Tag Archives: Bank Street

An Ode to Ottawa

I’ve left Ottawa indefinitely. School’s finished and there’s no reason to return in September unless a job presents itself. But after four years at school, I’ve grown accustomed to living in the Capital. It’s set in that I won’t be back there for a while, apart from my visit for graduation.

Here is a list of things in Ottawa I will truly miss.

Not out the kitchen window, but still facing down the hill, in the same direction.

Not out the kitchen window, but still facing down the hill, in the same direction.

Sunsets from my kitchen window: I’m convinced Ottawa has the best sunsets. Probably not the best, but I really can’t feature a sunset prettier than those I’ve seen from my apartment’s kitchen window at Bank and Heron. The window faces West, and, being on a bit of an incline, we have the perfect vantage point for the evening show. Also, it helps that there aren’t a lot of tall buildings in Ottawa. Being from Toronto, I always refer to Ottawa as a “short” city – well there’s a benefit to that: being able to see the sky!

Bridgehead Coffee Co.: Specifically, I loved the location that used to be at Bank and Third. Glebe residents will mourn the loss of the old computer nook when the company opted for a brand-spanking brighter spot at Bank and Gilmour. Still, the ambiance of the Bridgehead chain has no equal in Toronto or otherwise. Great tunes, but not too disruptive. Delicious coffee and a fridge-full of delicious snacks, sandwiches and salads. Oh, and the tomato soup is top-notch. Bridgehead, food-wise, is miles ahead of any other coffee chain. The seating is cozy, there’s free wi-fi, and the staff don’t care if you sit there for hours. Many an essay has been written here, my friends. There’s just this warm feeling in Bridgehead that you can’t get from a Second Cup, Timothy’s, or that mammoth mermaid herself, Starbucks.

The ducks under the bridge at Riverside and Bank: These are the bravest ducks I have ever seen! Every winter they’re camped out on the ice, burrowing their beaks in their back feathers. They’re really quite the crowd. The group’s most fearless members wiggle down into the water and go fishing in -30 below. Honourable mention to any Good Samaritan who scatters crumbs for them in the nearby park.

Nicastro’s amazing sandwiches: For about $3.50 you can get a big sandwich stacked with delicious sliced meats (from mild to spicy), lettuce, tomato and other pickled condiments like roasted red peppers. My favourite topping is the spicy eggplant.

Irene Parlby, that's a little inappropriate.

Irene Parlby, that's a little inappropriate.

Parliament: Every time I pass by the buildings I remember how far away from home I am. I think to myself, “Wow, I live in Ottawa, our nation’s capital,” and I feel so far removed from Toronto. I feel like Ottawa is this little tucked-away place, the control centre for the machine. I don’t know if that’s a good thing exactly, but I just have this refreshing, awakening moment every time I see the flag flying atop the Peace Tower. Also, there are many memories of times when friends and I have assaulted the various statues.

Shoppers Drug Mart at Bank and Heron: The saving grace of my neighbourhood came in my last year at school! My neighbourhood is not neighbourhoodly. Albeit there are a couple great restaurants and a Tim Hortons around the corner, nothing is quite as convenient as an open-til-midnight Shoppers. Well, maybe a 24/7 Shoppers. Some pleasant memories include cheap milk; late-night, pre-nightclub makeovers; awesome sales on food (99-cent litres of chocolate milk); when one is sick, one need but crawl to Shoppers to have a prescription filled; and its plethora of snacking delights for schlubby sweatpant roommate movie nights.

How Friendly the People Are: Say what you want about Ottawa, but the people are friendly! An example: I have worked at independently-owned toy stores in both Toronto and Ottawa.

In Toronto, the customer is always right. It’s their way or the highway. If they knock something over, they breeze past and expect you to clean it up. If they’re not happy with their giftwrapping, they’ll tear the package open, expecting you to start again.

In Ottawa, customers are kind and apologetic. If they bump into something, it’s “I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you.” If they don’t like the way you giftwrapped something, they’ll say “No, it’s my fault. I should have been more specific with what I wanted.”

They are also much nicer when it comes to public transit. They say thank-you to the bus drivers. However, people in Ottawa are a little too respectful of personal space. Learn how to squish on buses, people! But still, kudos to these friendly folk.

1000 Sushi Islands: Never having done the all-you-can-eat sushi thing before, 1000 islands was such a fun experience. The perfect way to have a long chat: over endless food! For a flat price, you order sushi by the piece off an extensive menu. It’s a great way to try stuff you might be a little squeamish about. I am not usually a seafood person, though by trying a little of this and a little of that, I got used to (and enjoyed) fishy stuff like spicy tuna rolls and Nigiri sushi. The restaurant appeared to have no seating time limit and the dining room featured cozy booths by the windows.

