Why is everything closed, dammit? [General]

2009 Aug 2
Yes, it's rant time - every couple of weeks, someone comes onto these forums and starts a new thread, naming it something like "OTTAWA SUX - WORST FOOD EVER" (replace food with service/people/etc and you get the idea).

And then... something beautiful happens: the city's passionate foodies report to the thread and prove him wrong, usually with far more eloquence than the parent poster could muster.

That's exactly why I'm posting tonight; because I just walked home after giving up on finding a coffee shop, I'm frustrated, and I want oh-so-dearly for what I'm about to write to be refuted: Opening hours in Ottawa totally stink, there's little nightlife if you're not into noisy bars, and it's starting to put me off this city a bit.

It's 21h30 on Sunday night; that's supper time (although erm, it seems I'm not exactly in the majority in thinking this). I've actually had a big lunch and I'm not particularly inspired by anything for supper so I'll skip it. I just went out, walking down Richmond Rd in Westboro, looking for a place to plop down in a comfy chair and read a book with a steaming cup of coffee.

The two Bridgeheads (my favourite) are closed (because of course, it's after 21h00, and what kind of insane crazy person would want to go out after that?). Starbucks at Richmond/Roosevelt is open (though not 'til very late, I gather), but there's nary a free seat in sight. Trio is open until midnight, I think, but it's more "loungy", not really the kind of place where I'd feel comfortable sitting alone and reading. East of there... hmm... Petit Bill's? More of a bar & bistro, really. Further east, there's Raw Sugar, which is EXACTLY what I'm in the mood for, but I just checked their website and sure enough, closed.

So... what do you guys like around here, in the evenings? What are your favourite haunts? The coffee shops still open at 02h00, the restaurants that won't scoff if you call up and ask for "a table for two, around 22h00"? The hole-in-the-wall place with the comfortable chairs, the warm incandescent lighting, that serves an excellent glass of port? They're a well-kept secret, apparently, so go ahead, click "Post a follow-up", give them some publicity!

2009 Aug 3
JP Daigle - I hear ya man, as a woman of a certain age, with the kids gone and "The Man" and I footloose and fancy free it sometimes can be a bit of a hassle to find a spot that isn't a pub to have a late night meal(that lets face it only serves greasy pub fare), or like you've pointed out even a coffee, or a casual drink (that isn't a 20-something bar).

It has been pointed out in previous Forum Topics that two of the reasons for the "early dinner / early to bed" types in Ottawa is (a) lots of folks work for the Public Service, and so they like those insane 7-something to 3-something work days, and (b) Ottawa is by and large a family town, so kids eat early. Not enough singles and oldies to make up a late night clientele. Hopefully, some of that is changing now (more so than when I arrived back in the 80s) and definitely at a faster rate. Amen.

That said, sorry mate, I don't have any leads on Westboro, BUT I can tell you about a new spot in Manotick (out our way) which get this... stays open late every night of the week (pretty much unheard of in the burbs). They are a little wine bar (with great small plates) called Main Street Cellar -Main Street Cellar that has made a commitment to stay open until at least 11 PM or later (2:00 AM is the max), Monday thru Saturday (they are closed on Sundays). The owners tell me they've become sooo popular, that they rarely close up even on a Monday Night now before Midnight. They are open Fridays and Saturdays for lunch, and have a secluded patio. The wine list is great, the food is good, and ya can't beat the hospitality (and of course the hours). It's a great place to relax (big comfy leather chairs), or meet up with friends... and for us a heck of a lot closer than a drive down the the Fourth Avenue Wine Bar -

Could become a regular haunt.

2009 Aug 3
I'm seriously starting to wonder if I should open a late-night cafe in Westboro. Everything in the area closes early. Find me a bakery in this town open after 6. Because there aren't any.

Bridgehead closes a bit early, (2200 on weeknights/Saturdays), but Raw Sugar has varying hours. I've been there as late as 1 am for a party before and I know the owner wants to expand the hours a bit more on a regular basis.

But until then, I await new places to go late at night with baited breath.

2009 Aug 3
lady who brunches: I love love love the idea of a late-night cafe, and I'd certainly be a regular, but the problems with having that as your differentiator are that (1) I bet that most of your daily profit comes from the morning rush anyway, so for that you're competing with Bridgehead and sbux, and I have a hard time imagining beating Bridgehead on quality. (2) It's only too easy for the existing cafes (your competition) to just respond by saying "oh yeah? well we're open until 3am now! how do you like that?" and run you out of the market.

But it's fun to fantasize, and good point about the bakeries. I think Ottawa BagelShop is open until 20h00 most days, and they do sell bread, but I have the same problem with finding fresh bread on my way home from work.

2009 Aug 4
JP Daigle: when I've moved in the area, I was shocked to discover that Second Cups and Starbucks were actually closing before 23:00...

Restaurants: I may have few leads, as I often go out just across the river... Yesterday being the Civic statutory holiday in Ontario, and as it was indeed a Monday night, I suggested to some friends with whom I was going to dine-out to go in Old-Hull. So, as we vote for thai, we were dinning with friends Chez le Thai Chez le Thai (Laval Street, close to Portage), when a 12-persons group (without reservation) dropped in at 21:00: they were welcome and the restaurant just set a table for twelve. When we got out (around 22:45?), Le Troquet Troquet (Le)- just besides - was still packed: even though it's a café/bistro, Le Troquet is technically in the restaurant category as you have to order food to order alcohol, and the patio in the backyard is usually more quiet than the front one... Just across the street, Aux 4 jeudis Cafe aux Quatre Jeudis was still screening Batman: The Dark Knight on the patio even though it wasn't as crowded as usual on the patio (as there was an intermittent light rain )... Aux 4 jeudis may be more a bar than a restaurant, but you can however enjoy full meals... I'm not sure of Café Gaďa's hours (still on Laval).

So, on week nights were there's usually a great deal of closed places after 21:00 in Ottawa, I usually go randomly on Laval or Promenade du Portage and I always end up finding interesting places open late... I usually don't have to go that far, but I know that Le Twist Le Twist (on Montcalm, few blocks from Laval and Portage) is usually open late... Café La Brűlerie Cafe La Brulerie is very close (still on Montcalm), but I don't know their opening hours, and a new brewery just open on Montcalm (I haven't been there yet)...

2009 Aug 4
I think what JP is getting at (or at least my beef with the area) is that there aren't many places, if any at all, in walking distance of our neighbourhood (Hintonburg/Wellington West/Westboro/Lincoln Fields) that offer much in the way of late night snacks, comfy chairs and nice music.

I was at Raw Sugar for friends' wedding anniversary, and we were there until about 1am, because they had rented the place. It's a completely enjoyable atmosphere with a varied menu, which I would love to see duplicated in this city.

And, yep. Fantisizing was what that was all about; maybe when I'm retired, I'll open a cafe and then I can tell Starbucks and Bridgehead to get off my lawn :)