As the nation’s capital, Ottawa is known for many things. It’s a government town with museums and art galleries aplenty but unfortunately restaurants in Ottawa have bad reputations. So when Tim and Nathalie from A Cook Not Mad returned from traveling, I realized it was time to see if the Ottawa food scene had changed.
And so we planned a gluttonous 48 hours of food
It seems there has been a resurgence these days in the Ottawa food scene. While the public may not have demanded it, a number of entrepreneurs wanted to elevate the level of food here and I was very surprised to see such quality.
Brothers Beer Bistro
I had an 8:30pm reservation for dinner at Murray Street I was hungry at 6pm and when I tweeted asking for suggestions Murray Street Chef Steve Mitton responded with Navarra and Brothers Beer Bistro. I first tried Navarra, which I knew was popular but thought I could slip in at 6pm. They were already booked solid.
Fortunately Brothers Beer Bistro had room at the bar, which is exactly where I prefer to eat when I’m on my own. It is a very relaxed place and you would not feel out-of-place in jeans and a hoodie. I sat at the bar and asked Benson, the bartender for meal and beer recommendations and he didn’t hesitate to suggest the beef carpaccio or tuna tartare along with the Montreal Brewery’s Dieu de Ciel Rosee d’Hibiscus.
While I was alone I had a great time talking with the staff and people at the bar. Also I left with such an appreciation of beer pairings, Benson is a genius so if he’s working don’t bother looking at the menu, just ask him what to order.
Murray Street Kitchen Wine Charcuterie
After my pre-dinner snack I met up with Nathalie and Tim. I heard so many great things about Murray Street and wanted the meal to be amazing. We wisely just told the kitchen to send us what they wanted and I was blown away by the first dish called Hearts and Bones which was smoked beef heart, Juniper Farm’s “Golden Frill” mustard greens, roast beef marrow & mustard vinaigrette, Glengarry gouda. I had heart before at Beast Restaurant but I didn’t love it and was still adverse to organs – but holy crow if I could order this tomorrow I would. Absolutely incredible and everyone need to order it.
Everything else was pretty damn good and I wasn’t surprised to hear the Chef was from the East Coast because the guy knows how to cook fish. This may be one of the best deals for food in Canada because if this restaurant was in Toronto they could easily charge twice as much.
A Canadian take on Southern hospitality I had no idea what to expect as I have never eaten any Southern food but I knew it wouldn’t be good for the waistline. I loved the industrial feel of the decor and noticed the bar was popular with the small but strong Ottawa hipster community.
The fried chicken was incredible as was the cornbread and there were a number of other dishes that just stuck to your bones in an oh so good way. As good as the food here I think the real draw is the bartender Liz. I’ve jumped on the bourbon bandwagon and this girl knows how to make a drink. After trying two of her strong but incredible concoctions I wanted to try another so she made one up on the spot after asking me a few questions about what I like to drink. It may be time to start a bartender crush list, Liz is the first.
Ottawa you surprised me.
The interesting thing about the restaurants in Ottawa is that there is a group is keen to cooperate and promote each other instead of compete. On the Union613 website and business cards it lists other favourite restaurants. As I started talking to others I had a list of a half dozen places that were also doing interesting things with food.
Nathalie and Tim are getting settled into their new place and Tim has already started working as executive chef at Brasseurs du Temps but he told me to give him six months so I can return to Ottawa and we’ll do a cook’s tour of the city.
I’m counting down the months.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Ottawa Tourism but they did not request that I write a favourable review or convince Tim that I should come back in six months for another 48 hours of gluttony.