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A Taste of Ottawa: The Capital’s Signature Dishes

BeaverTails, shawarma, poutine, perhaps pho. The capital isn’t lacking for acclaimed fast-food options. But stop for a minute and take your taste imaginings to a higher plane. What restaurant dishes are Ottawa classics?

These are unique to a particular dining room, and beloved by legions of fans who extol their virtues far and wide. Signature dishes might be innovative and complex, but they could just as easily be simple. Nevertheless, they have two things in common: they’re instantly cherished and nearly impossible for the chef to remove from the menu.

Any debate over a definitive list could last well into the night, so we’ll just start here with six picks.

Les Fougères’ Duck Confit

783 rte. 105, Chelsea, Quebec, 819-827-8942, fougeres.com

Chef Charles Part’s duck confit is legendary. Little wonder, since the chef-owner has been refining it for upwards of two decades. It boasts a skin that’s deliciously crisp, and the accompanying potato galette is always perfection.

Benny’s Bistro Salmon Gravlax

119 Murray St., 613-789-6797, frenchbaker.ca/reservations

Benny’s Bistro has been serving up “French fast food done right” for years. Its house-made salmon gravlax is a thing of beauty, with an oozy sunny-side-up egg, a warm fingerling potato salad, and olive tapenade on the side.

Mariposa Farm’s Foie Gras

6468 County Road 17, Plantagenet, 613-673-5881, mariposa-duck.on.ca

This farm’s ethical farming practices produce tons of delightful goodies, but none quite as delicious (or coveted) as the duck foie gras.

The SmoQue Shack’s BBQ Chicken

129 York St., 613-789-4245, smoqueshack.com

There’s barbecue and there’s the way chicken’s done in Kentucky: a spicy rub, a sugar and honey brine, and an apple wood smoke. The SmoQue Shack’s secret sauce? A bourbon glaze with hints of vanilla.

Absinthe’s Steak Frites

1208 Wellington St. W., 613-761-1138, absinthecafe.ca

Absinthe sees a large and devoted following for chef-owner Patrick Garland’s steak frites. Its marinated hanger steak paired with hot fries is a don’t-you-dare-take-it-off-the-menu staple.

Allium’s Banoffee Pie

87 Holland Ave., 613-792-1313, alliumrestaurant.com

This yummy pie has a graham cracker crust filled with layers of creamy toffee, sliced banana, and heaps of whipped cream, all topped with chocolate shavings.

May Hot Dining

By Janice Hudson



•A favourite place for downtown coffee aficionados, The Trident on Hollis Street roasts its beans on-site, offering an array of hot drinks, loose tea and pastries. After you recharge, browse the eclectic mix of used books.

•Veteran coffeehouse Java Blend on North Street has been in the bean business since 1938 and roasts all of its coffee on-site. Unique coffee memorabilia and an old (but still working) coffee roaster add to the cozy, laid-back feel of the café.

•In Dartmouth, Two if by Sea Café is the go-to spot for coffee fiends, offering not just fabulous coffee but also indulgent fresh-baked croissants that can stand in for a meal. The café has a second location on the Halifax side in the Historic Properties near the Halifax Transit ferry terminal.



Offering French-inspired cuisine, Bistro le Coq on Argyle Street has the atmosphere of a Parisian bistro, with an ornate tin ceiling, elegant artwork and plush booths. Service en français is always available. Choose from tasty French classics like steak frites and glazed duck. There’s an extensive list of wines, with many served by the glass (including champagne). For dessert, try the layered Nutella crêpe cake.



The brainchild of award-winning Chef Renée Lavallée, The Canteen on Ochterloney Street in Dartmouth serves up flavourful sandwiches, salads and take-out dinners. Lavallée changes the menu daily to highlight fresh local ingredients. Breadmaster Jessica Best bakes all the bread on-site, including tasty gluten-free options.


Photo: Janice Hudson

Photo: Janice Hudson

A newcomer on Halifax’s vibrant diner scene, Robie Street Station has become the it-spot in Central Halifax for all-day breakfast and comfort food with a global twist. Colourful murals and local artwork decorate the charming eatery, located near the Halifax Common on Robie Street. Hit up Robie Street Express next door for a coffee and fresh baked-goods to go.



