Ottawa is not exactly a party city. Though it has two universities, overall the residents tend to be laid-back, outdoorsy and family oriented.
Nevertheless, with a diverse, generally well-heeled and educated population, there is an excellent array of places to go when you're looking to kick back and have some fun.
Fun and irreverent, Atari is a party no matter when you go. The atmosphere is playful and adventurous as are the cocktails served. Drinks are truly "crafted" rather than merely "made." Many have ingredients like elderflower or essences of this and that.
A unique menu item is a "Build Your Own Tartare," in which you choose from fish or beef and then flavour and spice it according to your own preferences.
Whether genius marketing or a completely backwards notion, ladies eat free on Tuesdays.
Try to get a table on the rooftop patio.
Clock Tower Brew Pub
There are six Clocktower Brew Pubs scattered across Ottawa. Although serious foodies may scoff at eating or drinking at a chain restaurant, there is a reason the Clocktower has had rapid success and sprouted new eateries across the city. They do beer well, and make it in-house. The pub's food is creative yet comforting, and their staff is professional and polite. They've got a formula and it works, from the music they play to the chairs you sit in. It has a chain feel, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if done right.
The place is generally packed, especially the Byward Market location so make a reservation.
Pour Boy Pub
If you're more of a a hole-in-the-wall type of person, Pour Boy Pub is the place for you. There aren't too many places where you can find craft beer at $5 a pint. In addition to cheap drinks, delicious food here comes at a bargain, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
The Pour Boy Pub attracts lots of students as you can imagine, given the prices, but the atmosphere is less raucous and more cerebral, with poetry readings, open mike nights and Fresh Prince of Bel Air screenings (ok, so that's not exactly intellectual, but maybe the Ph. D candidates need a mental break).
Prices are kept student friendly in part because Pour Boy is a cash-only operation.
Chateau Lafayette is an Ottawa mainstay. Since 1849, this classic pub has been feeding and watering patrons from all walks of life.
You'll believe the age of the building when you have to duck to get into the washroom. People were a lot shorter in the 19th century.
Excellent draft beer and a lively, slightly eclectic, crowd are always in abundance. Known locally as "The Laff," this Ottawa institution is the kinda place where you find yourself in a sing-along with your new best friends at the table next to you.
There is a deep supply of board games available to customers and live music four nights a week.
Copper Spirits & Sights
We have given you some bargain drinking spots on this list, so time to really lighten the wallet with some high-class cocktails at Copper Spirits & Sights. This Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market hotel rooftop bar affords incredible views of the city. Choose seating outside around the fire pit or the sleek, modern comfort of inside.
The menu is brief and there are certainly no $5 pints, but come for the view and atmosphere and you will not be disappointed.
Trio Bistro & Lounge
Tourists do themselves a disservice if they limit their Ottawa experience to just downtown and the Byward Market. If you want to escape Ottawa's busy tourist zone and immerse in a more authentic neighbourhood, try Westboro, a mere 10-minute drive from Parliament Hill. This gentrified hipster urban village has a plethora of cute shops, galleries and restaurants, including the Trio Bistro & Lounge.
This is not a rowdy bar, like some in the Market, but cool and contrived, with all the trappings of a hipster hangout, including regionally sourced everything, imaginative cocktails, thoughtful playlist, and local art on the walls. You'll find items like elk sliders and celery root latkes on the menu.
Welcome change from traditional pubs and Westboro itself is a lovely place to meander.
The Manx Pub
There's plenty of wood detailing, burgundy leather, draught beer and a jovial atmosphere. The Manx Pub is your neighbourhood pub but with a bit of a twist in that it is second home to many artists, musicians and other local talents. Look around and you'll see their art on the wall or hear them play their music.
Since the early '90s, this unassuming but cosy basement pub has attracted an artsy clientele and served creative, more-than-just-your-basic pub food, like chick pea burgers and lamb curry wraps.
Sunday brunch is particularly busy so make a reservation, and check the website for a schedule of live music.
The Basque/Spanish influenced restuarant and bar has tons of small dishes layered with flavors, exquisite cocktails, and at least 15 to 20 wines available by the glass every day.
The Bar Laurel owner Jon fell in love with Spain when he travelled there, and it shows. A beautifully curated menu includes grilled octopus, carrot/harissa salad, sherry and vermouth based cocktails, secreto iberico and seasonal vegetables cooked on charcoal and ribeye and chickens cooked in the wood fire oven.
The Bar Laurel atmosphere is comfortable and chic. Make a reservation if possible.
Unwind the mysteries of Scotch at the Highlander Pub, where more than 200 single malt scotch whiskies are on the menu, not to mention 17 beers on tap to chase the strong stuff.
The pub serves typical Scottish fare, like fish and chips, shepherd's pie and even haggis, to moderate the effects of the scotch.