There's nothing better than cold drinks, great food and a chic patio in the summertime. Across the city, there are loads of al fresco options, whether you're looking for burgers and beer or something a bit more upscale. Ottawa at Home offers three picks for patios that are particularly pleasing for a memorable outdoor meal.
The National Arts Centre's le café has a gorgeous patio in one of Ottawa's most enviable locations. Nestled on the banks of the Rideau Canal, just a stone's throw from the Ottawa Convention Centre, Parliament Hill and the ByWard Market, the 100-seat terrace offers a relaxed setting with high-calibre meals.
Le café is proud of its efforts to promote Canadian food and wines via its innovative kitchen. Specializing in contemporary Canadian cuisine and international dishes, the menu is adjusted seasonally but always includes a wide range of local and regional products, explains Executive Chef John Morris. "Because of the scope of our operation, we are also well positioned to accommodate a wide variety of dietary needs," he adds.
Delicious desserts and tasty, nutritious salads have starring roles at le café in the summer. This year, Chef Morris has crafted a collection of new patio offerings featured on a special "8 for 8" menu consisting of eight fun tapas-style plates priced at eight dollars each. Choices include: tempura prawn po' boys; lettuce wraps with barbequed duck or tofu; crab cakes; herb-breaded boconcini and sauce; "fish Ďn chip" pogos; pulled-pork tacos; and a grilled cheese "lambwich."
Le café's terrace is well designed to suit Ottawa's temperamental spring and summer climate, with a canvas roof to deflect rain and stowable transparent walls offering a windbreak when needed.
Stella has earned its reputation as a year-round Ottawa hot spot thanks to a great atmosphere complemented by inspired food and attentive staff. Their street side patio and elegant third floor terrace serve to double the restaurant's size during the summer season.
The upper terrace at Stella is one of the ByWard Market's hidden gems, perched above the bustling Clarence Street. Comfortable couches, high-top tables, a granite bar and funky lighting illuminating the exposed brick wall, all add to the patio's ambiance. The chic, welcoming décor is at first reminiscent of Miami, but when the lights go down it takes on more of a New York City nightclub vibe. On Friday and Saturday nights, there's even live music in the restaurant as well as a DJ on the terrace.
"Not only does our terrace offer great views, it is also a perfect place to catch a welcome breeze during the heat of the summer," explains Ida Firestone, the restaurant's co-owner. "We have seating for 50 people up here, but we can reconfigure the space to accommodate up to 75 for a private event."
Patio pleasers from the extensive Italian-themed menu include crispy zucchini ribbons which are great for sharing, as are the pizzas, antipasto platter and flatbread dip. While the kitchen consistently earns high praise, the bar keeps pace with a great selection of wines - including many by the glass - along with lots of local and imported beer as well as a legendary cocktail list.
MURRAY STREET KITCHEN WINE CHARCUTERIE
The hidden, leafy patio at Murray Street is best described as an urban oasis. This popular and inventive restaurant features a vine-covered arbour, where the multi-level space accommodates up to 50 guests. Potted plants, strings of white lights, barnwood accents, stone flooring and opaque privacy screens create a tranquil patio aura.
The Murray Street menu is very seasonally influenced and changes often. Chef and co-owner Steve Mitton is a passionate locavore who espouses a snout-to-tail cooking philosophy that makes for some creative - and spectacularly delicious - plates. Many dishes are composed of ingredients that have just been picked, including salads that are packed with flavour. And the menu consists of a nice range of playful and family-friendly options. Not to be missed is their house-made charcuterie - including such treats as smoked duck breast, kielbasa, wild boar rilettes and terrines - served up with chutneys and cheeses.
A very progressive cocktail list makes Murray Street a popular destination for appetizers and drinks. "I like to say that everyone should start their visit here with a cocktail," says co-owner Paddy Whelan. "It's like an appetizer for the palate." He notes that a perfect bookend is one of their famous desserts - such as a unique take on the famed "Jos Louis and a Pepsi" combo. The kitchen serves up their full menu until 10 pm and charcuterie is available until midnight, making Murray Street's patio a great late night option.