7 Things Windsor Does Better Than Ottawa, From Someone Who Has Lived In Both Cities

A border city girl who moved to the capital.🍕

The Ambassador Bridge in front of the Windsor riverfront. Right: Windsor pizza from Antonino's.
Staff Writer

The Ambassador Bridge in front of the Windsor riverfront. Right: Windsor pizza from Antonino's.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

There are a lot of smaller cities across Ontario that get so much hate which I will never understand. There is a misconception, I believe, that everyone is rushing to get out of the city of Windsor, and people who stay there are stuck. From someone who didn't leave the border city until the age of 27, and whose hometown friends and family all still live there, I can tell you this is false. Windsor has so much to offer and there are a number of things I miss.

Ottawa is another underrated city that gets a bad rap, (pssst it's not boring) and I fell in love the second I moved here. The capital city is a beautiful place to live, with countless restaurants, endless green space for hiking, and in general, a lot more to do and see than Windsor, Ontario. I'm a proud Ottawa girl now and I'm not leaving, but there are just some things I think that Windsor does better.

The pizza

Fun fact if you don't already know, Windsor-style pizza is very real and nothing in Ottawa compares... sorry not sorry. The crust is thin but not too thin, with a crispy bottom layer. The cheese is locally sourced from Galati Cheese Inc. for that perfect cheese pull and the pepperoni is shredded so you taste that goodness in every bite. Even the sauce is just delicious and there is the perfect amount.

There is a Windsor Pizza Club and a pizza documentary if you needed any more convincing that it is the real deal. Every time friends or family from Windsor send me photos of having a pizza night, I'm definitely jealous. Whenever I visit I try to bring some frozen pies from Antonino's Original Pizza, my personal favourite, home to Ottawa.

Eating local Windsor pizza downtown, next to the Detroit River.Eating local Windsor pizza downtown, next to the Detroit River.Roxana Rangel | My Travelling Backpack

Italian food in general

Yes, I know Ottawa has many Italian restaurants and a vibrant Little Italy neighbourhood, but it just isn't Windsor Italian food. It's fun for a night out, but the food doesn't taste as authentic. Ottawa is such a big city with tons of restaurants and sometimes I feel like new spots are trying to be the next cool thing and don't like the idea of remaining a little mom-and-pop-style shop. What do I know, maybe they wouldn't survive in Ottawa if they were.

My theory is that since Windsor is a smaller city, with many Italian immigrants and their families, the homestyle recipes are still passed down and used, with a keen focus on ingredients. Windsor has been doing the local, family-owned restaurant thing since before it was cool again. I've definitely met restaurant owners' nonna before, who is helping cook in the back. They're not worried about trends, they're worried about the cooking.

It's not just Italian either. Ottawa peeps, you'll hate me for this one, but the Shawarma is just as good in Windsor as it is in Ottawa. There, I said it.

Proximity to Detroit

You might be wondering if this counts as part of Windsor, and my argument is that Ottawa locals, myself included, brag about Gatineau Park as being our own. The commuting between Windsor and Detroit is viewed with the ease of commute between Ottawa and Gatineau, pre-pandemic of course.

You hear a lot of negative comments about Detroit, and it really rattles me - I love the city. Detroit is coming back to life and there is amazing culture, restaurants and events to enjoy across the river. If my favourite music artist was touring, you could bet that they would be performing in Detroit. Want to watch a hockey, football or baseball game? Major teams are all right there in Detroit waiting for you. Even if you want to go for drinks downtown Detroit, you can take a city bus from Windsor across the border for only $7.50 CAN. Plus, you can't top the Friday night beats from the Detroit radio stations.

Driving distance and traffic

Ottawa is a big city, physically big, and it would take you over an hour to drive across it. Depending on the time of day you would hit lots of traffic too. Even longer for someone like me, the highway makes me nervous and I avoid using it if I don't absolutely have to. The highways around Windsor are two lanes maximum, easy peasy.

It would take about half an hour to drive across the city of Windsor. Growing up there, I could get anywhere I needed, in under 20 minutes from my parents' house. For every job I had, it took me about 15 minutes to drive there. Now I live in the west end of Ottawa and if you tell me I need to go to Orleans, I'll stress about it for days and need to set aside two hours for the excursion.

Bowling Alleys

Why is five-pin bowling even a thing for adults? Sure, I don't often bowl, but I was really thrown off when I went for the first time in Ottawa and I could hold the tiny ball in one hand. From what I can recall, there was one ten-pin spot left in Ottawa, and it closed last year. There's really not much left to say with this one except that I think it's strange and will always prefer ten-pin bowling to five.

The Wine Country

Growing grapes for wines has everything to do with region and climate, so I can't fault Ottawa for not having an amazing wine country. I just miss those random sunny days when my mom and I would hop in the car and hit up a winery for a boozy lunch. Ottawa really just has Kin Vineyards, which has amazing wine and is a beautiful spot, but it's not the same as turning a Sunday into a winery crawl. The region around Windsor has a hidden wine country that the rest of Ontario seems unaware of.

There are over a dozen vineyards you can visit near the city, including the well-known Pelee Island Winery. I remember seeing a number of Ottawa girls posting about Lola rosé in the past year, and was genuinely confused at first because I had been drinking it for years. You can stop by for tastings at all of them, and many offer lunch or light snacks as well as tours. Plus, a number of them are only within a minute or two from each other, so an impromptu wine tour day is very easy to do.

Windsor can also boast of having the largest whiskey distillery in all of North America. There are a number of craft breweries too, so the drinks can keep flowing no matter what you're into.

Less political correctness

This is a personal preference based on growing up in Windsor, but I was quite surprised when moving to Ottawa at how politically correct people are here. I find small talk difficult, and love getting straight into crazy stories and random life details if I'm making a new friend. I still can't read a lot of locals... like just tell me what you're thinking!

My hometown friends and family are all quite blunt and chatty, so meeting more people here that are quiet and reserved was simply not what I have been used to. My partner was born and raised in Ottawa and I'll even tell him, "Spit it out. Don't sugar coat it, just say it." I'm sure he loves that. Other people may see the lack of political correctness as the downside, but it's what I'm comfortable with, and it's served me well up until this point. I felt pretty extra when first coming to Ottawa, but now I've just accepted that you can't take the Windsor out of the girl. Nor would I want to.

While I will always miss certain things about my hometown of Windsor, mainly the people I love and the pizza, I can't imagine moving back now. Ottawa has completely become my home and I'm unbelievably proud to live here. There is so much to explore and enjoy. I did live in Windsor for the first 27 years of my life, so a lengthy adjustment period was expected.

In my humble opinion, both cities are underrated and don't receive the credit they deserve. If anyone asks, they're not boring!

Megan Johnson
Staff Writer
Megan Johnson was a Staff Writer for Narcity Canada's Ontario Desk focused on new netflix shows in Canada and things to do in Ottawa. She is based in Ottawa, Ontario.