Man of the dayWatch history live over lunch at one of these Ottawa hangouts, and try your best not to let those feelings of “why can’t we have one of those” (inspirational politician, not handsome black man) seep through. The musical prelude starts at 10, the official stuff at noon. All the cool kids will be tuning into BET’s extensive coverage which will go from 6am to 3pm on January 20th, 2009.

1. East African Restaurant
The Rideau Street restaurant will have a big screen TV and ethiopian food. What more could you ask for?

2. James Street Pub
Ask your server to turn off the curling tournament on one of the Bar’s 20 TVs, and salt your fries with tears.

3. Why not watch it at D’arcy Mcgee’s and join in on Parliamentary Hill gossip about the new President?

4. Other suggestions?


The Best Poutine In Town

January 7, 2009

I have a confession to make. I don’t eat meat but I can’t stay away from poutine. Yes, I know it usually – the best ones at least – comes with beef gravy. And even if it doesn’t, then it usually has gelatin and anyone who professes to be a herbivore should probably stay away from concoctions made with grind up bones. I just can’t help it. I love poutine.

Here’s my top five faves:

1. New York Fries’ Poutine. What? Are you complaining that I’m giving a food court option? I truly love it’s deep dark beef gravy. Yum. Even better with mayonnaise and some of NYF’s california spices. Watch out though, according to calorie count the small size has 710 calories. (!) $3.95
2. The Standard’s Poutine: Real cheese curds and spicy peppery gravy are what make this poutine great. Consistency can be a problem –which for $8 a dish should be fixed.
3. Elgin Street Freehouse : The Freehouse used to offer a wonderful poutine with blue cheese, deep dark gravy and wild mushrooms. Why it escaped from the menu is beyond me and they should bring it back. Bring it back! $9.
4. Elgin Street Dinner’s Poutine: Delicious. But the fries could use a bit of help – why are they so small? And at $7.99 it’s getting a bit pricy. Try asking for a small version. At $5 a pop it’s a much better deal and you won’t fill ill from your poutine adventure.
5. Wedge’s Plus: This poutine makes the grade only because Wedge’s delivers. Not to try unless you are desperately seeking Quebec’s national dish. The wedges are good but there are no curds and the gravy is pretty weak.

What no chip wagon? You’re right, it should be there but I haven’t found one that blows me away yet. Prove me wrong.


January 6, 2009

Another Elgin restaurant is breaking the law. Across the street from Oz Kafé, The Standard comitted its own liquor faux pas and is now closed until January 9th.
The crime? Serving liquor after hours.

Are Elgin Street restaurants worst than others? Or is the city cracking down? 2007 saw Fesco Bistro also closed for bad behaviour during the Senators’ playoff run.


January 2, 2009

The Oz Kafé is still in the dark. The Elgin Street restaurant had its liquor license suspended after an inspector spotted a customer walking out from the patio with a drink.
Dinners will have to find a new spot to eat until January 7th.

UPDATE: Oz isn’t the only spot breaking the law. Across the street, The Standard comitted its own liquor faux pas and is now closed until January 9th.
The crime? Serving liquor after hours.

What to do ‘til Winterlude?

December 27, 2008

During the warmer months Ottawa is infested with fests: Jazz Fest, Blues Fest, Fringe Fest, Tulip Fest. The cold seems to kill off both the city’s mosquito population and its revelry, at least until the aptly named Winterlude roles around in February. As a consequence, us poor Ottawans are left to entertain ourselves for most of the winter season. In order to help you out, Apartment 613 will post a number of suggestions for do-it-yourself fun until Winterlude begins or we get bored and run out of ideas.

A cup of Joe at the Wild Oat.
A cup of Joe at the Wild Oat.
Idea 1: Coffee Crawl
Grab a friend or a magazine and spend a couple of hours getting legally high by downing four or five espressos in a row, each at a different location. Better yet, bring a pen and paper and report back on your favourite spot to Apartment 613. Elgin and the Market have an excellent assortment of Coffee shops and bakeries in close proximity to each other, but my favourite route is Francesco’s, the Wild Oat, Nicastro’s, Bridgehead and Morola’s, all within three blocks of each other in the Glebe. There’s also a Starbucks, Second Cup, French Baker, and Timothy’s in the area, making the neighbourhood one of the most caffeinated place in the National Capital Region.

