The capital city of Canada is often dismissed as a government town without much of a nightlife or restaurant scene—but the tides have certainly turned on Ottawa’s drinking and dining over the last decade or so. These days, the city is very much on par with larger Canadian food scenes and plays home to some of the most exciting culinary hot spots in the country—including natural and organic wine bars, modern plant-based eateries, and expertly executed international cuisines.
Whether you’re looking for fine dining, vegetarian-friendly, budget-friendly bites, or you’re simply hoping to taste some really great poutine in Canada’s capital, here are fifteen of the absolute best restaurants you’ll find in Ottawa and the surrounding area.
Beckta Dining & Wine
Cozy meets sophisticated at Beckta Dining & Wine. This upscale eatery is housed in the historic Grant House right in the heart of downtown Ottawa and looks and feels just like dining in a stately family home—from the wall art to the cozy nooks and crannies that are spread across two floors of the regal home. The modern Canadian menu consists of a variety of farm-to-table fare, ranging from local cheese boards and tartares, to seasonal vegetarian-friendly dishes and a great wine list that places emphasis on natural and organic Ontario wines.
Dim sum is done right at Yangtze Restaurant in Ottawa’s quaint Chinatown neighborhood. The upscale dining room is usually packed to the gills on weekends, with food carts constantly circulating classic dim sum dishes, including a handful of great vegetarian options (like Hong Kong pineapple buns). Be sure to arrive early, as the restaurant fills up quickly and remains busy for most of the day.
Soif Bar à vin
While Soif Bar à vin is technically across provincial lines in Gatineau, it’s well worth the 9-minute drive to the cozy natural wine bar. The dimly lit space strikes the perfect balance between cozy and cool; serving up local and seasonal sharing plates, including charcuterie, Quebec cheese boards, and a variety of dips, tarts, and other dishes to complement the main focus: natural, local, and organic wines.
Located just a stone’s throw from downtown, this intimate Italian-style bistro serves up classic Italian fare with a modern Canadian spin. The elegant eatery is best-known for its housemade pasta and old-world wine list. While the compact restaurant usually fills up on most weeknights, the ambiance is always cozy and welcoming—although we do recommend making a reservation if you’re hoping to get a table during peak hours.
While at first glance Fauna may appear to be an oh-so-serious dining experience, the premise behind the restaurant is simple: to have fun. The menus consist mainly of local ingredients prepared in playful and unique ways that are conducive to sharing and savoring as a group. Note that private rooms are also available upon request for groups of 8 to 12 guests—which can be a lovely option for gatherings or celebrations.
Looking for a high-end eatery with Canadian fare at the forefront? Look no further than Erling’s Variety in the Glebe neighborhood. Depending on the season, this family-run restaurant serves up everything from venison and scallops to blueberries and root vegetables. However, regardless of the season, this modern Canadian restaurant always has a variety of vegetarian-friendly menu options and an impressive cocktail list as well.
Play Food & Wine
Conceptualized by the same team behind Beckta Dining & Wine, Play was made to be warm, homey, and a whole lot of fun. The small-plates restaurant places emphasis on local, sustainable, and seasonal products without a hint of pretension or stuffiness. The open concept kitchen and bar feed into the playful environment by allowing guests to take a peek at the play that goes on as chefs and mixologists craft the artful sharing dishes and cocktails that the restaurant is known for.
Vegetarian fare may have a reputation as being bland but Alice takes that preconception and turns it on its head. The upscale plant-based and gluten-free restaurant in Little Italy is well-loved for its high-end tasting menu by award-winning Chef Briana Kim. While the menu changes based on market availability, it’s consistently driven by creativity and a passion for presentation and decadence.
While Ottawa may not necessarily be a destination for seafood due to its distance from any oceans or large bodies of water, Whalesbone is well-worth the visit for its impossibly fresh and sustainable seafood. Let your waiter guide you through the seasonal menu—but be sure to start with a plate of fresh oysters and a glass or two of sparkling wine.
Located just a few blocks away from the downtown core, Ceylonta Restaurant is one of the best spots in the city for traditional Indian and Sri Lankan dishes—including both vegetarian and meat-focused items. The laid-back restaurant serves as a buffet-style space at lunchtime but for dinner, it shifts to thalis deals and family-style sharing dishes.
This cozy izakaya is home to some of the best ramen and sushi in Ottawa but the Japanese bar and restaurant also boasts a handful of appetizers and various bar snacks (like gyoza, tempura, and karaage) that were made to pair with the rotating Japanese beer and whiskey menu. Trust us when we say it’s very easy to waste a good couple of hours knocking back high balls and karaage in the cozy, dimly-lit space.
Looking for a playful restaurant to refuel after a day of exploring the city? Look no further than Zak's Diner. This '50s-style diner is steps from the ByWard Market and feels like stepping back in time. Here, you’ll find everything from classic malt milkshakes and burgers to poutine and all-day breakfast. But the best part? The retro dining room is open 24 hours a day so you can quench that milkshake—or drunk poutine—craving whenever it may strike.
Supply and Demand
Sophisticated leather seating and a clean marble bar take the main stage at this gorgeous dining room in Wellington Village. Supply and Demand is a 15-minute drive from downtown Ottawa and is worth the drive if you’re into hearty pasta and market-fresh seafood and meats. The upscale steakhouse and raw bar toes the line between innovation and comfort food, making it an equally great spot for group dinners or date nights.
Di Rienzo's Grocery
Di Rienzo's is self-described as “the best sandwiches in Ottawa” and for good reason. The classic Italian-style submarine sandwiches are packed with your choice of lunch meat, cheese, tomato, and lettuce. It’s really that simple. While the well-loved grocery store sandwich counter may not look like much at first glance, the sandwiches really do speak for themselves.
Tucked into the New Edinburgh neighborhood, Fraser Cafe is about a 25-minute walk or 5-minute drive east of the city center. The cozy, communal-style dining space was made for splurging on locally-driven sharing plates and cocktails, all of which are made from local and seasonal ingredients and are created with budget-friendly diners in mind; owners Ross and Simon Fraser aim to make “fancy” dining as accessible as possible through their casual but delicious menu.