Blog post by Bytown Bites, hosts of episode 1 of Hidden Gems of Ottawa
Where is the heart of a city like Ottawa? It depends on who you ask. Tourists may think of Parliament and the ByWard Market as emblematic symbols of our capital city. UofO students may think of a place like Sandy Hill or Lowertown. Does it flow through the canal, Rideau or Ottawa Rivers?
For us, Centretown is a place that would rival any Ottawa neighbourhood for that title. At the heart of it, there’s that stretch of Bank street between Parliament and the 417. It’s vibrant and eclectic, with streets steeped in history. It’s unpredictable and lively, with some of our favourite Ottawa shops, venues and restaurants. We love its proportion of locally owned shops and the character of the buildings. It’s not uncommon to look above a shop and see a historic façade like that of Barrymore’s theatre. It’s an area you can explore for years and still discover something new.
One of the best ways to get to know an area is to try to find its hidden gems. In our years running Bytown Bites, we’ve only scratched the surface of restaurants in the Centretown area. Consider this, the first episode of Hidden Gems of Ottawa, as a love letter to this area we’ve grown to appreciate – or a guide for those who are looking to explore. We hope it inspires you to explore places like Centretown, and many of Ottawa’s other neighbourhoods, to find some of your own favourites.
Before diving deep into the hidden gems in Centretown, we would be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to well known local foodie favourites like Wilf & Ada’s for brunch, Moo Shu for inventive scratchmade ice cream, Gongfu Bao for handcrafted bao, Flora Hall for craft beers (especially their IPAs), Union 613 for unique cocktails, Sansotei for some of the best ramen in town and Fauna, North & Navy and Whalesbone for trendy upscale eats.
Some of the more hidden gems include Gooney’s, which makes sandwiches on Venezuelan arepas for the weekday lunch crowd; Three Tarts for their famous milk tarts (only served on Saturdays, get there early); Greek Souvlaki Shack for their Beef Souvlaki and calamari; and Bread & Sons for their thin crust pizzas, espresso (made using 49th Parallel beans) and perfect chocolate chip cookies. There’s Tamis Café for Filipino brunch, and Thana Market, which sells Sri Lankan snacks like vadai, roti and rolls.
Centretown is home to one of our favourite local food markets, Herb & Spice, and it’s a place that sells a variety of vegetarian and vegan treats. Centretown also has a bevy of options for vegetarians and vegans. Shawarma spots like Shawarma King and Shawarma Palace offer veggie platters with tasty falafel. Gongfu Bao and Wolf Down both offer vegan meal options, featuring tasty takes on tofu and meat substitutes like TVP.
What can you do that’s not eating or shopping? Wallack’s is one of the biggest art supply stores in the area and also offers classes and workshops. Venus Envy is a sex shop that also offers a variety of sexual education workshops. Babylon hosts a variety of concerts (try to catch Souljazz Orchestra if you can). Hot sauces at Meow That’s Hot, shopping for vinyl at Compact Music, Beaded Dreams for indigenous arts and crafts, the Comic Book Shoppe, and GPC Labworks which was Reddit’s answer to the best place to professionally print photos in town. On top of all that, there’s the history to uncover! Centretown has been at, well, the centre of many major historical events for our local queer community.
Bank Street is at the heart of the nation’s capital and in many ways, is a reflection of the multiple ways in which the city – and the country – has evolved over the past several years. In this video, we take a deep dive and meet with some of the creatives, doers, and entrepreneurs who have contributed to some of those changes.
Stay tuned for more episodes on 613TV. Subscribe to 613TV on Youtube for the latest updates.