The Food and Drink of Ottawa

For our anniversary this year, Shawn and I decided to visit Ottawa. It’s one of our favourite cities and we’d never been in the summer, so I was excited to get back. Several of my wonderful Twitter friends helped me decide where to go and what to do on our visit and, as usual, we weren’t disappointed by our crowd-sourced adventures.

As regular readers know, Shawn is typically the DD on our wine trips. He likes a glass or two with dinner, but he’s happy not to imbibe so I can discover new wines without worries about driving. He’s really more of a beer lover, so as his anniversary gift I treated him to visits to some of Ottawa’s many great craft beer brewers. I used Sheltered Girl Meets World’s excellent post on beer tourism in Ottawa to plan our brewery visits and I highly recommend this resource to any other brew lovers visiting the city.

Our first stop was Big Rig Brewery, which is just about in the suburbs of Ottawa, but was easy to get to on our way in. We loved the vibe at this restaurant and the wings were super tasty. Shawn had a glass of the Scotch Ale with his lunch and even after tasting several other excellent brews throughout the weekend, this turned out to be the best and his pick for the trip. I’d love to go back here again, as we didn’t really have an opportunity to sample much on their menu. They didn’t offer the Scotch Ale for take-home purchase, but we were able to get a six-pack of one of their other brews to take back with us.

We chose Divino Wine Studio for our anniversary dinner and that was a much different experience. This is a great place to do wine and Italian food pairings and I enjoyed our meal and the atmosphere. We had made reservations in advance, but still weren’t able to get one of the few tables available, however, the communal seating situation here wasn’t too bad. The staff is friendly, the food is good and the atmosphere is quite unique so I’m glad we had the chance to eat here. Keep in mind that this is a pretty pricy option, but worth it for a celebration.

The next day we did a double-decker bus tour – one of the best ways to see all the great sites this city has to offer – and stopped off at Byward Market. There’s a Montreal bagel shop there that I absolutely love and I was glad to find that it was just as good as I remembered.

We had dinner that night at Clocktower Brew Pub, in The Glebe district. We stayed at the excellent Best Western on O’Connor near the Glebe and I liked this much better than our previous hotels, which we chose because they were in the heart of the city. I loved being so close to the restaurants, nightlife and shops in the Glebe, plus it was only about a twenty minute walk to the more tourist-heavy Byward Market and Parliament Hill areas.

Clocktower Brew Pub was the surprise of the trip for us. We loved the food, which wasn’t fancy but just super tasty brew pub fare done really well. Shawn also gave the beer a thumbs up, though we were disappointed that there was none available for take-home purchase at this location. We’ll look out for their Raspberry Wheat and Bytown Brown at the LCBO.

After dinner, we decided to walk to the Byward Market and check out Hooch Bourbon House, which had just opened that week. I had learned about them on Twitter via Foodie Prints and they sounded like a fun stop. We weren’t disappointed! This was a relaxing spot to hang out, with wonderful Southen-inspired décor and a menu full of bourbon to have straight or as a cocktail. I would have loved to sample some of the food we saw coming out of the kitchen (the chicken and waffles looked pretty amazing), but we were stuffed from Clocktower. This is a place we will definitely visit again on our next trip to the area.

Day three started with a long walk – much-needed after all the food the night before. One of my Twitter friends had suggested that we must check out SuzyQ donuts on this visit and our tourist map made it look pretty close. Well, 45 minutes later we had seen some new-to-us areas of the city and were more than ready for one of SuzyQ’s amazing donut treats. I had the Earl Gray and Shawn had the Maple Bacon – we certainly weren’t complaining about the walk while we were scarfing down these yummy treats.

While contemplating the route we’d take back, we ran into Vicky (momwhoruns) in the parking lot! She was in town visiting her parents and couldn’t miss a trip to SuzyQ. She gave us a lift back to the downtown core so we could stop in for a visit at the Chateau des Charmes store. I love that there is actually a CDC stand-alone store in Ottawa and wish there were more of these across Ontario. It’s a great idea.

We headed to Beyond the Pale Brewing to pick up some of their craft brew (no fancy restaurants here, just a walk-up tasting bar and growlers to go) and then to dinner at Union 613 with my other favourite Shawn (uncorkontario) and his lovely wife, Debbie. It was so great to meet one of my friends from Twitter and discover that he is just as fantastic in real life. Union 613, however, was just OK. I loved the wine that Shawn selected – Cave Springs The Adam Steps Riesling – and it’s a fun vibe, but the food was just alright. Maybe Shawn and I have spent too much time enjoying fried chicken and grits in Savannah, but this was just so-so in comparison.

Still, the company was fabulous and I’m so glad we got the chance to spend some time with Shawn and Debbie. They are truly great folks who have been a huge help in my wine education.

Shawn and I had planned to visit Cassel Brewery on our way out the next morning, but a rain storm hit (many thanks to the weather gods for keeping the predicted rain at bay until our very last day), so we’ll put that off until our next visit. Our trip was fantastic and we can’t wait to go back. We already have a list of places we didn’t get to that we need to try, so I hope that visit is sooner rather than later.