A stylish yet intimate space, Obladee on Barrington Street offers a range of stellar, hand-chosen wines, including special local vintages. Try the monthly cellar wine special: staff uncork top red and white vintages for customers to enjoy by the glass. Pair your choice with charcuterie from the local artisanal producers.

Hot Dining: Say Cheesecake

Mango Coconut Cheesecake from Sweet Hereafter

Mango Coconut Cheesecake from Sweet Hereafter

For a slice of rich and delicious city-style cheesecake, stop into Sweet Hereafter on Quinpool Road. Sit back, relax and take in the funky décor. Scrumptious cheesecake flavours include apple pecan, white chocolate raspberry, ginger pear, triple chocolate. Gluten-free and vegan flavours available, too.

Hot Dining: Piece of Cake


Second generation restaurateur Beth Grubert is a Paris-trained baker with a hands-on management approach and exquisite attention to detail. Her Osborne Village eatery Baked Expectations been drawing locals to a fabulous display case of mile-high cakes, tortes and pies for three decades. Choices can be tough here, where decadent strawberry pecan torte covered in glistening chocolate ganache competes with rich peanut butter chocolate chip cheesecake for a coveted place on your plate. A menu of short-order favourites that stars a triple decker grilled cheese with bacon is equally grand. Let them eat cake!
161 Osborne St, 204-452-5176.

Hot Dining Halifax: Sweet Eats

The Middle Spoon Desserterie & Bar

Halifax’s first desserterie and bar, Middle Spoon on Barrington Street, is the perfect place for those with a sweet tooth. Indulge in fresh desserts like Chocolate Lava Cake, Peanut Butter Pie, New York cheesecake or a create-your-own sundae. The cocktail menu is just as decadent with choices including the Ruthless Ruby, Obsession and Pretty in Pink.

Fans of cheesecake will love Broadway Cheesecake Co. on South Park Street. But these aren’t your traditional flavours. Try tastes like apple caramel, Baklava, cherry crumble, chocolate banana rum and Reese Peanut Butter Cup. Or you can sample the pies or cupcakes. The menu also serves a selection of savoury sandwiches.

Winnipeg’s 5 Best Crème Brûlée Offerings

Winnipeg Creme Brulee

Our guide to Winnipeg’s Crème Brûlée (Photo: mrgarin)

This French classic can be found here, there and everywhere, but it takes a true torch and sugar master to nail it. Here, we bring you a rundown of the Winnipeg’s best crème brûlée offerings. Indulge in local chefs interpretations of this rich dessert topped with tantalizing discs of crackling caramelized goodness.


Hot Dining: Mama Mia! What’s New at Halifax’s Italian Restaurants

Dessert from Il Mercato

Il Mercato, a popular trattoria with locations on Spring Garden Road and at Sunnyside Mall in Bedford, offers a top-notch casual Italian menu. A new summer menu has fare such as flash-fried calamari with roasted garlic, tomatoes and chilies, and lamb chops crusted with Sicilian pistachios and breadcrumbs, served with fresh mint. A decadent summer tiramisu is the perfect coda.

After 15 years in its old spot, popular Dartmouth eatery Rocco’s Italian Ristorante is in a new location at Baker Drive. As regulars would expect, the menu still highlights Southern Italian favourites, paired with Italian wines. Try the house specialty Capasante alla Rocco (scallops simmered in Marsala wine and demi-glaze).

Hot Dining: Fantastic Food Fills an Ever-Changing Menu at Allium

Diners can always find something inventive (and delicious) at Allium.

The low-key dining room at Allium has all the makings for a great night: attentive service, delicious food, and a fun atmosphere. The menu changes on the first Thursday of every month, meaning you can make many return visits and try something different each time (they also offer a popular tapas menu on Monday nights). One of the items you don’t have to worry about changing though is the banoffee pie. This to-die-for treat (and local favourite) features a graham cracker crumb crust, banana slices, toffee, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings. A perfectly decadent way to end the meal. 87 Holland Ave., 613-792-1313.