Damned Dollies

Saturday, December 6, 2008 – Jack Purcell Community Centre

Saturday mornings on Elgin Street are typically filled with post-Friday night brunchers. This Saturday, though, there was an unusual amount of people streaming towards the Jack Purcell Community Centre at Gilmour Street. The reason? LadyFest Ottawa’s annual “This is not your Grandma’s craft show.”

Walking up the stairs, there’s a sense of anticipation – what sort of indie crafty delights will we stumble upon in this adventure? With this event only happening once a year, and happening at a time when gift-buying is at the forefront of one’s mind, the possibilities seem endless.

Walking into the first room after being labelled with a purple “I paid a toonie to get in” heart, the heat is overwhelming – as are the colours and crafty fare. Everywhere we look there are small crowds around colourfully adorned tables, spread with each crafter’s handiwork.

We make our way around the room, trying to get a peek at each station. The coolness factor in the room is high – lots of young hipsters in handmade clothing. We secretly know we bring that factor down, but pretend otherwise.

The items on each table – the art on each table – is proudly displayed. Jewellery – onesies – scarves – stuffed animals – pottery – screen prints – the list goes on. We wander, intrigued, in search of the perfect gift.

I stumble upon Frash Femme, a local Ottawa jeweler. Delicate earrings and necklaces are displayed on a metal palm tree photo stand, with a clever quote embellishing each tag. There’s a pair of earrings that would be ideal for Ali – but they have pink stones, and Ali’s not much of a girly-girl.

”I can do it in a different colour,” says Frash. “Maybe clear? Or brown? Just give me, say, 20 minutes.” I jump at the chance, delighted with the fact that I’ll have custom-made earrings in just a short passing.

Heading back to the side room, we stop at a table with retro-themed clocks and an assortment of what looks like framed National Geographic photos. Talking with Buster Louie, we discover they are pages taken from 1920 editions of Lands and Peoples textbooks. The photos depict peoples of various countries in typical dress, sometimes in action, mostly just looking out seriously.

The captions, though, are the killer. “Irish women are typically found in a variety of unusual occupations” reads one. “The Irish stock have provided an important racial element to the composition of the United States of America. Irish women have been celebrated in much prose and song.”

Each photo has a similar, almost shocking and sometimes borderline offensive caption. “I took out the ones that were particularly racist,” says Buster. “But some of these are outrageously funny.”

We rifle through the photos, chuckling at the various captions. “Danish children are unusually fair and sturdy.” “Learning to master the art of eating is more difficult for this young Chinese boy than his small Western contemporaries.”

“Not a lot of people get it,” Buster admits. “I explain the textbooks to them and people just usually smile weakly and walk away.” We, however, find them to be hilarious – so much so that we pick out a few, shell out the necessary cash, and take our delightful purchases back to Frash Femme.

She’s done the earrings – “She does them super fast,” her partner says proudly and matter-of-factly. “I’m just the eye candy.” Frash Femme just shrugs with a hint of a smile. We thank her profusely for being so accommodating and squeeze our way out of the growing crowd, down the stairs, back into the bright snowy sunlight.

The Best Two-Egger in Town

December 14, 2008

It’s the little black dress of breakfast: two eggs, toasts, potatoes. This cheep and easy standby is a favourite of students trying to forget last night and seniors trying to remember the last ten minutes. For those of you left jaded by decadence weekend brunches, try getting back to basics at these downtown(ish) hangouts.

  1. Mayflower – 247 Elgin Street – $3.35
    What the two egg breakfast is all about – the only way to get more bang for the buck is to lay the eggs yourself. Be sure to get a table in the back where the atmosphere is more English pub, less greasy spoon. Hippies beware: The Mayflower is a known conservative hangout.
  2. Bramasole – 428 Bank Street – $5.95
    Time warp back to the 1950s… or at rather to the 2008 hipster version of it. Although its not the best deal in city, the food is good and plentiful and the decor is the cat’s meow.
  3. Ada’s – 510 Bank Street $4.50
    Maybe its the sizzle from the kitchen, or the colourful checkered table clothes, or the waitress in her blue jeans and a T-shirt, but Ada’s is where you go to feel like an Ottawa insider. The meal is cheep and satisfying but, coffee refills are $0.50 a pop! Gasp!
  4. Wild Oat – 819 Bank Street $6.50
    The two-egger with a hippie twist: you pay a little extra for the virtue of Fair Trade Coffee and organic eggs. Go for the Spelt bread and the homemade jam. Conservatives beware: dreadlocked vegan types love spelt bread.

Any other favourites? Add a comment and let me know.