The interior balances modern and quaint, and the food seems to fall more on the contemporary side. That’s not to say you should come here expecting molecular cooking, but even more traditional meals like pancakes or huevos rancheros (rancher’s eggs) find a way to surprise you.
A French restaurant in Little Italy, MeNa deserves praise for standing out on a street that made its name with brilliant food. Combining small plates with big ideas, MeNa serves fresh meals that are exquisitely cooked and elaborately displayed. The head chef is James Bratsberg, who’s given the menu a real ‘built from scratch’ feel. The scattered vegetable plates and small towers of beef manage to look modern and rustic at the same time.
People love El Camino because it’s fun and the menu completely redefines how most Canadians see Mexican food. From the restaurant interior or the take-out window, El Camino serves arguably the best tacos in the city, topped with everything from Japanese-style eggplant to tuna tartare.
Built into the freshly renovated and historic Grant House, Beckta has been dominating downtown fine-dining since it opened last fall. Named after Stephen Beckta, a leading name in local food and the brain behind Play Food & Wine in the market, Beckta fine dining holds a privileged spot between city hall and the glass-encased Shopify building.
Boasting one of the sweetest menus in the ByWard Market and a website that’s so beautiful it nearly crashed my computer, Cacao 70 is about as new and cool as a restaurant can get. Settled in beside the historic ByWard Market Building, Cacao 70 somehow manages to simultaneously be cute and suave.
Tucked into the long line of great places to eat on Dalhousie Street, Ahora makes you feel like you’ve found something secret. The inside is aggressively colourful, the walls and tiles are brightly painted and so vibrantly decorated it’s easy to feel like you’re standing in a jewelry box. Whoever did the interior designing must have been in a great mood that day, and the vibe is contagious.
Daringly decored, Mezzanotte Bistro Italiano is filled with plush seats and wavy walls that make you feel like you’re sitting in the world’s comfiest submarine. The food is Italian, and their pasta menu goes on and on. With braised beef-stuff agnolotti, pine nut tortellini and rapini-filled ravioli, Mazzanotte’s pasta comes in every shape, and with every filling, you could ask for.
One of Ottawa’s newest guilty pleasures, The King Eddy is the perfect spot to take care of your hamburger, fries and milkshake craving. Fresh as crest breath, this family owned restaurant opened in the Market last December and stays open seven days a week. Its menu stands on staples like the classic ‘King Eddy Burger,’ which consists of two fresh-ground patties, topped with Canadian Cheddar and your choice of toppings.
Khao Thai has a ton of vegetarian options, and you can ask to have a lot of the meat dishes changed to veggies only. If you do plan on visiting, skip the pad thai, which is pretty great, but not quite as wonderful as the Thai curry dishes. The yellow curry Gaeng Karee Gai with potatoes in coconut milk is particularly delicious.
The city’s oldest neighbourhood, the ByWard Market is where canal workers settled down after a long day for a meal and a pint. Fortunately for us, that tradition is still going strong. Since great food in Ottawa started here, we thought that it was only fair to start in the Market too.