3 Things You Must Eat in Ottawa

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!

2. Poutine

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.

BeaverTails, Ottawa

(Obviously not the skate-up version.)

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.


  • Oh yum! I’ve always wanted to try poutine… it’s three of my favorite ingredients bundled together! A beaver tail is also now on the list of eats to try when I’m in Ottawa. Thanks for sharing!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Poutine is very yummy! Also very filling. I had it for dinner one night, and didn’t even wanna think about dessert!

      And yes, BeaverTails are soooo good. Very much like a elephant ear you might get at a county fair.

  • John says:

    Now I’m salivating over Poutine…and there is none to be had in Colorado! Did you eat at Tim Hortons???

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Poutine is definitely worth salivating over!

      And nope, did not go to Tim Hortons. Because, believe it or not, we have them here in Ohio!

  • Alouise says:

    The story behind the Obama cookies is funny, I was really expecting a picture of a cooking that looked like Obama. Love beavertails. At home I can only ever get them when the fair is on, which isn’t frequent enough for me.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I know, when I first heard of the Obama cookies, I was curious, too! Which is why I went to check them out. They are actually delicious, though! Sometimes a simple shortbreak cookie can be SO good.

      And I’ve decided beaver tails in Canada are like elephant ears here in America — deep fried dough named after an animal’s body part that go hand-in-hand with fairs.

  • We tried all three of these when we were in Ottawa last year, and totally agree: MUST EAT!! We also ate at La Bottega, by the way, and loved our sandwiches.

  • Corey W. says:

    Agree with all those! But can I add in a few more “Canadian must-eats/drinks”?

    1. – Tim Horton’s Timbits! No visit to Canada is complete without a Timmie’s Run. The only time skipping work is allowed.

    2. – Cesar Cocktails. Clamato, Vodka, tabasco, worchestchire(SP??????) sauce, celery salt, and other spices. Sooooo good.

    I can attest to the yummy goodness of the Obama Cookies. And Poutine. And beaver tails(sometimes referred to as Elephant Ears in other places). Funny how none of these foods are “healthy”.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yes, these are definitely not health foods! Lol, but still so tasty.

      You’re the second to mention Tim Horton’s! I actually never realized this was a Canadian chain, because we actually have them scattered around Ohio, too!

  • Yum! Good recap of Canada’s popular dishes. Not very healthy, but hey, we spend lots of energy warming ourselves up, we can indulge a few calories, haha.

  • Anna says:

    I have a friend in Ottawa and I think that I will finally visit him there and of course I will take advantage and take a tour in the city and around. Perfect tips for perfect time!

  • Ryan Brown says:

    Nom Nom, I have been dying to try Poutine, but those beaver tails look scrumptious!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      They’re both delicious! Though I’m sure your arteries wouldn’t be very happy with you if you ate both in the same day… haha.

  • Melissa says:

    Oh my god! My beloved poutine! I miss it soooo much! I havent had proper CANADIAN poutine since September! I can’t believe other places in the world dont do cheese curds!

    Is it sad that I guessed correctly on poutine and beaver tails?

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I agree that more places around the world need to embrace the goodness that is poutine. Actually, it’s funny that it hasn’t caught on in America… it’s exactly the type of horrible-for-you food that Americans should love!

      And no, it’s not sad that you guessed those two! I feel like anyone who knows Ottawa would have put those on this list!

      • Melissa says:

        It is just the type of artery-clogging goodness that I imagine those stereotypical OBESE Americans would absolutely love. The world definitely needs to embrace poutine though.

        Sidenote about poutine: I had it TWICE in Hong Kong! Once at New York Fries at Victoria Peak and once from a random kebab shop that my friend knew… they had real cheese curds and everything!

        Oh god… I’m hungry now.

  • Red Hunt says:

    I think I’d just settle for three beaver tails…a well-deserved #1! You can’t go wrong with the classic cinnamon and sugar ones.

  • Beaver Tails are definetly best eaten on the canal and preferably with mittens on! The mittens smell delicious for the rest of the winter!

    Also in the market mall you’ll find Shafali Bazaar, one of my favourite places for an Indian snack! I fantasize about their veggie wrap sandwich….mmmm….. They also have a proper restaurant on Dalhousie that is amazing!

    Pizza is also a bit different in Ottawa–try K&S in the south end of the city or Colonnade Pizza closer to downtown.

    Great post and now I’m craving a taste of home!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      How I wish that the canal had been open for skating when I was there! You’re not the first to say that a BeaverTail is best eaten on the ice!

      And is the Indian place in the market the one with the sign that advertises “Curry in a Hurry”? Because that made me smile.

  • Maria D. says:

    I have had a beaver tail and it was the most amazing thing I have ever eaten

  • Anji says:

    There are so many calories in this blog post! Very tempting! The poutine is new to me, would love to try it out someday!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Haha, yes, lots of calories indeed! But Ottawa is very cold in the winter, so you’d quickly work them all off. 😉

  • Sabrina says:

    Yummy! I tried poutine on a quick trip to Vancouver last year and was so positively surprised. Fries and gravy and cheese soudned kind of gross, but then I really loved it!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I know! It certainly doesn’t sound like the most appetizing dish, but it’s actually delicious! I’m definitely a fan.

  • Susane says:

    Having a Poutine would be tempting, followed by Obama cookies, looool

  • Dana says:

    Yep, we love our poutine! It’s actually a Quebec specialty but since we’re right across the bridge from the french province, you see poutine everywhere in Ottawa… and even more now since it’s become such a popular ‘foodie’ dish. I remember the Obama cookie thing a couple years ago, that was fun that you were here for it. I actually haven’t had the poutine at Mello’s diner (just breakfast) but if you come back to Ottawa, I can suggest a few other great places for poutine (and other meals too). Beavertails are a must if you’re in Ottawa during the winter for sure. Great write up and glad you enjoyed your visit!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge