Author’s Note: Welcome to my first mini-series being featured on BP, Take a Look at Ottawa! As a (almost) life time local in the nation’s capital, I figured I’d use that to my advantage and investigate/write about the city’s core activities. As many students will be arriving in the fall to begin schooling, or maybe there are people just visiting the region, I’ll be working on this project throughout the summer!
The culture, history and social markings of Ottawa can all be found in what is considered the heart of the city – the Byward Market. Some may find Ottawa’s downtown “dirty” if they step onto Rideau St. and venture down past all the tattoo parlours, bong shops and the Scientology church. However, just take a turn off of Rideau St. and onto George st. and you begin to see a different side of Ottawa.
Fresh farmer’s markets, local artists, street performers, outdoor patios of various cafés and pubs … suddenly, it feels like you’re in a different part of town altogether. Stroll down the streets on a lovely weekend afternoon and take your time exploring and discovering new things.
My favourite time of the year to be in the Byward Market is during fall – more specifically, October. Enjoy the crisp autumn air while you check out all the fall vegetables the farmer’s have to offer. The colours burst throughout the area as you look at the squashes, multicoloured corn and the mini painted pumpkins (I get one or two every year! They’re adorable!)
As much as I tried to narrow down my list to a few specific places down here, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make some of your own discoveries. I wanted to check out so much more but I don’t think my stomach -nor my wallet- would be able to handle it! <p>
Zac’s Diner | 14 Byward Market Square
Known as Ottawa’s downtown diner, this place has definitely established a name for itself. They’re open 24/7 and are proud to say they never close – this diner can easily rival Elgin Street Diner (in my opinion). Their fun atmosphere has been serving customers well since 1986 – they recently announced the opening of their new location in Kanata as well. The prices are a little steep at Zac’s, but it is understandable considering its location in the city. The portions are quite large and they don’t let you take home leftovers, so make sure you come on an empty stomach! A good stop to make after you finish hitting the town on weekend night.
Planet Coffee | 24 York St.
This coffee house is difficult to find if you haven’t been to Ottawa before, as it’s not actually located on York St. You need to go into the Courtyard entrance on York St. to be able to locate it. The setting is perfect; inside is a little cozier and dim, but you can also take your coffee outside to their patio surrounded by the stone walls and floors. Planet Coffee is vegan friendly (soy milk and almond milk as alternate options, along with vegan baked goods).
The prices can be compared to Starbucks but I consider it to be decent as it seems that the food is very fresh. The only downside was that they only accept cash! However, there is an ATM within the store. There are always interesting locals around here, so make sure you take a seat if people watching is your thing!
Le Moulin de Provence | 55 Byward Market Square
A self-described café bistro, Le Moulin de Provence is constantly busy with customers purchasing and ogling their delicious foods. Everything is on display and can be easily viewed on their 70 foot display case from the outdoors (as the whole Market Square is display window-less). This is the location where Obama made his famous stop in Ottawa to get a shortbread cookie in the shape of a maple leaf (now called the Obama Cookie). Le Moulin is known for their impressively assorted baked goods along with 200+ freshly created items.
BeaverTails | 77 George St.
If you leave Ottawa without stopping at the BeaverTail shack … I have no words for you. This deep fried pastry is filled with so-bad-that-it’s-good calories but they’re delicious. There are a variety of options you can choose to have put on your BeaverTail, the classic choices being cinnamon and sugar, cinnamon/sugar/lemon zest, hazelnut topping, maple butter topping with hazelnut drizzle , apple cinnamon and many more. They cost $4 for the traditional toppings and $5 for the fancier ones. Grab a hot apple cider on a chilly day to compliment your BeaverTail – for $2.50 a cup.
These shacks are also set up across the canal during the winter season when the Rideau Canal is open for skating.
The Cupcake Lounge | 6 Byward Market Square
I stumbled upon heaven by accident. This little place is a couple doors down from Zac’s diner and has the most delicious cupcakes on the face of this planet. I don’t regret buying it. I had the red velvet cupcake. It was the perfect moisture. The cream cheese icing was sweet but not over the top. I wish I could have had more. The cupcakes are a little pricey ($3.5o for one and $36.00 for a dozen); however, as a treat to have once in a while, they are worth it. You can eat them outside the store at their chairs and table, or take it home with you. The take home box is adorable and simple (or I’m just strange and got overly excited about my cupcake).
The Cupcake Lounge is relatively new (opened 8 weeks ago) and the owner is a younger Latino lady who runs the business with her family. They also distribute their cupcakes to the Candy Store at Westboro, Morala in the Glebe and Blumenstudio in Wellington Village.
Remember to take these locations only as guidelines as to where to go to in the Byward Market. If you pop your head between doors, you’re bound to find interesting things. Definitely walk around the Byward Market square (the block where Le Moulin de Provence is located); there are so many interesting and exotic things to eat to be found!