Dreading that upcoming work trip to Ottawa? Do you think that because you are on your own, you are stuck having to take drab, lonely meals in your hotel restaurant or, even worse, a sad, lukewarm burger in your room?
Think again because not only does Ottawa have some amazing restaurants, they have amazing restaurants that are very solo dining friendly!
Tips for solo dining:
Sit at the bar. First of all, it’s way more fun to watch the bartender work his magic than it is to sit facing an empty chair.
When trying to get into a hot spot, make a reservation for when it opens OR wait and go after 8pm. The restaurants in Ottawa tend to close earlier, mid-week, than other large cities so aim for 8:30pm at the latest.
Return a second time! Especially if you sit at the bar, the staff will remember you and you will get great service and will feel a bit like a regular, which is comforting when dining alone. If you go to Ottawa often, on business, this will establish a “home away from home” relationship.
Here’s a few of my top restaurants in Ottawa for solo dining:
You can’t go wrong with an established favourite, like Town, and now there’s Citizen, their newer, hipper, more casual sister restaurant. They share a kitchen but the menus are different enough that you should visit both! Citizen is opened later and has a more laid-back feeling and a small vegetarian menu on Mondays.
At Citizen, sit at the bar, have a fancy cocktail and enjoy the atmosphere – if you want to go to Town, make a reservation to be sure you can get yourself a seat. When I am on my own I prefer Town’s little outdoor patio but I think I prefer Citizen for an indoor meal, at the bar.
Datsun and El Camino
Datsun and El Camino are both owned by Chef Matthew Carmichael and Chef Jordan Holley but the menus are quite different. Datsun serves Asian Fusion bar food to a young, late night crowd while El Camino dishes up great tacos and tasty small plates that stray from the taco offerings.
Datsun stays open really late on Monday nights for “Industry Nights” with drink and food specials served after 9pm while El Camino has designated Tuesdays as Industry Night. It’s good to know there are a couple of options for late night food in a city that tends to roll up the sidewalks around 9:30pm.
Both places have fun decor, pinball machines, loud music and a lively atmosphere.
Word of warning, Hipster level is high and it’s a young crowd so leave your suit at the hotel and don’t expect a delightful wine list…instead grab a beer or a cocktail and enjoy some delicious, late night eats.
Riviera is the younger but more sophisticated sister of Datsun and El Camino, slinging delicious food to a sea of suit wearing Parliament Hill folks, located on the pedestrian Sparks Street. Where Datsun and El Camino have been described as bars with great food, Riviera is a proper restaurant. The beautiful, highly polished bar runs the length of the entire place so you are almost sure to get a good seat.
The music level is low, service is attentive and sophisticated folks will feel very comfortable here.
You aren’t going to get into celebrated dining spot Atelier at the last minute and, frankly, I am not going to enjoy a 12 course tasting menu on my own anyway. Instead, grab a reservation at Stofa, the new restaurant helmed by Chef Jason Sawision, the former chef de cuisine at Atelier. The menu is imaginative and eclectic but for a fraction of the price that you would pay at a more established “fine dining” establishment elsewhere. I had no trouble snagging two reservations for 8:30 mid-week at the last minute. This one is not walking distance from the downtown core, but it’s absolutely worth the 10-minute cab ride to the trendy Wellington St area.
A lovely, thoughtful farm to table menu, contained in an airy space with high ceilings, long, communal tables with a smattering of individual tables and plenty of bar searing, Fauna is a must. An Ottawa staple since it opened its doors in 2014, Fauna remains consistently excellent. Modern, creative dishes that are perfectly executed with friendly service with lots of delicious vegetarian options.