In Ottawa, it can almost be overwhelming the exhaustive list of new restaurants opening that are catering to a new, creative food scene in the capital. There's the cosmopolitan Riviera on Sparks Street and the imaginative Feast + Revel in the Andaz Hotel in the ByWard Market. But again, so it goes in Ottawa, much of our food culture is also based on tradition.
There's some restaurants that Ottawans have been going to for years that, in a way, have defined a standard for what you need to eat in the city. Whether it's a shawarma restaurant or a breakfast at Zak's Diner, some restaurants in Ottawa are deeply rooted in our identity.
Here's 11 restaurants every true Ottawan has had to have been to at least once:
1. Shawarma Palace // 464 Rideau St.
The crowning (no pun intended) glory of the famously dubbed "Shawarma Capital of Canada." A long lineup all the way to the door at their Rideau Street location should never come as a surprise to an eager foodie waiting to try a bite of their ambitious chicken or beef plates. Every true Ottawan knows that Shawarma Palace serves the most generous portions and has some of the best prices in the city. There's plenty of good places to get shawarma in Ottawa, but this one should always be the first on your list to try if you haven't had any yet.
2. Elgin Street Diner // 374 Elgin St.
Often straddling on the fine line between infamy and fame, the Elgin Street Diner is both a guilty pleasure and just a downright classic in Ottawa's diner fare. They're open 24 hours a day, and in all honesty, if you're a true Ottawan, you probably came here late at night to have one of their hearty blue plate breakfasts.
3. Fritomania // 2442 St. Joseph Blvd.
Often cited as the best poutine in Ottawa, this little orange shack in the eastern suburb of Orleans serves up an unassuming but superlative plate of golden, crispy fries drenched in a rich thick brown gravy. One of the best parts about growing up in Orleans was having this place so close by.
4. La Bottega // 64 George St.
Officially La Bottega Nicastro, but every true Ottawan just calls this genuine ByWard Market Italian eatery La Bottega. Their sandwiches are incredibly cheap, but I'd rather call them inexpensive since they serve only the freshest, high quality deli meat and bread (focaccia, anyone?) for their devoted customers. Nonetheless, you'll never hurt your wallet coming here. Plus, if you're looking for genuine Italian outside Preston Street, this is it.
5. Perkins // 1130 St. Laurent Blvd.
It's as if quality and quantity were meeting with a warm, tight hug. Perkins is the epitome of all-day breakfast and offers some of the best brunch in the city. They have the ambience of a family restaurant in a moderately quiet part of town and the subsequent friendly service you'd desire. Their southern fried breakfast biscuits are unforgivably filling and their pancake dippers defy all breakfast logic. No Ottawan has known a truly good breakfast until coming here. If you haven't already been, don't be shocked at the lineups on weekends.
6. OCCO Kitchen // 3018 St. Joseph Blvd.
Out of all the places listed here, OCCO's undoubtedly one of the younger additions to foodie culture in Ottawa. That being said, when they came to Ottawa, they didn't do so quietly. It's local burgers at their best. Underground and also critically, many Ottawans are agreeing that OCCO's burgers are some of the best in the city, and the restaurant (both of its locations) aren't even in the centre. They're both in Orleans and serve only local ingredients prepared right from scratch.
7. Hintonburger // 1096 Wellington St. West
Combining the name of its trendy neighbourhood and its most prominent menu item, Hintonburger serves Wellington West's best selection of burgers and doesn't stop there. The corn dog scene is pretty quiet in Ottawa, but Hintonburger delivers their own in their own golden batter. And let's not forget about their foot long hot dogs. Hintonburger is something no true Ottawan should ever miss.
8. The King Eddy // 45 Clarence St.
How can someone be a true Ottawan if they haven't had The King Eddy Burger or their crispy brown northern fried chicken? Tell me. While most foodies keep coming back for their favourites at The King Eddy, I always fancy trying something new, like their loaded fries, which are a totally new creation each and every day.
9. The SconeWitch // Various locations
Another local favourite, especially during lunch time for their regular 9-5ers at the Elgin Street location. Every Ottawan needs to take at least one bite out of their savoury scones and try one of their light but tasty SconeWitches (a sandwich that uses a scone instead of bread, get it get it). As I breakfast enthusiast, I like the Eggwitch, with scrambled eggs and ham, but their BLT pesto SconeWitch is always an appetizing option.
10. Fiazza Fresh Fired // 86 Murray St.
Every Ottawan has their own local, favourite pizza place, but what's the one that everyone needs to try no matter what? Fiazza Fresh Fired, ideally located at the centre of the city in the ByWard Market, has all their fresh ingredients fired in-house. In a hurry? What makes this place special above all else is that it only takes 180 seconds for them to fire up one of your pizzas in their Woodstone Oven.
11. Zak's Diner // 14 ByWard Market Square
Well, what's one Ottawa restaurant no true Ottawa can absolutely miss? Zak's Diner in the ByWard Market is the epitome of greasy diners in Ottawa and is a long-standing classic that has firmly held its ground for over 30 years. The little restaurant is stuck in time, but its old world charm and nostalgic factor is just something Ottawa never wants to let go of. We also just really, really like their all-day breakfast, too.
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