Hot Dining: Soothe a Sweet Tooth at the Middle Spoon

If you’re the sort of person who skips straight to dessert, be sure to visit The Middle Spoon on Barrington Street. The “desserterie” specializes in decadent desserts and cocktails. The Peanut Butter Pie draws rave reviews.

The Middle Spoon, Photo: Michelle Brunet

Hot Dining: Dessert Roundup

The forecast is for sunny skies and summery weather, so we highlight three sweet treats to satisfy your sweet tooth (and one of them is ice cream!).

Local fave Pascale's All Natural Ice Cream is available at stores and restaurants around Ottawa. Photo credit: Alexandre Mattar.

Pascale’s All Natural Ice Cream
Rich, creamy, and made with fresh ingredients. The unusual gourmet flavours, such as white chocolate pistachio and dark chocolate sea salt, have made it a local favourite. Retails for $10.95-$12 for a half litre. Available at The Piggy Market, 400 Winston Ave., and several other stores and restaurants in Ottawa. www.pascalesicecream.com

Flourless, Decadent Chocolate Cake
Dense, moist, and not overly sweet, just what a flourless chocolate cake should be. $8. Flying Piggy’s, 1665 Bank St., 613-526-4900. www.flyingpiggys.com

Banoffee Pie
A restaurant staple at Allium, this pie boasts a graham crumb crust filled with toffee, bananas, cream, and shaved chocolate. $8. 87 Holland Ave., 613-792-1313. www.alliumrestaurant.com

Ice Cream Divine

Cool off this summer at some of Calgary’s best spots for sweet frozen treats.

This Italian café on Kensington Road is known for its wide selection of homemade gelatos and sorbettos. From coconut mango swirl to cookies and cream, their 72 flavours ran the gamut from typical to unusual. Also on their menu is a selection of frozen yoghurts, non-dairy tofulatis and low-sugar gelatos and sorbettos. Enjoy any of their frozen treats on their sidewalk patio.

Also known as Leavitt’s Ice Cream Shop, this family-run ice cream parlour is designed like a ‘50s soda shop and located just off the Bow River Pathway. Try one of their regular flavours in a homemade waffle cone, or a pick of the month such as raspberry cheesecake or Turtle. Enjoy the store’s player piano while you eat your cone, which staff play upon request. Lic’s also makes ice cream cakes, which can be ordered in advance for special occasions; flavours include mint chocolate chip and chocolate fudge.

A Cochrane landmark, this ice cream parlour is best known for its extra-creamy homemade ice cream. Made from a family recipe and using the highest butterfat cream available, MacKay’s has been in business for over sixty years. Enjoy some of their favourite flavours such as mango or chocolate peanut butter—served all year round—or try a seasonal flavour such as Mini Egg Hunt for Easter and gingerbread at Christmas.

For those who like to design their own dessert, Marble Slab is the place to go. Pick from the different varieties of waffle cones dipped in chocolate and candies, or a waffle bowl. Next choose an ice cream flavour such as birthday cake, key lime or coffee, and select your “mixins.” You can mix two or three ingredients into your ice cream, including fruit or crushed chocolate bars and candies. All your selections are then mixed together on a cold marble slab. If you find the number of decisions too daunting, you can try one of their already designed creations or a milkshake made with plain ice cream.

People may come to My Favorite Ice Cream Shoppe for the wide selection of ice cream flavours, but they stay for the atmosphere. Situated in the neighbourhood of Marda Loop, the shoppe is decorated with a collection of ice cream memorabilia, from black and white photos and vintage signs to old church pews lining the walls. Ice cream flavours remain consistent with old favourites such as brownie meltdown and candyfloss, as well as new varieties such as After Eight. Piano players can also get their ice cream free by playing the shoppe’s instrument for a minimum of 10 minutes.

This Inglewood dessert bar is a spot for the true connoisseur, with a wide selection of cakes and tarts paired with wines and coffees. They also serve their own made-from-scratch ice cream and sorbet, available in their retail shop and served in a homemade cone or take-home carton. Try one of their original ice cream flavours such as blue cheese or Mexican vanilla, or enjoy a fruit sorbet made from guava, blackberry or honey tangerine. —Elena Redd