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The Aviator mural. Photo: Joanne Clifford/Flickr.

Urban Retail Walks: Bank Street

By Bruce Burwell on January 28, 2022

“Hey, want to go for a walk?”

“Sure! How about Bank Street this week?”

In this series of Urban Retail Walks articles, I’ve been highlighting great winter walks where the sidewalks will be clear and the scenery will be engaging. As I write this, we’ve just had a major snow dump (48cm, to be exact) and the only way I can go walking is by following the car tracks down the centre of my street. In a day or two, the sidewalks might be properly cleared. Maybe.

This week, I’ll tramp the sidewalks of the Glebe and Old Ottawa South as I walk down Bank Street from the Queensway to the Rideau River, with a little add-on at the end to view some nice Glebe homes.

A few years ago, I did a great Jane’s Walk around the downtown area where they explained the origin of the names of the major downtown streets. I learned that Bank Street didn’t get its name from the Bank of Canada near Bank and Wellington. It’s called Bank since at one point it ended at the bank of the Rideau River. That’s where our walk ends, too, since after that it gets a little less interesting.

Our walk starts just south of the Queensway, near the Clocktower Brew Pub at Pretoria. If you drive here, you can find free parking on the residential streets on either side of Bank. Heading south, the retail isn’t too intense in this area. You’ll pass the Ottawa Chinese United Church, some residential buildings and a nice park. When you get to Clemow, the commercial aspects intensify and it continues as dense retail to Lansdowne Park.

Although there are the usual neighbourhood stores here – pharmacies, supermarkets, etc. – the retail here has a higher-end feel than what you will see once you are past Lansdowne. One place I have stopped for a snack in this area is Café Morala at 734 Bank. I haven’t tried everything they sell, but I give a very enthusiastic thumbs-up to their empanadas. If you feel like something Middle Eastern, you could stop in at La Brioche Pastry a few blocks down at 866 Bank. The last time I walked past there, I saw a guy sitting outside on a steel bench in the -15°C degree weather eating baklava, so it must be good.

The Glebe. Photo: Brandon Bartoszek/Flickr.

You’re now almost at Lansdowne Park. If you want to add a few more steps to your walk, you could do a loop in there, or perhaps step into the Whole Foods to warm up. Lansdowne marks the end of the fancier bit of retail on Bank. As you cross over the canal (don’t forget to look at the skaters down below you!) it has a more residential feel – a library, a church, and a car repair shop.

Bank St Bridge Winterlude. Photo: Andrew Moor/Flickr.

You are now in the Old Ottawa South section of Bank Street. Near Sunnyside, you’ll see Ottawa’s oldest operating theatre, The Mayfair. I used to take advantage of their awesome $5.50 deal for double bills of second-run movies.

Mayfair Theatre (35mm film). Photo: Richard Pilon/Flickr.

South of Sunnyside, there is a slight downhill towards the Rideau River. I noticed that there are a couple of nice-looking bike shops here and a new “artisan” pizza machine near Belmont Avenue. I wonder how they get the artisan into that little machine? And for reasons I’ve never quite understood, there are three antique stores in this short stretch of Bank. The one you might have noticed before (if you’re not big into antiquing) is Yardley’s. It’s the one with the large horse statues outside, just next to the church with the mural facing Bank.

Across the street from Yardley’s is Cedars and Company Food Market. I stopped in there during my last walk in the area. It seems to be a super friendly little market with tons of fresh produce. They also have a shawarma counter! I wish I had a place like this across the street from me.

At the southern end of our Bank Street walk, you’ll see Chef’s Paradise just before the bridge over the Rideau. If you’re into cooking, you’ve been in here before. If not, then it’s worth going inside just to marvel at the wide variety of gadgets, utensils, and appliances they’re selling.

Here, we’ll turn around and head back north towards Queensway. Unless it’s a wickedly cold winter’s day and you want to stay on the sunny side of the street, cross over so you can window-shop on the other side.

Bank Street at Fifth Avenue. Photo: Will/Flickr.

When you get back to Clemow and Bank (just past the Popeye’s Chicken), head down Clemow toward Bronson. Of all the lovely streets in the Glebe, Clemow is my favourite. It’s wider than other Glebe streets and has some incredible homes. Head up to Bronson, loop around and head back towards Bank on Powell. On Bronson, you’ll likely notice the Asian restaurant Crazy Pho You. Is there a better restaurant name in Ottawa? I don’t think so.

In my next URW, I’m starting in the same spot but heading north on Bank. If you have any suggestions on routes or stops along the way, let me know.