The 20 Essential Ottawa Restaurants

Where to find adventurous French fare, delicious meats, and natural wines in Canada’s capital city

by Tim Forster@timothyjforster  Updated Sep 4, 2019, 2:22pm EDT

Canada’s capital city has long been maligned as stodgy, no fun, and filled with dull bureaucrats. Thankfully, that reputation is beginning to seem out of date. In recent years, the city’s creative industries have started to gain a small foothold, and the food scene in Ottawa and Gatineau, Ottawa’s twin city across the river, has grown rapidly, thanks in part to those bureaucrats with money to spend on meals.

Now, visitors to Ottawa can find locavore eats at distinctly Canadian restaurants alongside natural wine bars and third-wave cafes. Although the city has boasted some big destination restaurants for nearly a decade, it’s the newer arrivals that make for essential Ottawa dining.

Shawna Wagman contributed research and editing.Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Restaurant Les Fougeres

783 Route 105, Chelsea
QC J9B 1P1, Canada(819) 827-8942Visit Website

Head just a few minutes north of Ottawa-Gatineau to Chelsea for Les Fougères, where owners Charles Part and Jennifer Warren-Part have been serving fine fare to match the village’s foresty surrounds for some 25 years now. There are ample French touches (read: seared foie gras), but with a meaty menu touting wild boar, duck confit, and roasted quail, the restaurant feels distinctly Canadian. A true Ottawa-area classic. [$$$]

Dish at Les Fougeres in Chelsea
Dish at Les Fougeres

2. Fraser Cafe

7 Springfield Rd
Ottawa, ON(613) 749-1444 Visit Website

The menu, the name, and even the decor may seem relatively unassuming, but the Fraser brothers (Ross and Simon) are loved in Ottawa, and for good reason. The seasonal food at their restaurant, located on the cusp of fancy Rockcliffe, feels like a microcosm of multicultural Canada — grounded in Ottawa, but with eyes turned to the world. The flavors, from preserved lemon and za’atar to chimichurri or kimchi, aren’t haphazardly thrown in and dubbed “fusion.” The dishes are balanced and smooth, and Canada’s progressive-minded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (whose official residence is just a few streets away) would likely approve. See also: the Fraser brothers’ other restaurant, the Rowan. [$$$$]

Interior of Fraser Cafe in Ottawa
Interior of Fraser Cafe

3. Benny’s Bistro

119 Murray St, Ottawa
ON K1N 5M5, Canada(613) 789-6797Visit Website

At breakfast and lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends, Benny’s in the ByWard Market serves low-fuss, high-flavor French fare, in an affordable price bracket to boot. With roasted mushrooms, a simple beef tartare, and a goat cheese parfait, offerings are lightly creative, without frivolously trying to reinvent the wheel. Stop by the restaurant’s adjoining bakery, the French Baker, on the way out for a croissant or a sweet treat, too. [$$]

Tuna at Benny’s Bistro in Ottawa
Tuna at Benny’s Bistro

4. Soif

88 Montcalm
Hull, QC(819) 600-7643Visit Website

Owned by one of the top sommeliers on the planet, yet still strangely under the radar in the Ottawa area, Soif is somewhat of a hidden gem located in a former burger joint in Hull. It’s no surprise that Véronique Rivest’s natural-leaning wine list is a winner. Those offerings are at turns French and Mediterranean (see: boudin and basil-fennel baked ricotta), but with nods to Canada, too — the bison tartare is just one example. Note that Soif has a bar license, so under-18s are not allowed on the premises until Quebec finishes implementing changes to those laws. [$$$]

Asparagus at Soif
Asparagus at Soif

5. Riviera

62 Sparks St
Ottawa, ON(613) 233-6262Visit Website

Chef-restaurateurs Matthew Carmichael and Jordan Holley are no strangers to drawing a crowd, as their first two projects, taqueria El Camino and Asian street food-inspired restaurant Datsun, have proved. Their latest, Riviera, is a notch higher in terms of refinement. In a spectacular converted former bank on the centrally located but weirdly moribund Sparks Street, Riviera impresses on multiple fronts. Bartender Stephen Flood is locally adored and often willing to craft custom cocktails, and the French-influenced food toes a careful line between familiar fare and something wilder, with classics, like steak frites, balanced out by adventurous options — pig head macaroni, anyone? [$$$$]

Outside Riviera in Ottawa
Outside Riviera

6. Edgar

60, rue Bégin
Gatineau, QC(819) 205-1110Visit Website

On a quiet residential street in Gatineau, chef Marysol Foucault blesses Ottawans and Gatinois with a three-pronged combination of stellar baked goods, lunches, and brunches. Her food manages to be simultaneously homey and creative — crowds line up for dishes like her souffle-on-the-outside but flan-on-the-inside Dutch baby with slow-cooked pork belly, aged cheddar, and apple. The space is small, reflecting Foucault’s view that great food can come in small packages, so be prepared to wait unless you’re on the early or late side. [$$]

