Ottawa is the rapidly growing capital of one of the leading multicultural countries in the world. This diversity is visible in a variety of ways, but perhaps most acutely in the multitude of dining options in town, ranging from Aboriginal dishes to Sri Lankan cuisine. Besides enriching the city’s cultural heritage, the waves of Italian, East Indian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, and other new arrivals, have brought with them a culinary smorgasbord that is reflected in the many fine restaurants which can be enjoyed throughout the city. Many restaurants post their menus near the door.
For a local treat, try a Beaver Tail – a flat, fried pastry served with sweet or savoury condiments. They are sold, along with hot cider, to skaters along the Rideau Canal in winter and from a kiosk on William Street in the ByWard Market throughout the year.
Breakfast is usually eaten between 7 and 10 am, lunchtime runs 11 am-2:30 pm and dinner is 6-10 pm.
Smoking is prohibited in all of Ottawa's restaurants, and the rule is strictly enforced. Smoking is allowed in most outdoor seating areas in summer.
For Italian fare one should go no further than Mamma Teresa Ristorante on Somerset Street in the downtown core. Though slightly on the expensive side, a trip to Mamma Teresa’s is worth every penny. For years Ottawa’s political movers and shakers have met and dined on the restaurant’s succulent veal entrees in any one of a number of semi-private alcoves.
Other Italian eateries that can be depended on for excellent food and fine service in the downtown core include the small, but quaint Fresco Bistro Italiano on Elgin Street and Fratelli on Bank Street in the Glebe. Meanwhile, in the Byward Market there is the slightly upscale Cafe Spiga Trattoria on Dalhousie Street, the always consistent Mangia across the street from Spiga, and the Cafe Baci located just down the street.
Of course, if it’s Italian food you’re after, you can always take a short cab ride to Little Italy, located along Preston Street, and sample from the menus at either Allegro Ristorante or Leonardo's.
But perhaps the most romantic Italian eatery is the Canal Ritz, located along the side of the Rideau Canal where you can either dine indoors or al fresco on the restaurant’s expansive patio.
Further a field there is Capone's in the west end of the city and The March House located in Kanata.
Straddling the Ottawa River and the Ontario/Quebec border, as Ottawa does, the city is also home to many fine French restaurants. Chief among these is the Cafe Henry Burger, which is actually located on Laval Street in Hull across from the Canadian Museum of Civilisation. The menu at the Henry Burger is impeccable and the service is second to none. But be forewarned, it is also one of the more expensive restaurants in the city.
Back in Ottawa, Le Cafe, located on the main level of the National Arts Centre, adjacent to the Rideau Canal, is another not-to-be-missed dining experience, although a night out for two can cost between C$80-100.
Elsewhere in Ottawa, Le Metro located on Somerset Street in the downtown core and Le Jardin in the Byward Market are also sure to please.
For some reason Ottawa has a wealth of fine, reasonably priced Indian restaurants mostly located in the Glebe, just south of the downtown core along Bank Street, and in the Byward Market.
Most notably among these is the smallish, but always excellent Light of India on Bank Street. Also located on Bank Street is the New Delhi, while the Haveli Indian Restaurant and Cafe Shafali can both be found in the Byward Market.
While there are many fine Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in Ottawa, the best among them are located along Somerset Street in Somerset Heights, about a five-minute cab ride from many downtown hotels.
Whether you choose the Yangtze, the Mekong Restaurant or the Shanghai Restaurant you cannot go wrong. But for a real treat, that is both a culinary delight and light on the pocketbook, check out the unassuming Ben Ben Restaurant located across the street from the Yangtze. Ben Ben has been a popular mainstay of the local Asian community for over 15 years. For lovers of Vietnamese food there is the popular and affordable Cam Kong, also located in Somerset Heights.
Lovers of Mexican food also have quite a few eateries to choose from to please the palate including, Las Palmas and the Blue Cactus, both located in the Byward Market. Traditionalists will love the authentic Mexican fare served up at Feleena's in the Glebe, while for the best of the bunch for the money is Pancho Villa located on Elgin Street.
Seafood afficiandos can have their appetites satisfied at any one of three recommended restaurants, each in a different part of downtown. In the Glebe, seafood lovers have made Flippers a mainstay, while The Fish Market Restaurant in the Byward Market is known for its fresh product and succulent lobsters. More centrally located is Nick & Jerry's Simply Seafood on Albert Street.
For the more adventurous gastronomic travellers Ottawa has much to offer in the likes of the Savana Café which serves up rather eclectic Carribean fare on Somerset Street in the downtown core and the popular Big Daddy's Crab Shack and Oyster Bar which offers up wonderfully diverse Cajun fare including grilled alligator. Then there is Santé at Rideau Street and Sussex Drive in the Byward Market which changes it’s experimental menu on an almost weekly basis.
Nate's Delicatessen on Rideau Street is another restaurant not to be missed during any visit to Ottawa. Owned by restauranteur Dave Smith, Nate’s is the premiere deli in the city. And if you have the time, why not check out Moe's World Famous Newport Restaurant which doubles as the headquarters of the Elvis Presley Sighting Society and is filled with tons of Elvis memorabilia.