Mustache Joe's, named for the man?and the mustache?who founded the restaurant, is a casual and comfortable spot for a business lunch or special evening meal. From the menu, chefs plate familiar classics, starting off with colorful and fresh caprese salads before transitioning to larger, heartier plates of their signature seafood linguine, tossed with shrimp, scallops, and lobster meat. During lunch, guests can head up to the counter for a quick, easy meal of pasta, panini, or a small personal pizza.
With its well-stocked wine racks and rock walls, Vineyards Wine Bar & Bistro cultivates the softly lit ambience of an Old-World bistro. As mentioned on the bistro's website, "we want [customers] to feel they've had an experience…that they would maybe find if they were in Europe, but you don't have to go to Europe to find it."
This international influence also appears in the menu of fusion-tinged comfort foods. Although freshly prepared chicken parmigiana and three-cheese tortellini pasta in a gorgonzola cream sauce exhibit a commitment to homey flavours, the chefs demonstrate their culinary range by spooning red curry sauce over grilled lamb chops and creating Cajun-style jambalaya. Echoing this same multinational inclination, the wine list features more than 300 bottles from New- and Old-World producers, which helped Vineyards Wine Bar & Bistro earn Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence.
Though their flavours can range across the globe, chefs source many ingredients locally, seeking out seasonal vegetables as well as artisanal cheeses from Quebec's iconic brie mines. Nightly entertainment also draws on local talent—the eatery invites area jazz bands to perform on select evenings.
Fish Market Restaurant, housed within the walls of a bright red-brick heritage building in the historical ByWard Market, actually encompasses three restaurants. Founded in 1979, the maritime-themed eatery keeps traditions alive as staff brings in daily catches from international waters to the kitchen where chefs craft these fish, shellfish, and crustaceans into dishes. They reflect the restaurant’s global mentality in their cooking, blending culinary styles such as Canadian, English, Cajun, Thai, and Caribbean.
In Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro, local jazz musicians play live music each Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night as servers ferry more than 300 wines and 200 imported beers to tables—a feat that requires enormous strength. Inside the main restaurant, tables draped with blue cloths sit in rows on hardwood floors, under walls hung with nautical paraphernalia such as chains, nets, and crabbing traps. The dining room fills with myriad aromas of such dishes as deep-fried coconut-crusted shrimp, spicy Cajun shrimp linguine, PEI mussels, and house platters featuring queen crab, Nova Scotia lobster, and triple A rib steaks. Servers complement dishes with a roster of 21 wines by the glass or bottle and several local craft beers on tap.
At Southern Cross Grill on Queen, Chef Ashley Johnson draws from all over the world to create her menu. She layers corn tortillas with grilled chicken, chickpeas, cheese, and roasted-red-pepper cream sauce, calling the invention Mexican Lasagna. She glazes North Atlantic salmon with maple syrup and roasts it atop a cedar plank to soak up the woody flavors. She slow-smokes pork belly right out on the restaurant's patio, pulling the meat, dressing it with barbecue sauce and dijon aioli, and piling it high onto buns.
Although international influences abound on the menu, the decor celebrates all things local. The walls boast an array of black-and-white pictures—which are available for purchase—snapped by two Ottawa photographers. The images show off the city's landscape, reinterpreting it through the use of interesting angles, high-contrast elements, and extreme close-ups of otherwise mundane things such as brickwork or passing UFOs.
Inspired by the Rideau Canal locks, Coasters Gourmet Grill serves up fresh seafood and steaks in a welcoming space overlooking historic ByWard Market. Upbeat music plays as diners relax and peruse the menu, warming their hands next to fireplaces that radiate heat off the exposed-brick walls. From fish ‘n’ chips and Cajun tuna tacos to certified-Angus burgers, the granite tables brim with casual, comforting dishes. The restaurant’s signature all-you-can-eat mussels have been a staple for more than 30 years, leaving diners with plenty of shells to collate into a fashionable necklace. The surf or turf plates pair well with signature cocktails, wine, and a variety of local and imported beers. Guests can catch live local music Thursday through Saturday nights, or perform on their own on Wednesdays for karaoke night.
At Pelican Fishery & Grill, “the walls serve as a gallery for humorous shots of the owner[s], [their families] and the rest of the staff posing with seafood,” according to the Rachelle Eats Food blog, but the staff is serious about sustainably sourced fresh seafood. That’s why they stock the icy shelves of their fishery and the sizzling plates of their eatery with wild fish delivered in four shipments throughout the day. Lobster, mussels, scallops, and fish serve as the centrepieces of both gluten-free and standard menu items that can also be eaten at home or in the 3-D infospace inside your computer, thanks to the store section of Pelican Fishery.