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Photo by Ross Dunn

Urban Retail Walks: Bank St. North

By Bruce Burwell on March 5, 2022

Hey, you’ve watched everything on Netflix. Wanna go for a walk?

Sure, why not. Looks like it’s quiet there now.

Recently, I’ve been recommending Urban Retail Walks (URW) to deal with your pandemic-panic cabin fever. Now that the downtown occupation is just a painful memory, it’s safe to return to walking in the core. A few weeks back, I recommended a Glebe and Bank St. south walk. This week, we’re going to head north on Bank from the Glebe, cross over Sparks to Elgin and then come back south.

When I was thinking about writing a series on URW in Ottawa, I came up with an awesome name for the series—Ottawalks. Then I Googled it. Turns out it’s already been very productively used by a YouTuber: check out Ottawawalks! He’s got a few videos in there that trace sections of the walk we’re doing. Hey, you could just sit on your couch and watch the videos! No, just kidding, please don’t do that.

For this URW, I parked on Clemow in the Glebe and walked north. It’s a bit easier to find free residential parking south of the Queensway.

The first place I walked by was Moo Shu Ice Cream near Flora.  They’ve reopened post-occupation but apparently aren’t selling ice cream again quite yet. Across the street from there is Pizza Nerds.  I’ve sampled their innovative pies a few times, and will definitely be going back again. 

 A little further up Bank at Gilmour is Gongfu Bao. A fried chicken bao would be a great choice on a cold night’s walk along here. Or maybe a döner from Wolf Down across the street.

Photo by Trevor Pritchard

As you get closer to Parliament Hill, the buildings get higher but the street is pretty quiet. If the civil servants don’t come back downtown, it’s probably going to stay that way. 

I walked along Sparks Street over to Elgin and then turned south. People used to talk about Sparks as some sort of failed urban experiment, but now it seems like a great idea. Let’s pedestrianize the whole downtown! More walking for everyone! Maybe I should run for mayor…

Photo: Trevor Pritchard/Flickr.

In the winter, Elgin/Sparks can be a very pretty area at night. There are the Christmas lights, the snow, and the Kipnes Lantern on the NAC. And hey, there’s an Ottawalks for that!

Photo: Trevor Pritchard/Flickr.

Pass by the NAC, Confederation Park, and City Hall as you head down Elgin. It’s not until you get to Lisgar that the streetscape reverts to retail. Lisgar is where the old Elgin Theatre used to stand. Back in the old days, we thought it was pretty cool since they had two theatres in the same place–the Elgin and the Little Elgin.  A couple of times, my friends and I used this to our advantage. We got dropped off by parents to see the PG movie and somehow ended up watching the restricted one. 

The section of Elgin down to Gladstone has a ton of nice restaurants and bars. They’ve suffered a lot, though. Elgin was closed for about a year for infrastructure improvements, then it opened up for traffic early in 2020. You know what happened next; certainly nothing good for the bar and restaurant industry. Let’s hope that they can stay open for a while now.

Photo: François/Flickr.

Snack stops along this stretch of Elgin could be Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake or Brown Loaf Bakery. Or you could do some browsing at Perfect Books to get out of the cold. Those are all close to Somerset.

After you pass Gladstone, the next stop on your walking tour will be the “castle”. Walk through the grounds and make sure to take a selfie with one of the mastodons. Then head back to Bank Street along down MacLeod. When you get back south of the Queensway, you’ll have done your 10K steps. 

This will be my last URW for a while. I didn’t get a chance to cover some other great walks — Hintonburg, the ByWard Market/Rideau, Aylmer. Maybe I’ll do a summer stroll series.

Got any ideas for future walks or stops along the way? Let me know and I’ll try them out.