Alison Larabie Chase is a freelance writer and editor, an avid cook and baker, a shower singer, a cat wrangler, a world traveller, and an Ottawa native.
Let’s face it: sometimes work makes you want to drink.
Whether it’s celebratory or not depends on the day (and where you work) but when quitting time rolls around, it’s good to know a few places where you can get a reasonably-priced beverage (or two) and a tasty bite to go along with it.
Happy hour (or 5 à 7, for our francophone friends) is the perfect way to unclench those shoulder muscles and firmly draw a line between the work day and the rest of your day. I’ve rounded up five places around town where I’ve enjoyed a post-work sip and snack recently. Where’s your favourite happy hour?
If you work in downtown Ottawa:
The hours: 4:30-6:30pm
The deals: Featured pint $6, featured wines $7, featured cocktail $6.50; $2 off tacos
Sidedoor is well-known for its tacos, and so it’s no surprise they’re the deal to grab during happy hour. Normally two for $9.50, the price drops by $2 for two hours in the late afternoon, and they make the perfect snack to accompany your libation. Choose from pulled pork, crispy fish, chicken, beef, lentil fritter, or the chef’s daily creation. Each is topped with delicious things like avocado, cilantro, peach preserves, zingy mayo, or pickled vegetables. Come with a bunch of friends and try them all! The atmosphere is classy but not too fancy; jeans are fine and the game is on the big TV over the bar. It’s a big restaurant and the happy hour menu is available throughout the space, not just in the bar area.
The hours: 4:30-7pm
The deals: $5 glass of red or white featured wine; $5 feature pints (choice of two); $5 select well spirits; half price on all bar menu items except oysters $2 each
It’s always fun to get a deal at a slightly more spendy restaurant, and E18hteen somehow manages to be both fancy and friendly, for which I credit the great staff. Their granite-topped bar would be a superb place to chill for happy hour in the dead of an Ottawa winter, with the cheery gas fireplace flickering away in the corner while you sit on one of the comfortable high-top chairs, snacking on treats like hand-cut beef or tuna tartare, house-made charcuterie, russet fries and $2 oysters. Note that these deals are available in the bar area only, so make sure you tell the host you’re there for happy hour.
The hours: “Hill Hour” from 4-7pm and 9:30pm to close
The deals: $1 chilled jumbo shrimp; $1.50 oysters; bar snacks (olives, maple bacon peanuts, and kettle chips) at $4 or $5; some larger plates that make for a great light supper – nothing above $20
Oddly, there are no drink specials here; your thirsty writer and her date would have welcomed a featured cocktail or pint, but settled for a classic Moscow Mule (well-made, at least, for $10) and a pint of Ashton vanilla stout for $7.50. The petite steak frites, at $20, is a fantastic dinner option before a show at the NAC.
The Metropolitain’s proximity to Parliament Hill makes it an ideal spot for Hill staffers to stop in for a drink after work, assuming they ever get out of the office before 7pm. It’s also an easy walk from the east end of the business district, especially on a warm evening. The dark wood interior lined with mirrors and red leather banquettes makes it cozy on rainy fall nights too. Bartenders are friendly and the drinks list leans heavily towards classic cocktails.
If you work in Gatineau:
The hours: There’s no official happy hour here, but the snack-heavy menu and ever-changing wine list make it a fun and elegant place to stop in for a sip and a nibble after a long day of work at one of the nearby government office complexes.
The deals: Try the fried beets with sauce gribiche for $9 (trust us – they’re addictive, sort of like fried zucchini with tartar sauce but more creative), a skewer of duck hearts for $7, a charcuterie or cheese plate for $17, or any of the other tasty small bites (which include toasts, dips, salads, and more) on the menu. Pair them with 2 oz. tastes of private-import wines starting from $5, and when you find one you like, order a larger glass and linger. The room is super cool, lined with cork on the floor and walls, and the wait staff know their wines inside and out. There’s beer, cider, and cocktails too, for variety.
If you work in West Centretown/Little Italy:
The hours: “Easy Time” from 4-7pm Tuesday-Thursday and 4-6pm Friday and Saturday; closed Mondays
The deals: Oysters 6 for $13; snack menu with items ranging from $5-10; $6 glass of red, white, or sparkling wine; $5 special draft beer; $5 mixed drinks and rail shots; $7 gin or vodka martinis; $6 Caesar; $8 Hurricane
Big Easy’s has a large and welcoming bar area that’s a great meeting place for folks working in West Centretown, especially at the new Ontario government offices on Preston or in the Booth Street Complex. Their Easy Times menu features a bunch of tasty seafood items like calamari, fried clams, and mussels, as well as a Caesar salad and a couple of soups for those who want to make dinner out of it. Fries and poutine are also on offer. Drink specials cover the whole spectrum of wine, beer, and cocktails, and the guys behind the bar really know their oysters, if that’s your thing.
Where’s your favourite spot to unwind after a long day? Comment below to let us know: