Bytown was Ottawa’s name before it became the capital of Canada in 1857. Byward Market was home to many of the laborers who built the Rideau Canal as well as an open-air market since the 1840s. The commercial barges used to travel right through the market using the Bywash, an overflow stream from the canal. The Bywash is now Dalhousie, George and York streets – the heart of the Byward Market area!
But that’s enough about barges and washing – let’s get onto the food! Byward Market Restaurants are some of the best that Ottawa Canada has on offer! This pulsing area is still home to produce markets, bars, street art, hotels and so much more!
The market area is a grid, like most of downtown Ottawa. Let’s move through some of the key restaurant streets in the Byward Market Area. I managed to visit several Byward market restaurants during my trip. The rest of the Ottawa Byward Market restaurants on this list came recommended by locals I met and from where I explored!
See this as a curated list of options rather than an exhaustive one. If you do want a complete list of all Ottawa restaurants Byward Market click here to get through to the main Bwyard Market website restaurant list.
Sussex Street – Byward Market Ottawa Restaurants
The focus at Social Restaurant is progressive Canadian cuisine and it is known as one of the best restaurants in Ottawa Byward Market. Social kicks off the day with brunch then fit in some lunch and a cocktail hour before dinner. The dinner menu has a nice range of starters and then some socials which are easy to share. These include oysters, charcuterie, cheeses, and seafood.
The main meal choices at Social are a classic mix of red meat, fish, burger and pasta – easily something to make everyone happy. It has both indoor and outdoor seating and is known for having a great atmosphere. This is probably the best of the Byward Market restaurants patio options.
Moscow Tea Room
Moscow Tea Room is one of the city of Ottawa’s top bars/restaurants. It started life as a nightclub five years ago but is now the Ottawa version of the famous New York Russian Tea Room. It is housed in a heritage building and the interiors are deep, rich and opulent!
The Moscow Tea Room, of course, serves tea in the afternoon. But it is known as an Ottawa hot spot all day long. I loved the menu. It is more towards the snack end than a fine restaurant end but due to the fantastic atmosphere, it is easy to spend an entire evening here.
The dinner menu starts with Russian Borscht of course! This is the classic Russian beetroot soup. Next up are some salads and then pierogis which are delicious Russian dumplings. The sharing plates cover oysters, cheeses and charcuterie options. Then a range of flat breads followed by a small number of classic mains – including of course Beef Stroganoff!
This is a place where locals come for a fun night out or a special drink. I would highly recommend adding it to your Ottawa restaurants itinerary!
York Street – Restaurants Byward Market
Play Food and Wine
Play Food and Wine Restaurant Ottawa was created by Stephen Beckta and chef Michael Moffatt who previously ran a very successful restaurant and bar called Beckta. The focus at Play Byward Market is on a changing menu of small plates and a great range of wines by the glass. The menu is divided into Charcuterie, Savour (where the majority of the small plates are), snacks, cheese, chocolate and sweet.
I really enjoyed the wine list at Play. I started my meal with a glass of Cave Spring Blanc de Beckta – sparkling wine from around Niagra Falls which was recommended by my waiter – and excellent! I then moved onto some white wine from Oregon in the US – a fantastic state for great white wines.
The menu at this restaurant in Byward Market changes with the season but some items have earnt their place on an ongoing basis. I asked the waiter to bring me the items for which Play are best known. I started with a snack of tempura Cauliflower with hot sauce. It was good but I have had better when it comes to this type of dish.
Next up was the tuna crudo which is served with cucumber, honeydew, tomatillo, and basil. This was absolutely delicious and wonderfully light after the tempura cauliflower.
However, the highlight was the Ricotta gnocchi. This was amazing! So light and fluffy. It was served with delicious sweet pea pesto, asparagus, and basil. Absolutely delicious!
Click Here to Make a Booking at Play Food and Wine – which I would recommend doing as it gets busy!
Restaurant 18 is a modern take on a steakhouse. It is a fine dining restaurant with white plates and a french-inspired menu – this is an Ottawa restaurant for a night out. The starters include a range of raw options – focussed around seafood – and a range of salads.
Mains at this Ottawa restaurant are broken into seafood and steak and chops – with almost all of the red meat coming from Canada – and of course a range of side options.
Restaurant e18hteen has been around for 18 years so this is a safe choice for a tasty night out if you are after a fine dining experience.
Sidedoor opened in Byward Market just over 8 years ago. It is known for its tacos and Asian dishes – but it isn’t a Mexican restaurant nor an Asian restaurant. It is much more a fusion restaurant. I visited Sidedoor Restaurant Ottawa for lunch. The room has a nice open ambiance and it is possible to sit in a glassed-in conservatory or under full cover.
I enjoyed some dumplings and a crispy fish taco. The fish taco was good but not amazing. I preferred the pork and chicken dumplings. I saw quite a bit of coverage stating that their Japanese ramen soup is fantastic but I visited on a very warm day so soup wasn’t an option. They are also known for donuts but alas I was too full.
Sidedoor also offers a dim sum brunch.
The Actual Byward Market
The actual Byward Market is an undercover structure on Byward street. Many of the restaurants in this area are more casual and about getting a quick bite to eat rather than spending an evening.
I had a delicious pork taco with some fantastic salsa and guacamole at Corazon de Maiz. The queue was seriously long and the smell oh so good. This is a great place for lunch or a snack – and it is number 15 on Tripadvisor Ottawa restaurants which is a pretty impressive achievement!
Don’t come to Ottawa and not try at least one Beaver Tail. These are genuinely loved by locals and it is easy to see why! I would describe a Beaver Tail as what would happen if a donut met a rolling pin. It has a classic donut exterior and a fluffy inside.
There are many options available when it comes to choosing your Beaver Tail. The classic option is cinnamon and sugar – I had a Killaloe Sunrise which adds a touch of lemon as my beaver tail and gosh it was rather delicious.
There is a lengthy list of Beaver Tail options – add cookies and vanilla icing for a Coco Vanil or cream cheese and strawberry jam for a Strawberry Cheesecake or try a Bananarama which has chocolate hazelnut spread and bananas. Helpfully Beaver Tails supplies the calories for all of its different combinations!
So what are the best restaurants Byward Market has on offer? For me, that depends on what you’re after. For a snack, the best restaurants in Byward Market for me would be Corazon de Maiz and Beaver Tail. For a full meal then the best Byward Market Restaurants would be Play Food and Wine and the Moscow Tea Room.
Dalhousie Street – Restaurants Ottawa Byward Market
Good wine and a view – one of my favourite combinations! The Coppers Spirits and Sights bar is on the 16th floor of the Andaz Hotel in the Byward Market area. The bar is both indoor and outdoor and has the title of Ottawa’s tallest rooftop bar. This makes for some fantastic views and photos! There is food here but the focus is on drinks and the wonderful view.
Pili Pili only uses hardwood charcoal to bring a unique flavor to its very well known and appreciated grilled chicken. More for casual dining than a night out.
Ahora Mexican is a casual restaurant featuring fresh ingredients in their Mexican food and a salsa bar! Plus lots of margaritas!
There are quite a few more gourmet hamburger joints in the Byward market area. Burgers n Fries Forever “smash” their handcrafted burgers to perfection. And double fry their fries for a crispier fluffier chip! Das Lokal kitchen and bar offers European food with a German bent.
Benny’s Bistro is at 119 Murray Street. It’s 30 seats can be found at the back of The French Baker. This is Canadian-french fusion cuisine with daily specials which comes highly recommended. It does breakfast and lunch on weekdays and brunch on the weekend eg it isn’t open for dinner.
The SmoQue Shack features Ontario craft beers and amazing pulled port, brisket, ribs and wings and is at 89 Clarence Street.
If you love markets and Canada check out my post on Halifax Farmers Market.
Beyond the Byward Market for Ottawa Restaurants
I had some other great meals in Ottawa outside the Byward Market area.
Reputed to be the most beautiful patio in Ottawa, La Terrasse has fabulous views of the Parliament Buildings and the Rideau Canal. It is also a symphony of colours and part of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel.
The restaurant itself is gorgeous. It was overflowing with red flowers when I visited. But it is best known as being a fantastic and photogenic spot to watch the Ottawa sunset so you can combine a major Ottawa tourism attraction with your dinner. The food is also pretty good here! I had a delicious lobster roll.
I had a fantastic meal at Le Baccara restaurant at Casino Lac-Leamy which has earned the CAA – AAA’s five-diamond rating for years and years! Le Baccara has a fantastic open kitchen so you will see the experts in the kitchen during preparation.
It is rather shocking how reasonably priced this extremely awarded restaurant is! A 5-course tasting menu is only Canadian 105 dollars – very cheap for such a prestigious restaurant. My five courses at Le Baccara included scallops ceviche, foie gras croquette style (a highlight!), beef, a small chocolate souffle and granite with coconut and passion fruit. And some fantastic chocolates which required a doggy bag.
When it comes to downtown restaurants Ottawa, I had a fantastic meal at Riviera on Sparks Street on my last night in Ottawa. I was dining solo so had a seat at the bar/open kitchen which I really enjoyed. The focus at Riviera Ottawa is on seafood. The menu is split into raw, starters, pasta and mains – most with a seafood twist.
I started with some amazing raw oysters and then followed with the lobster spaghetti. As you can see it was a generous serve of a tender lobster tail on perfectly cooked pasta. Delicious!
Brasserie du Temps was the first microbrewery in Ottawa and opened nearly 10 years ago. And it is located on brewery lake! Brasserie du Temps has a huge patio – it is a great outdoor space. I enjoyed a delicious lobster salad. The brewery has a beer museum and is very popular with local government workers.
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Where the Ottawa Foodies Go
Isn’t it always the way that once you have been somewhere for a few days you meet someone how gives you all the restaurants the locals love but you have run out of time to visit them? This is what happened to me when I quizzed my guide from the brilliant C’est Bon food tours (which you should definitely do) on where she eats. So here’s what she told me – hopefully you will be able to get to some of them. Email me if you do and tell me what they’re like!
For more information about C’est Bon Food Tours plus some other fantastic tours read my post on 3 Brilliant Ottawa Tours.
Fraser Cafe in Springfield is known for easy-going but amazing tasting flavor fusions. The Rowan gets rave reviews and its menu is inspired by Scotland. Eldon’s is about simple amazing ingredients and a short menu.
I loved the sound of Meat Press which is one of the downtown Ottawa restaurants off Wellington street. Meat Press age their own meat and own a charcuterie. They are only open on Friday nights for dinner. There is something about a restaurant only being open one night that makes me think it must be high quality – or is this just a marketing thing?
In Hintonburg, go to Art Is In Bakery for almond croissants in the morning and amazing bread and pizza in the evening. And wash it down with a craft beer from the Beyond the Pale microbrewery and finish off with a Susie Q donut!
IF YOU LIKE OTTAWA YOU MAY LOVE NEW BRUNSWICK! CHECK OUT MY POSTS ON:
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How to get to Ottawa & Get Around
Ottawa has an international airport. If you are flying to Ottawa from the UK only Air Canada flies direct. However, there are many airlines, including Westjet with whom I flew, that have one connection. If you are coming from within Canada or the US there are loads of flights.
Downtown Ottawa is very walkable. Parliament Hill, Byward Market, and the Rideau Canal are all within walking distance of each other. If you want to explore a little farther bike hire is very easy – and this is a very bike-friendly town.
To get to some of the places in this post like Omega Park and Montebello a car will be easiest. I found Ottawa and the surrounding area very easy to navigate and of course Canadian drivers are just lovely!
Who Paid for What with this Post
The lovely team at the Ottawa & Outaouais tourism boards covered all of my costs eg hotels, car hire and most meals whilst I was in the area and they covered my flight from Ottawa to New York. I paid for my inbound flight to Ottawa and a few meals and wine – but not really that much if I’m honest.
This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click through on them and make a purchase I may well receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure that you knew.
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