I know Ottawa doesn’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to being a fun, vibrant city, but I think that’s because people are looking for fun in all the wrong places. If you’re going to Byward Market for the day, you’re doing it wrong. One thing I love about Ottawa is how many small, niche neighbourhoods are scattered around the city and how truly unique each one is from the next. Of course you have your basic hoods, like Chinatown or Little Italy, but if you look just outside of those cultural hubs you’ll find a quirky little area called Hintonburg. It’s a refreshing break from the downtown crowds and the chain retailers you’ll find around the rest of the city. Just walking through the neighbourhood you’ll pass tons of independent boutiques, scratch vegan bakeries, and craft breweries.
Keep reading to find out my ultimate guide for eating and shopping your way through Hintonburg in 24 hours. That way, next time you have to visit Ottawa for work or family affairs you won’t dread the trip. Hey, you might even love it.
Grab a Bite
To start off your day, I’d actually suggest stepping just outside of Hintonburg. Hidden in an industrial strip mall, Art-Is-In Bakery might not seem like the ideal breakfast spot. However, it’s by far the best bread in the city and they definitely win for best cronuts. Even among the medical supply stores, furniture shops, and rehearsal studios, Art-Is-In manages to ooze the charisma of a Paris-meets-Brooklyn boulangerie. You can’t go wrong with a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, If you’re going later in the day though, you have to get the squash caponata sandwich with roasted butternut squash, goat cheese, pesto, olives and sundried tomatoes. Basically anything served on their freshly-baked loaves is a must.
You could spend the entire day strolling up and down Wellington Street West window shopping and bakery hopping. It’s no coincidence that all my favourite boutiques are in Hintonburg. Everything in the neighbourhood feels like it’s one-of-a-kind yet they all fit together perfectly. Not to mention, many of the shops are owned by badass Millennial women who are killing the entrepreneurial game. One of the coolest shops in the area is Tallow, named after the Australian beach. Even though it seems like it’s perma-winter in Ottawa, Tallow ships in flowery dresses and trendy swimsuits that make you feel like you could hop on a plane to Coachella at any moment. My favourite store in Ottawa, however, has to be PreLoved Ottawa. Rebecca Ball started the business as a side hustle to sell some extra clothes and PreLoved quickly became the go-to place in the city for fashion-forward consignment. Unlike searching through the racks at Value Village (which I still love, don’t get me wrong), I can find gems like Rag and Bone jeans or Valentino Moto boots on the PreLoved shelves. It’s definitely the best way to get some new pieces without the guilt.
Coffee Break and Sweet Treats
By now you probably need a pick me up. Luckily you won’t have any trouble finding a cup of coffee around Hintonburg. Ministry of Coffee and Social Affairs and Happy Goat Coffee are both local chains that have a low-key atmosphere ideal for relaxing or even to set up a makeshift office if you need to get some work done. If you’re looking for something a bit different, check out Ottawa’s new Feline Café where you can sip on your drink and play with cats. You can even adopt one if you end up falling in love.
Next up on the list is sweets, obviously. I’m not a vegan, but Hintonburg is home to two incredible new vegan joints. Little Jo Berry’s serves up childhood faves like pop tarts and s’mores, while Strawberry Blonde Bakery (which is also gluten free), offers classics like scones, bagels, and cupcakes. But if a donut is what you’re on the hunt for, nobody can top the OG, Suzy Q. They change their menu every month so you have to keep your eye on the flavours. Their specialty is the Blue Vanilla Fruit Loops donuts, but if I were you I’d go for the carrot cake donut.
Dinner and Drinks
After taking a break to digest your mid-afternoon treats, it’s time for dinner. Bar Laurel is a hip tapas bar that stands out against all the French and Italian restaurants in the city. A couple stars of the menu are the chorizo stuffed peppers with paprika aioli and el champi, which are paris mushrooms on a baguette with shrimp butter. And of course, there’s lots of good wine to be had. If you want to continue with post dinner drinks, Tooth and Nail Brewing Company is a casual place to keep the celebrations going. They always have “today’s taps” on their website for you to check out beforehand, and bits, bites and buns to nibble on if you get hungry later in the night.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Jordana Colomby)