The right atmosphere can make good food taste even better. Often, music is the key ingredient, with a great live performance serving to transform any evening from fair to fabulous.
Whether it's an emerging young folk artist, a hot indie rocker or an established international jazz star, there is an undeniable appeal to enjoying a meal with friends while listening to live music in an intimate venue. If your tastes run to delicious, freshly-made pub food, top notch lattes and sweets or pleasing bistro fare, there are several venues in Ottawa that blend music and food in perfect harmony.
Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau
The National Capital Region is home to a proud brewing tradition that stretches back to our country's foundation. Les Brasseurs du Temps, located on the shores of Gatineau's Brewery Creek, pays homage to the past while also forging its own identity as an appealing venue for lovers of hand-crafted beer, well-made food and authentic music. Under the roof of a gorgeous heritage building with thick stone walls, Les Brasseurs du Temps, known to its legion of regulars as BDT, operates not only a microbrewery that produces a variety of unique beers but also a much-lauded restaurant and a free, fascinating museum celebrating the cultural and social history of beer.
The brewery and restaurant share a philosophy that's all about fresh and local - the beer is brewed onsite and delicious meals are prepared with the best of ingredients from nearby suppliers. Served in a dynamic, joyful atmosphere, the menu is reminiscent of a European brasserie with bison burgers, top-notch fries and sure-fire daily specials. Plus, many items include BDT's beer as a flavourful element. When it comes to music, BDT is proud to host local and international artists who play everything from jazz to blues to traditional French chansons and more.
Les Brasseurs du Temps is at 170 rue Montcalm in Gatineau. 819-205-4999
Perched in the heart of Chinatown, Raw Sugar is a funky café that offers all the edible treats you'd expect and plenty of audible ones as well. It boasts an ever-expanding menu that includes fairly-traded coffees and teas as well as a delicious selection of house-made savoury and sweet items, including vegan options. Raw Sugar is also licensed, serving up Beau's beer along with creative offerings of visual art, literary events and an eclectic range of live music, including techno, punk, rock, folk and more.
With an atmosphere that is best described as a home away from home, Raw Sugar has, in just two years, become a popular gathering place for coffee, tea and music lovers of all ages. Epitomizing her café's comfortable ease, amiable owner Nadia Kharyati is proud to host musicians from across North America, along with acts from Europe and Asia. Rather than searching to find performers, many of those who appear at Raw Sugar approach Nadia, eager for a chance to play in a lively venue that offers all the warmth and spontaneity of a traditional kitchen party.
Raw Sugar Café is at 692 Somerset Street West. 613.216.2850
As Ottawa's longest-standing jazz club, Café Paradiso has a rich history of presenting big stars in an intimate setting. A veritable who's who of the national and international jazz world has played at the Paradiso, including the David Liebman Quartet, Marc Copland and Sheila Jordan, to name but a few. Local favourites who gig there regularly include Mike Tremblay, Mark Ferguson, Elise Letourneau and Peter Hum; young up-and-comers are also given a chance to shine on the Paradiso's small stage. The café's petite size makes for a very interactive experience; it's not uncommon for patrons to chat with the musicians during the show.
Unlike some other jazz clubs, it's not just about the music and drinks - the Paradiso is renowned for its consistently good food and warm, attentive service. Best described as casual fine dining, the bistro-inspired menu caters to a broad demographic, with classics such as steak frites sharing the spotlight with perfectly-prepared fish, tapas, divine desserts and impressive Quebec cheeses. It's clear the kitchen has a fondness for quality, seasonal ingredients as the menu is refreshed regularly.
Café Paradiso is at 199 Bank Street, 613.565.0657
Black Sheep Inn / Bistro Rutherford
Boasting a sign that says "Be Nice or Leave," the Black Sheep Inn is not an elegant place, but it's a tremendously popular one. Hordes of music fans regularly make the short trek to Wakefield to catch some of the best musical acts - folk, rock, blues, jazz and more - to perform in our region. Long known by artists as one of the top ten places to perform in Canada, the Black Sheep offers an up-close musical experience, with cozy tables and space to stand and soak up the atmosphere.
Adding significantly to the Black Sheep's popularity is the adjacent Bistro Rutherford, which serves up generous helpings of tasty cooking to throngs of concert-goers as well as being a popular year-round pit stop for cottagers and locals alike. But don't expect traditional greasy pub fare at Bistro Rutherford; instead you'll find fresh food, carefully prepared using the finest local ingredients. Top sellers are their pulled pork sandwiches, fabulous burgers made from locally-raised Angus beef, tacos, vegetarian burritos and quesadillas. A dish called Le Kenzie - poutine with pulled pork - enjoys a cult following. It's not fancy food, but it is delicious, and the perfect opening act for a night of great entertainment.
The Black Sheep Inn and Bistro Rutherford are at 753 Chemin Riverside in Wakefield. 819.459.3228 or 819.459.2100