Worth the Drive

Neighbourhoods in Ottawa and What to Check-out

Ottawa is one of the largest, by area, cities in Canada. That means people living in the suburbs may not know what’s going on in the core where some distinct and vibrant neighbourhoods have developed personalities with charm and appeal. Those who live there know all about their locales, but for those who don’t, here’s a look at five of them.


Why it’s worth the drive:

This relatively new kid on the block has evolved from a neighbourhood defined by its outdoor stores to a more upscale destination known for its growing number of gourmet restaurants, speciality shops, coffee shops, spas, yoga studios and bars. This dynamic stretch of Richmond Road has something for everyone — whether they are looking for a baby stroller, a knapsack, a massage, a meal, a piece of furniture, or an afternoon of window shopping.

Overlooked gem: Everything prepared and sold at the Piggy Market Artisan Deli and Craft Butchers is local. The owners, former chefs, say their store is ‘a conversation about food’. The store bakes its own breads, desserts, tortieres and Jamaican patties, and its rotisserie chickens are so popular you must order ahead.

Tip: Westfest, the annual free music and art festival, takes place June 13-15. Headliners include Ashley MacIsaac and A Tribe Called Red.

How to get there: From the west, exit the Queensway at Carling. Turn left on Kirkwood and left again onto Richmond Road. From the east, exit at Island Park Drive and turn left on Richmond Road.


Why it’s worth the drive:

This neighbourhood-in-transition feels homey and welcoming, like an old leather couch — some worn spots but oh-so comfortable. It’s not refined like Westboro, to the west, but therein lies its charm. Alongside stalwarts like Fab Gear 64, goodwill and pawn shops are new restaurants, bakeries, clothing boutiques, pubs, coffee shops and design stores. With the Great Canadian Theatre Company at the forefront, this creative community boasts galleries, craft stores, photography and music studios, as well as an animation production company and the Orpheus Musical Theatre.

Overlooked gem: Be sure to get to Bread by Us Artisan Bakery at 12:30 to get a loaf of their country sourdough bread. Participate in the small-batch baker’s help-the-needy effort by paying for an extra loaf or coffee that is made available for the area’s disadvantaged.

Tip: Street parking is free. The first Thursday of each month several art galleries stay open until 9 pm. The Parkdale Market opens for the season on April 28.

How to get there: Exit the Queensway at Parkdale and go north. Exit the Ottawa River Parkway and go south.

The Glebe

Why it’s worth the drive:

This charming and picturesque area does not have to worry about living in the shadow of Lansdowne Live. Dating back to the 1800s when the area belonged to the Church (glebe means church lands), the neighbourhood unfolds along the Rideau Canal and features numerous parks and leafy tree-lined streets with distinctive period homes. The shops and restaurants on Bank Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, include a mixed bag of trendy boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and pubs as well as old-timers such as Metro Music, opened in 1960 and 25 year old La Strada Restaurant.

Overlooked gem: The handmade Japanese knives at Knifewear are exquisite, high performance pieces of art, described as sexy, seductive or dreamy. Learn how to cut and sharpen at in-store classes or bring your knives in for sharpening or repair.

Tip: The Great Glebe Garage Sale, an annual event since 1986, takes place on Saturday, May 24.

How to get there: Eastbound, exit the Queensway at Bronson and follow Chamberlain to Bank Street. Westbound, exit the Queensway at Catherine and turn left at Bank Street. From downtown, go south straight down Bank Street.


Why it’s worth the drive:

The elaborate traditional archway on Somerset Street welcomes you, the signage is bilingual, shopkeepers and pedestrians chatter in unfamiliar languages and the aroma of exotic spices and flavours permeates the air. No longer singularly Chinese, the neighbourhood describes itself as “a multicultural village with an Asian flavour.” Home to Ottawa’s best restaurants for Chinese food, dim sum and Vietnamese pho, many open late, there are also several Asian grocery stores, boutiques, hair salons, gift shops and cafes. You won’t find chain or big box stores here, adding to the small town community feel.

Overlooked gem: Check out karaoke nights every Saturday from 9 p.m. — 2 a.m. at the Shanghai Restaurant, one of Chinatown’s oldest and most ecletic restaurants, hosted by the fantastically flamboyant drag queen China Doll. No cover.

Tip: The 6th annual Chinatown Remixed Art Festival, a month-long contemporary art exhibition where art is shown in non-traditional spaces such as grocery stores and restaurants, runs from May 17 – June 17.

How to get there: From west end Ottawa, exit the Queensway at Bronson and go north until Somerset.

Little Italy

Why it’s worth the drive:

Originally settled by Italian immigrants in 1900, the area is so clearly the pride and joy of those who live and work there. Its two major streets have Italian names — Preston Street is Corso Italia and Gladstone is Via Marconi — and distinctive gateway structures at these intersections usher you into the heart of the community. Murals on the Queensway underpass walls portray the history of Italian settlement in Ottawa.

Overlooked gem: Off the beaten track amid the homes on Beech Street, the steady stream of customers at the 40 year old Di Rienzo Grocery and Deli confirms their famous fresh, tasty, thick and inexpensive deli sandwiches are worth waiting in line for.

Tip: Italian Week Festival takes place on Preston Street from June 5 – June 15, culminating with the Ottawa Ferrari Festival, June 13-15.

How to get there:

Exit the Queensway at Rochester (east-bound) or Bronson (west-bound). Preston Street is accessible from Carling Avenue.

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