Perfect restaurant patios for al fresco fare in Ottawa

Maybe it’s because our summers are short that all Ottawa citizens flock to restaurant patios as soon as the snow melts, and stay till it falls again. Some eateries plop down a couple of tables just about anywhere outside, abutting busy roadways where they snarl sidewalk traffic. But we’ve found great al fresco dining – from gourmet fare to burgers ‘n’ beer – that eliminates both sunstroke and exhaust fumes.

The Metropolitain Brasserie

700 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 1K4

Just steps from Ottawa’s busiest intersection, this quiet oasis is surrounded by trees and planters of hibiscus, and shaded by large, red umbrellas. At night, when it’s open late, you’ll find twinkling lights. The comfortable faux-wicker sofas and red-chaired tables are the perfect place to savour a touch of Paris. The menu features rabbit, duck confit and steak frites washed down with any of 39 wines by the glass. It has Ottawa’s largest raw bar, especially popular during “Hill Hour” (weekdays 4 to 7 pm), when East Coast oysters are and moules et frites are on special.

Courtyard Restaurant

21 George St, Ottawa, ON K1N 8W5

The Courtyard is housed in an 1827 limestone building, which began life as a tavern but once billeted the garrison protecting Governor General Monck. It provides the perfect backdrop for this courtyard patio out back. Surrounded by mature trees, classic Ottawa lampposts and quaint archways, you can savour the farm-to-table cuisine of Cordon Bleu-trained chef Ian Reed. At lunch, perhaps you’ll opt for the club sandwich of pulled chicken on artisan panini. At dinner, try swoon-worthy pan-seared trout. Several restaurant patios abut the Courtyard’s, but this one, a member of Savour Ottawa, serves our favourite food.

Bit Burger

108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5M6

A cool and quiet spot on a hot summer’s day, it’s as if you’re in a friend’s backyard when you step onto the deck behind Bite. Shaded by a spreading maple tree and accented by hibiscus, the patio serves gourmet burgers that are made with fresh ingredients and served on brioche buns from Rideau Bakery. Go for the ground ribeye with blue cheese or the veggie burger made with smoked corn and chickpeas. For drinks, sommelier Robbie Nellis has curated a small wine list that recently included such saucy vinos as Horseshoes & Handgrenades syrah by Mouton Noir.

The Heart & Crown

67 Clarence St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5P5

Tourists choose the sprawling street-side patio of the Heart and Crown, a ByWard Market success story. Locals opt instead for the secluded courtyard behind Peter Devine’s, part of the Heart’s operation. The patio is among the prettiest in town: surrounded by ivy-covered walls and colourful flower baskets. Heaters bring comfort to chilly days. The menu is Irish pub grub. If you’re hungry, order the excellent fish and chips (one piece should fill most stomachs); the Shannon salad makes a good light meal. A tidy selection of brews includes Irish icons Guinness, Kilkenny and Smithwicks.

Mark Silverman

502-1081 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON K1Y 4G2

This recent, upscale, much-heralded arrival on Ottawa’s dining scene offers both small plates and large. The patio, wrapping around two sides of the government building in which Salt is housed, is upscale by local standards: large sectional couches are grouped around fire pits, which warm chilly nights and extend the season. The charcuterie plate features house-made terrine and mousse. A salad might combine local strawberries and peas. Roasted bone marrow and chili-glazed octopus are among the appies, steaks among the mains. The well-dressed crowd is there to be seen. The old fashioned, your bartender says, is Ottawa’s best.

La Favorita

356 Preston St, Ottawa, ON K1S 4M7

The entranceway to this Little Italy landmark is covered by grape vines entwining a latticed roof. Under it, seven tables, dressed in white linen tablecloths and black napkins, make for elegant al fresco dining. Owner-chef Nick Shallal introduced Ottawa to the difference a wood-burning pizza oven can make and his business grew. Calzones, pastas and a handful of Italian mains are available. But gourmet pizzas remain the focus. Two winners: a seafood combination of clams, scallops, shrimp and lobster, and the Venezian, topped with mangos, Brie, braised onions and cinnamon.

The Barley Mow

399 Richmond Rd, Ottawa, ON K2A 0E9

Want a nice place to relax and watch the city pass by? Head to the front of this large rooftop patio and sit under a bright yellow umbrella. Just want to chill? Try the comfy red couches in one corner and order a beer (Goose Island is popular) and some food — the chef’s own smoked salmon, say, or chicken curry. Check the patio flower planters, and you might spot some of the herbs the restaurant uses. This is a true neighbourhood pub, albeit one with upscale touches such as metalwork furniture made by a blacksmith from nearby Almonte.

Rosie's Souther Kitchen And Raw Bar

895 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K1S 3W4

One of Ottawa’s liveliest nighttime patios, Rosie’s is a lovely spot in daytime, too. A solid wood overhang shields about half the tables from the elements; so, too, the walls on two sides. Protected from a busy street by shrubs and tall planters of colourful posies, the patio has a heater for chilly days. Fare is prepared by a former Rideau Hall chef. Standouts — besides a whack of fresh oysters (18 to a platter) — include beautifully seared scallops, baby back ribs, a generous paella and blackened catfish.


742 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K1S 3V4

Clyde Ross and Ann McGarry have been local restauranteurs for decades, and Feleena’s continues their long history on Ottawa’s Mexican scene. The colourful patio, in shades of lime green and bright blue, is a busy spot in the trendy Glebe neighbourhood, especially on game nights at nearby Lansdowne Park. If the kitchen isn’t frazzled, the long-time servers can provide good advice and powerful (if sweet) margaritas. Try the tequila shrimp chile relleno or fish tacos. Lunch is quieter; portions are smaller, and so are the prices. Check out the funky chairs and light fixtures inside, and the art, too.

True enough, Ottawa ain’t the city that never sleeps, but that’s not because of a caffeine shortage, especially in Lowertown where coffee shops abound. If you can’t find something to give you a java jolt among these options, you really are sleepwalking.
Hotel bars aren’t a mere convenience for hotel guests. Some of Ottawa’s best are grandly sumptuous: perfect venues for a milestone occasion. Other bars are stylish and sleek, ideal for a dress-up date night. There are those where friends meet after work, and a couple that are perfect for the T-shirt-jeans-and-bottle-of-beer set. One thing our favourite hotel bars have in common, though, is decent drinks and nibbles.
Whether it’s the Spanish with tapas, the Greeks with meze, the Italians with cichèti or the Indians with thali, it’s clear Canadians aren’t the only ones with a big appetite for small plates. Sometimes you’re just not that hungry, or are indecisive, or want to share. At times like these, you’ll thank the food gods for these small-plate gems.
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