festival takes over the beautiful Festival Plaza on the grounds of City Hall in downtown Ottawa. The festival not only celebrates Ontario’s many French Canadians, but the many variations of this French fry, cheese and gravy dish.
- Whiskey Ottawa: On the last Saturday of September, proprietors make $10,000 of whiskey available for sampling. This festival isn’t just about the whiskey, though. Sampler dishes break up the tastings. Palate-cleansing cheeses are offered on platters. Guests can also take spirits classes to learn more about what they are sampling.
- Ottawa Ribtoberfest: During the last weekend in September, Sparks Street becomes barbecuing central. Chicken and ribs are available with a variety of rubs and sauces.
- Ottawa Wine and Food Festival: The biggest food show in Ontario, the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival has two events at the Ottawa Convention Centre. The first is spring-themed in late March. It showcases the upcoming season’s wines and cocktails. Food trucks bring eclectic tastings. The second event, during the first weekend in November, is more formal. International vendors sell chocolate, craft beer, and wines with fine food pairings.
- Ottawa Craft Beer Festival: At the Ottawa Craft Beer Festival, you can celebrate the history behind one of the country’s most enjoyed beverages, but also recognize the artisans behind some of your favourite brews. The Ottawa Craft Beer Festival kicks off the last weekend of August and features the most craft beers ever seen before under one roof!
Book Your Downtown Hotel Today
Being centrally located in Downtown Ottawa is an ideal basecamp for restaurant-hopping and festival forays. If you want to be just a few blocks away from the best Ottawa has to offer, Cartier Place Suite Hotel is the perfect place to call home while you enjoy Ottawa. Visitors can walk to the capital city’s best eateries, farmer’s markets, beer & wine events as well as neighbourhoods known for their culinary excellence.
If you’re booking a vacation to the Canadian capital, stay with us downtown near the Rideau Canal.
Book your stay online now or contact our hotel’s information desk at 1-800-236-8399.