Berries and sour cream donuts at Edgar in Gatineau
Berries and sour cream donuts at Edgar

7. Sansotei Ramen

153 Bank St
Ottawa, ON(613) 695-1718Visit Website

Pho might be ubiquitous in Ottawa, but this Toronto import dominates the noodle soup market, with locals gravitating to the shop in droves since it arrived in 2016. Sansotei makes its pork bone broth in-house daily, and you can choose between thick or thin noodles in six varieties, from classic tonkotsu to a wilder new addition: tomato. Almost creamy in mouthfeel, but not at all heavy, it’s a damn fine bowl of ramen. [$$]

Ramen at Sansotei Ramen in Ottawa
Ramen at Sansotei Ramen

8. Whalesbone

231 Elgin St
Ottawa, ON(613) 505-4300Visit Website

By virtue of geography, Ottawa isn’t often thought of as a seafood kind of place, but Whalesbone makes it the envy of any other landlocked locale. The sustainably sourced seafood dishes offer cohesive textures and flavors, and the focal point of each plate is cooked with such finesse you’ll wonder why Whalesbone hasn’t figured out a way to market crispy salmon skin as a bagged snack a la potato chips. Compared to the tiny Bank Street flagship, the spacious Elgin Street location has the capacity to play around and even ventures into meatier territory, dry-aging steaks in-house. If the price gets you down, consider grabbing one of the brown-bag lunches for a cheaper taste. [$$-$$$$]

Oysters at Whalesbone in Ottawa

9. Town

296 Elgin St
Ottawa, ON(613) 695-8696Visit Website

It’s common for Ottawa restaurants to take inspiration from a particular cuisine without wholly embodying that culinary style. Town does it neatly with Italian eats: Barbecue octopus and lamb bolognese look to the Mediterranean and central Italy, respectively, but chef-owner Marc Doiron makes these dishes new and creative instead of attempting to recreate classics thousands of miles away. Overall, Town’s food reads as fun — if you need proof, look no further than its ricotta-stuffed meatballs with polenta. [$$$]

Ricotta-stuffed meatballs at Town in Ottawa
Ricotta-stuffed meatballs at Town

10. Union Local 613

315 Somerset St W
Ottawa, ON(613) 231-1010Visit Website

Approximately nobody thinks of Ottawa as a destination for Southern food — and, yet, here we are. Union 613 is doing fancied-up versions of catfish and fried chicken, but the quality is tip-top and the restaurant’s ethos is just as good (it offers staff health plans, for example). It’s also got a late-night menu (try it with cocktails in the basement speakeasy), or, if you’re looking to keep it cheap, the Monday-night TV dinners offer a nice sampling of menu items for a good price. [$$$]

TV dinner at Union Local 613
TV dinner at Union Local 613

11. Tamis Cafe

374 Bank St, Ottawa
ON K2P 1Y4, Canada(613) 567-7550Visit Website

Ottawa doesn’t have a particularly large Filipino community, but that hasn’t slowed Tamis, which grew so popular it recently decamped to a much larger space. Expect some Filipino staples such as sizzling sisig (grilled pork belly), tangy-spicy adobo, and crepe-adjacent lumpia. Tamis also isn’t afraid to throw a few curveballs, such as Filipino-tinged empanadas or even pimento cheese dip. The family behind Tamis also runs a cake-baking operation out of the premises, so don’t skip dessert.  [$$]

Pimento cheese dip at Tamis Cafe in Ottawa
Pimento cheese dip at Tamis Cafe

12. Fauna

465 Bank St
Ottawa, ON(613) 563-2862Visit Website

Just like the pared-down symbols (cow, cheese, mushroom) that make up the logos adorning Fauna’s windows, the small plates from chef-owner Jon Svazas keep it simple and uncluttered — and have won bucketloads of praise in and outside of Ottawa. The classy small-plates restaurant feels fresh, rooted in local produce and flavor, yet creative and forward-thinking. The kitchen has a particular knack for the raw end of the menu, including tartares, crudos, and the like. [$$$-$$$$]

Dessert at Fauna in Ottawa
Dessert at Fauna 

13. Rangoon

634 Somerset St W, Ottawa
ON K1R 5K4, Canada(613) 680-8821Visit Website

The only Burmese restaurant in town, Rangoon dishes up spicy, coconut-laden food at eminently reasonable prices from its Chinatown premises. The dishes here have some similar elements to Thai food more common in Ottawa. Expect lots of garlic and ginger, but wielded in fresh new ways, as well as a tea leaf salad, chickpea fritters, and a deeply flavorful fish noodle soup that set the restaurant apart. Rangoon is a unique experience for this town. [$$]

