Canada’s capital may not be known for its dining scene, but that doesn’t mean that a food-lover can’t enjoy spending time in Ottawa. During my brief stay in Ottawa, I ate a lot of food — and a lot of food that’s iconic to this Canadian city.
“Iconic” doesn’t necessarily mean fancy or expensive, however. In fact, the 3 things I’m going to call “must-eats” in Ottawa are more snacks than anything. But I’m no food snob. These are the sorts of random things I seek out when I travel!
3 Thing You Must Eat in Ottawa
Here are 3 things I think you shouldn’t miss while in Ottawa:
3. An “Obama Cookie”
In the Byward Market building is a French bakery/cafe called Le Moulin de Provence. Not only does this bakery do stellar pastries, but they also sell “Obama Cookies.” No, these cookies are not shaped like the American president’s head — in fact, they’re not USA-themed at all!
In February 2009, mere weeks after taking up the role of America’s Commander in Chief, Obama visited Ottawa on his first trip out of the U.S. as president. He was only in the city for one afternoon, but one of his stops was at Le Moulin de Provence to buy one of their shortbread cookies in the shape of a maple leaf. He declared “I love this country,” ate his cookie, and went on his way. But the bakery has never forgotten his visit, and have since dubbed their Canada cookies “Obama Cookies.”
And I can say from experience that they are delicious!
Poutine (AKA a heart attack on a plate) is actually a Quebec invention. But, with Quebec just across the river from Ottawa, eating poutine here should still be on your list — especially if you don’t plan to make it across the river.
This dish, in its traditional form, consists of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. It may not sound appetizing, but, when done right, it’s delicious. Some places add meat and other ingredients to their poutine to turn this side dish into a proper meal.
But if you want some no-frills poutine in Ottawa, Mello’s diner is supposed to have some of the best.
1. A BeaverTail
If you only eat one thing in Ottawa, make sure it’s a BeaverTail. No, this is not some weird wild game dish — BeaverTails are deep-fried pastries covered with sweet toppings. The original version (which does resemble the shape of a beaver’s tail) consists of the deep-fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar and lemon juice. I got a cinnamon sugar BeaverTail, but they will also top your snack with nutella, bananas, crumbled oreos, and more.
I can’t verify this, but I was told a BeaverTail tastes best when eaten on ice skates on the Rideau Canal. Each winter, the canal that runs through downtown Ottawa freezes over and turns into the world’s longest skating rink. BeaverTail stands are opened right on the ice, and you can skate up to buy your snack.
Some other places worth eating:
If you want a real meal instead of snacks and fast food, here are some other good places I discovered:
For coffee and a snack, Planet Coffee. I had some delicious soup here one afternoon. It’s also a great place to just sit and read a book while sipping a warm drink.
For a cheap lunch, La Bottega. This Italian grocery store has a deli in the back where you can get a large, fresh sandwich for just $5.
For a delicious gourmet dinner, Courtyard Restaurant. This place, located in a beautiful old stone building, will definitely dent your wallet — but the food is well worth it. I had a delicious venison dish here, followed up by a chocolate dessert that included raspberry-beet sorbet.
For tasty treats, Rocky Mountain Chocolates. Inside the Byward Market building is a chocolate shop that could be dangerous for those with a sweet-tooth. Not only do they sell yummy chocolates, but they also have treats like candied apples for purchase and immediate eating.
Do you have any other must-eat suggestions for Ottawa?
*Note: All of these suggestions are contained in the Byward Market neighborhood, simply because that’s where I stayed in Ottawa, and that’s the area I spent hours wandering around.
Also, my meal at Courtyard Restaurant was comped by Ottawa Tourism. As always, though, opinions are my own.