What a pleasure it’s been to watch neighbourhood eateries old and new opening up and expanding into the great outdoors over the summer! With any luck, we still have some mellow days coming to enjoy al fresco dining. Please share stories of your favourite Sandy Hill food experiences with firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bridge Public House, 1 Donald St. The restaurant at the Rideau Sports Centre has a lovely L-shaped patio, with court-side seats as an added bonus for those who love to watch tennis. Service is friendly and helpful, and the menu is varied and interesting with lots of choices for vegetarians as well as omnivores. The vegan burger with sweet potato fries was a hit, and we’ve heard good things about the fish tacos and the daily soups.
ByTowne Cinema, 325 Rideau St. The re-opening of our neighbourhood cinema in September was a joyful occasion, and for many of us the ByTowne’s superlative popcorn is part of the thrill. It’s back! You’ll now pay extra for butter (and extra extra if you want it “layered”), but given the restricted number of seats they’re allowed to fill, we can all be glad to have such a tasty way to support this local business. Furthermore, the ByTowne now has a liquor licence, so you can enjoy a glass of wine or a local beer (in cans or on tap) with your snack. They also carry the locally-made City Seltzer line of sparkling waters.
Cadena Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar, 323 Somerset St. East. The pandemic brought us a few new ways to look at our streets and neighbourhoods, and the pleasant outdoor ambience at Cadena, with customers dining and chatting where once there were only parked cars, is a good example. Cadena has a very rich menu; they offer a great assortment of brunch-style egg dishes; you can always find a snack of sweet or savoury empanadas; and when you’re ready for lunch or supper there’s lots of choice, from sandwiches to hot main dishes. You can’t go wrong with the Spanish shrimp or the tortilla espanola. Over the summer we shared a Cadena paella (which must be ordered ahead of time) in a friend’s backyard. It was a mountain of rice full of delicious treasures: chicken, seafood and spicy sausage. There were abundant leftovers!
Chef Ric’s, 384 Rideau St. The doors have opened once more at the former premises of the Rideau Bakery. The food services training program associated with The Ottawa Mission is serving breakfast and lunch to go from Monday through Friday. There is a different special for each meal every day. Prices are extremely reasonable at $4.99 for breakfast and $6.99 for lunch. The food is simple, but tasty and filling. Our serving of mac and cheese was huge and came with a side of crisp green salad and a slice of garlic bread. With a couple of Chef Ric’s excellent oatmeal cookies, it made an ample and comforting lunch for two. Along with the specials, the restaurant offers a selection of sandwiches, soup, and muffins. Mains, such as shepherd’s pie, meat loaf, and vegetarian lasagna, are also available in frozen portions to take home.
No Forks Given, 191 Somerset St. East The new burger place at the corner of Somerset and King Edward has settled in over the summer. They now have a proper sign and a pleasant sidewalk patio that’s patronized by students and neighbourhood families alike. Drop in to find some very fine burgers and especially good house-made onion rings with a crisp exterior wrapped around plump, sweet onions. There are also some playful items on the menu, such as the recently added Korean corn dog. For the protein-seeking vegetarian, there is mac and cheese, as well as a vegan “chicken” burger.
O-Frango, 151 Laurier Ave. East The food truck that once belonged to the late, lamented Nacho Cartel has been home to another crew of friendly young chefs for a couple of years now. Passing by the little patio in St. Joseph’s parking lot one mild evening and seeing it full of people who were unmistakably enjoying, or looking forward to, their food made me realize I had better check it out. Frango means “chicken” in Portuguese, and there is really only one thing on this menu: bite-sized chunks of boneless fried chicken nestled on a bed of fries and slathered in a choice of sauces. This concoction, which comes in small, medium or large-sized boxes or as a wrap, is absolutely delicious. Portions are generous, and “medium” was enough to leave me feeling full for the rest of the day with leftovers that were devoured by the vegetarian at my house, who showed no sign whatever of guilt at straying from his usual diet.
Purely Dates, 103 Mann Ave. There is a very limited inventory at this shop and it’s a bit challenging to find it open, but it’s well worth a visit for the plump, tender Algerian dates which are available pitted or on their stems. Boxes of dates stuffed with nuts or covered in chocolate make a fine gift or a special treat. The shop also sells date syrup and date sugar, along with a few other Algerian groceries such as wonderfully aromatic olive oil. The hours at Purely Dates are short and unpredictable, so it’s best to call ahead at 613-252-8380.
Safi Fine Foods, 296 Somerset St. East It’s a joy to see Safi open again after so many months of anticipation. The shop looks great with an elegant seating area at the front window and a small patio that gives a big boost of life to this block of Somerset when folks are seated outside with their coffee and food. Inside, you’ll find most of your grocery requirements as well as a tempting menu of quick snacks and meals. The much-loved samosas are back, and if you step in as a fresh batch of basmati rice is nearing readiness the aroma will compel you to order a bowl. The teriyaki tofu bowl is terrific with a fine mixture of textures from the nutty black beans and corn kernels, the crisp shredded vegetables and corn chips, and the tofu, sautéed to order in its sauce, nestled on a bed of that delicious rice.
Soup Fairy Malatang, 425 Cumberland St. The latest addition to our neighbourhood’s ever-expanding portfolio of Asian eateries, this build-your-own soup emporium next to Tim Horton’s surely deserves a prize for eye-catching names. Diners choose one of 6 broths, from lemongrass Tom Yum to House Spicy Beef, and then pick from a dizzying array of sauces, meats, seafood, vegetables, noodles and soy foods to assemble a customized bowl. At the moment the restaurant is open for pick-up only, but this should be a very fun destination when it’s possible to dine in and survey all the tempting morsels on offer. For now, we can enjoy cruising the online menu.
Working Title, 330 Laurier Ave. East We are so lucky to have the great Working Title bakery in the heart of our neighbourhood, and such a lovely patio on which to enjoy a croissant and a coffee! As we move into fall, Working Title is adjusting its plans and its menu. For the moment dinner and Sunday brunch are on hold, but treats and lunch can be had from 8:00 to 6:00 on the patio, in the cafe or to take out. There is also a growing selection of refrigerated and frozen food to bring home, including jars of soup and portions of chicken with various sauces; salmon en croute; short ribs and meatballs pomodoro.