Dish at Rangoon in Ottawa
Dish at Rangoon

14. Erling’s Variety

225 Strathcona Ave
Ottawa, ON(613) 231-8484Visit Website

The food is quite literally central at this restaurant in the bourgeois Glebe neighborhood — at least if you sit at the bar that wraps right around the kitchen. At turns oh-so Canadian in its vibe, depending on the season, Erling features venison, blueberries, and root vegetables at the foreground of its menu of small plates. And while fries can be an Achilles heel at some higher-end establishments, Erling’s does them justice. [$$$]

Charcuterie board at Erling’s Variety in Ottawa
Charcuterie board at Erling’s Variety

15. Meat Press

45 Armstrong
Ottawa, ON(613) 695-7737Visit Website

Chef-owner Étienne Cuerrier has a knack for charcuterie: At Meat Press, tucked away on a side street in west-end Hintonburg, he converts locally sourced meats into blood sausage, terrine, and more with a hefty curing operation. Meat Press’s lunch sandwiches (made with smoked meats or charcuterie) are both cheap and a mega-hit, and the restaurant’s dinner service does a solid job at evoking Canadian terroirs. [$-$$]

Montreal-style smoked meat at Meat Press in Ottawa
Montreal-style smoked meat at Meat Press

16. Di Rienzo

111 Beech St
Ottawa, ON(613) 729-4037Visit Website

If only every grocery store had a sandwich counter like Di Rienzo’s. This neighborhood institution is (self) described as offering “the best sandwiches in Ottawa,” and probably deserves that title. The key is simplicity: No-nonsense Italian subs with mortadella, prosciutto, and more are slightly Canadianized (see: havarti as one cheese of choice), and dished up at low, low prices, with a very limited number of hot and more extravagant options. Younger sandwich slingers nearby that stuff their bread with Doritos or pierogies might be more “creative,” but they can’t call themselves a classic like Di Rienzo’s. Don’t forget to grab a cannoli at the cash register. [$]

Interior of Di Rienzo in Ottawa
Interior of Di Rienzo

17. Alice

40 Adeline St, Ottawa
ON K1S 3L3, Canada(613) 733-0707Visit Website

This Little Italy restaurant might be vegan and gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean chef Briana Kim is dishing up veggie burgers and tempeh bowls. Having cut her teeth running now-closed Hintonburg restaurant My House, Kim is more than willing to push boundaries. She raises the bar even higher at her new, tasting-menu-only destination with high-end yet playful vegan fare. [$$$-$$$$]

Toasted sesame dome with charred asparagus, silken tofu, lemon and lavender purée, radishes, and shiso
Toasted sesame dome with charred asparagus, silken tofu, lemon and lavender purée, radishes, and shiso

18. Supply and Demand

1335 Wellington St
Ottawa, ON(613) 680-2949Visit Website

Tiled floors and ornate light fixtures make Supply and Demand a beacon of cool in slightly bourgeois Westboro, but the food at the restaurant (with a dash of raw bar) shines brightest. The menu is a combination of fresh-made pasta and exceptionally well-treated meat, and chef Steve Wall’s kitchen has a sharp eye for what’s flavorful, rather than what’s hip (anywhere willing to reinvent ’90s dessert fad baked Alaska can’t be too fixated on trends). [$$$]

Cappelletti and ravioli at Supply and Demand in Ottawa
Cappelletti and ravioli at Supply and Demand

19. Table Sodam

1200 Bank St, Ottawa
ON K1S 3Y1, Canada(343) 488-8036Visit Website

Formerly known as Table 85, Sodam evolved from an unassuming spot in the basement of an office building to more of a full restaurant set-up in the Glebe. The main draw is Korean fried chicken, twice fried with sweet-and-spicy or sweet-and-soy glazes — don’t skip ’em, but it can’t hurt to sample the standard bulgogi or bibimbap options. [$-$$]

Spicy BBQ Pork at Table Sodam in Ottawa
Spicy BBQ Pork at Table Sodam

20. Semsem

2430 Bank St, Ottawa
ON K1V 0T7, Canada(613) 733-5736Visit Website

Run by a Palestinian family, this low-key South Keys spot churns out some of the best Middle Eastern baked goods in town, from tangy za’atar-dusted breads to squeaky haloumi man’oushes. For those with heftier appetites, there are bigger, spice-laden plates centered around chickpeas and fava beans. [$-$$]

Cheese sunflower pastry at Semsem in Ottawa
Cheese sunflower pastry at Semsem

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