Prime timePublished on November 30, 2008

  • Where's the beef in Ottawa

When you're craving protein, sometimes only a big, juicy steak will do. There's something so elemental and satisfying about a perfectly grilled steak, glistening on your plate with your favourite side dishes. But whether you like it rare, medium or well-done, not all steaks are created equal.

It takes exceptional beef and a careful kitchen to deliver a steak that makes the grade. Ottawa at Home's unabashed carnivore, Paula Roy, set out to answer that timeless question - where's the beef?

Al's Steakhouse

Ottawa's very first steakhouse is still one of its most popular, with two locations at 327 Elgin St. and 3817 Richmond Rd. in Bells Corners. As the only steakhouse in town to grill over live charcoal, Al's steaks have a subtle, smoky flavour. Not only does the restaurant start with Sterling Silver beef, it also has its own in-house butchery which gives greater flexibility when accommodating special requests. Steaks come with a salad, vegetables and a choice of potatoes or rice; sides available à la carte include homemade onion rings, caramelized onions, and béarnaise sauce. For a real winner, I recommend checking out its French-style Black Pepper Steak served with Cognac Sauce - you won't be disappointed.

Baton Rouge

The Baton Rouge restaurant at 790 Earl Grey Dr. pairs a funky atmosphere with fabulous food. Like its downtown counterpart on Albert Street, Kanata's Baton Rouge is a welcoming spot with a diverse menu - punctuated with delicious sauces, dressings and marinades - prepared on-site from fresh ingredients. The prime cuts are sized from eight to 16 ounces and come with a house or Caesar salad and either potatoes or steamed seasonal vegetables. Sautéed mushrooms, coleslaw, baked beans, or hot cinnamon apples are also side options. I think the restaurant's bone-in rib steak, grilled over a wood fire, is as tender and juicy as you'll find anywhere.

Big Easy Seafood and Steak House

One of Ottawa's newest restaurants, Big Easy's at 228 Preston St., dishes up top-quality beef, flame-grilled to perfection. In the tradition of many of the finest international steakhouses, the steaks are served à la carte with a robust menu of sides from which to choose, many reflective of Big Easy's New Orleans influences. The fresh Oscar Crab Sauce, a combination of lump white crabmeat with asparagus and hollandaise, is a delightful accompaniment, as are the Dirty Rice and Coconut Ginger Rice sides. You can even enjoy creamed spinach with your steak - a truly classic steakhouse side dish.

Hy's Steakhouse

Hy's Steakhouse, located at 170 Queen St., has long been known as Ottawa's ultimate "see and be seen" place. With its opulent decor, extensive wine list and expert servers, Hy's is likely the swankiest place in town to enjoy a perfect steak. Traditional cuts of the finest well-aged beef are grilled to order and come with your choice of potatoes or rice. My personal favourite is its Steak Neptune - a butterflied filet mignon topped with fresh asparagus and blue crabmeat, smothered in hollandaise sauce. And while steak does trump all at Hy's, you might also be tempted to try its tableside-prepared combo: Caesar or spinach salad, Chateaubriand steak and Bananas Foster.

The Keg

The Keg is ubiquitous enough to be comfortably familiar, for many good reasons. The ByWard Market and Hunt Club locations are very nice, but for a special steak experience, The Keg Manor at 529 Richmond Rd. in Westboro offers up the same great food in a gorgeous 175-year-old stone mansion. I'd recommend its Chipotle Onion Sirloin that delivers a zingy punch of flavour - it's a well-trimmed, nicely marbled steak seasoned and grilled to order, then smothered in herbed cheese, sautéed onions and a chipotle pepper sauce. Favourite sides include the sweet potato fries and the sweet and spicy snap peas. A special touch: The Keg even offers sirloin steak on its children's menu. Written by Paula Roy

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