Growing up, Ottawa was the most boring place to be taken on vacation. Having gone to the capital on two school trips in grade 6 and 8, the last place I ever wanted to go back to was Ottawa. Museums, history (albeit important), and politics are the keys to inducing narcolepsy in eleven to thirteen year olds.
Needless to say, a return to Ottawa was never on my list of things to do. Fortunately, my attitude towards Ottawa changed when a couple of my friends went to law school there, thus provoking a few visits and a major eye-opener. Ottawa is actually pretty cool, and it was, naturally, my friends and food that taught me to give our nation’s capital some props. Ottawa isn’t just for politicians, and here’s a day’s adventure in food to prove that.
Breakfast @ The Manx
My Ottawa friends are hard-core Manxers, with a fiendish love for its lively, pub-style breakfast and brunch experiences. It borderlines on hipster, but isn’t obnoxiously so, and it definitely knows how cool it is – there’s no official website, but The Manx is talked about in almost all of the online Ottawa food guides. The fare is pretty traditional and excellently done, but it’s the atmosphere that I liked best. Unfortunately eggs dominate the menu (we all know I prefer egg-less brunches), but I’ve been assured the huevos rancheros are the best brunch item in the city.
Lunch @ La Bottega in ByWard Market
I have a crush on freshly-made, self-constructed deli sandwiches that was completely exacerbated by lunch from La Bottega in ByWard Market. I’m not lying. I don’t even have a picture of my epic sandwich because I got emotionally overwhelmed and devoured it. I sound like a beast, but if you saw this sandwich, you’d understand. Made fresh before your eyes, with each component selected by you, these sandwiches are the perfect marriage between fresh bread, epicurean deli meat, cheeeeeeese, and toppings galore. This is what a sandwich should be. Order it, be patient enough to pay for it and find a table in ByWard Market, and prepare to be a very happy little traveler for the next fifteen minutes.
Dinner @ The Works
I don’t eat burgers very often. Before you cart me off to the looney-bin, I’ll tell you why. I love burgers, and think it’s disrespectful when they’re not cooked properly, which is more often than not. Unless I’m at home or in a restaurant that specialises in burgers, it’s one of the last things I order, along with steak. However, when a place really respects a burger, it’s a beautiful thing. Enter, The Works, a burger joint in Ottawa and the surrounding area that loves and appreciates how extraordinary burgers can be, with about 60 different types of burgers on the menu (after about 20 minutes of decision time, I had The Sweet Ride – no regrets).
The best thing about this ‘Gourmet Burger Bistro’? It understands the fundamental idea that accessories make or break an outfit, the same as soggy fries can destroy a burger experience. The sides at The Works are akin to the shiniest diamonds and saltiest pearls you can get your paws on. The tower of onion rings were nothing short of remarkable, and my itty-bitty Pyrex measuring cup maple walnut milkshake was ridiculous. I don’t even like onion rings or milkshakes! I didn’t care! They were so good! If you’re in Ottawa, you have to hit up The Works – maybe just don’t eat all day…and go for a run beforehand. Or abandon you cares and indulge. Either way, The Works is definitely responsible for notching Ottawa up into a higher echelon of cool.
Thanks to my lovely amies for being fantastic Ottawa hosts and indulging my obvious food obsession.