And some hot spots:

Barrymore’s: Music? Meh. Theme nights? Cool. Layout? Siiiiick. This place used to be a movie theatre, so the interior is a steep, terraced auditorium. The bouncers are really strict with stumbling girls in 4-inch heels, as the many flights of stairs don’t make walking drunk easy.

Helsinki: Generally speaking, I’m not into the nightclub scene, but this is a rare gem! It has the look and feel of a modern, flashy club, but it’s so small so it still feels intimate. I’ve had several boogie-downs here – definitely worth checking out if you’re in town.

Zaphod Beeblebrox: I didn’t really get into Zaphod’s until the end, but as soon as I did, the fiesta of Gargleblasters and flashing lights made me happily delirious.

Babylon: Oh, sweaty, dirty, grimy Babylon! Babs is probably my favourite place to go out in Ottawa. I love that there’s a lot going on here. Seating if you want to chill and have a beer, a big, bad dancefloor and some sweet tunes and even pool and foosball! Best nights are Sunday (for the Mod Club Dance Party) and the first Friday of every month for Disorganized.

So those are some things on my list – what are some things you like about Ottawa? Which places have I missed?


Clutching forks and knives…

Frances Boehmer is not one to mess with. A former waitress at the Ritz 3, she hoped to one day own the restaurant, but her boss sneered, “When pigs fly.”

Ten years ago, the pigs spread their wings for Boehmer. Her restaurant, Flying Piggy’s Bistro Italiano is a diamond in the rough of Ottawa South, serving up fresh homemade pasta and other Italian favourites.

Fettuccine con scallops con basil

Fettuccine con scallops con basil

Nestled at Bank Street and Heron Road, Piggy’s looks like a weather-worn cabin, unworthy of attention. Yet the parking lot is always full – there is more here than meets the eye.

On a Thursday evening, the cozy restaurant is busy, but not full. A long table hosts a party of retirees, and there are a few couples seated at tables-for-two. Piggy’s has its fair share of regular customers, and reservations are recommended. The dining room, which holds about 40 people, is packed for lunches and weekends.

The dining room, awash in cheery orange paint, is dotted with pig knickknacks – a piggy mobile, pig holiday ornaments, even speckled hogs stare up from placemats. Handwritten chalkboards announce the specials, and soft jazz music plays below the hum of dinner conversation.

The menu is varied, but concise. Generous appetizers don’t disappoint. Springy mixed greens, artichoke hearts and button mushrooms are tossed in a creamy basil aioli, and topped with slender sprouts ($8.00). Chicken satay seems a long way from Thailand, but tender skewered morsels arrive alongside asian-style slaw and peanut sauce with a zing of heat ($11.00).

Service is friendly, familiar and no-nonsense. There’s no snooty flourish here, it’s like having your favourite uncle serve you dinner. For mains, our server recommends the full portion of pasta over the half size. At a few dollars more, he points out it’s a better value.

The Flighty Boar

The Flighty Boar

The Flighty Boar’s crispy prosciutto and sauteed mushrooms lend their smoky flavour to a bed of elastic homemade fettuccine in a slick of white wine and cream ($15.00). A seafood pasta dish ($17.50) overflows with shrimp, mussels and scallops, tossed in a perfect marinara sauce  – not too sweet or acidic. Silky noodles in a cream sauce flecked with basil are just the right nesting spot for succulent scallops ($17.50).

Sundried tomato pesto noodles with pear and ewe's milk cheese

Sundried tomato pesto noodles with pear and ewe's milk cheese

The menu specials are equally tempting. Ripe pears add unexpected sweetness to short twisted noodles in sundried tomato pesto with rapini and ewe’s milk cheese. A large rib eye steak is perched atop turnips and other tender vegetables, drizzled with a reduction of currants and gin. The sauce is slightly overpowering, but well matched with the steak, which can hold its own.

A full dessert menu is a pleasant surprise, as all sweets are made on-site.
One misstep though is the crème brulée special. While Piggys’ chocolate-fig anise crème is a brave flavour combination, the dish falls flat. A good helping of the dark brown crème could use a little more brulée, and while the fig chunks are a treat, the chocolate weighs it down. The flavours are a delight, but the dish is better described as a rich mousse.

A luscious chocolate cheesecake with a walnut cookie crust hits the right balance between dense and fluffy, and the slight orange scent makes it a refreshing end to the meal.

Flying Piggy’s is fine rustic Italian cooking at its best, served in a warm, casual atmosphere. It’s a rare gem of a spot, and for Boehmer, those little oinkers are soaring to great heights.