If your summer plans keep you close to home, you’re in luck, because there are some great possibilities in the Ottawa area that make for unforgettable staycation memories. Ottawa At Home looks at three locations where great food is served up with a side of fun.
MULLIGANS GOLF BAR
The newly opened Mulligans Golf Bar offers fun for the whole family. Centrally located just a chip shot away from Parliament Hill, the venue combines gastropub fare with virtual-reality golfing and race car simulators.
Given that Ottawa has more golf courses per capita than anywhere in North America with the exception of Myrtle Beach, Mulligans’ owners knew there was an untapped market for a downtown golf facility. “We charge by the hour, rather than by the round, so it’s easy for people to come in and play nine holes then grab a bite to eat, or even to squeeze in some driving range time during the week before heading to a course on the weekend,” explains Cam Ross, one of the co-owners. “We have hosted birthday parties and corporate events. We’re also seeing lots of couples coming in for a fun date night, and, because of our kids’ golf game, it’s a perfect venue for the whole family.”
The food is no afterthought at Mulligans. Like an upscale clubhouse, the menu has been carefully crafted to provide a variety of options ranging from lighter bites to meaty meals, with vegetarian dishes too. Chef Jayce Edwards, who made a name for himself as part of the impressive kitchen at the Albion Rooms, has assembled a strong team to deliver the menu – designed by co-owner Andrew Grace – of classic comfort food but with a signature twist. “Ours is a scratch kitchen,” explains co-owner Chris Prendergast, “and all our dishes and cocktails offer a layering of flavours. Our big emphasis is on making sure that our execution is totally consistent.”
From the house-made brioche for burgers and club sandwiches, to the caramelized onions cooked in bourbon-infused pork drippings, to the smoked tomatoes that grace the pizzas, everything at Mulligans is a cut above what you might expect of pub fare. The complementary “jango-dusted” popcorn is addictive, as are the jalapeno-brined French fries. There’s a great beer selection and killer cocktail menu, including what is arguable the city’s best Caesar, featuring infused vodka with crispy prosciutto, chèvre-stuffed olives and a house-made burnt honey, maple and bacon rimmer.
CALABOGIE PEAKS RESORT
Whether you’re keen on a drive in the country or a short “stay and play” getaway, Calabogie Peaks is an idyllic destination. Just an hour from Ottawa, this four-season resort offers plenty of fun, whether you’re drawn to the mountain, land or lake.
“You can spend the day on the water, hiking, playing tennis or enjoying a round of golf, then savour a gourmet meal in our Canthooks restaurant,” explains Calabogie’s director of marketing, Liz Murphy. Calabogie’s kitchen is open all day long and evening reservations are preferred but not always necessary. “Many visitors enjoy a pre-dinner stroll around the grounds with a cocktail or glass of wine,” adds Liz. “You can wander down the pathway to the beachfront or the ponds, taking in the view of the mountain or watching the deer playing in the forest. Ours is a beautiful outdoor setting, offering a true escape from the city and we have a variety of activity packages available to make your getaway really special.”
The recent addition of executive chef Tristan Hertzog to the Calabogie team has elevated the resort’s food and beverage services thanks to his inspiration, sommelier training and love of farm-to-table cuisine. “We moved to the Ottawa Valley to be closer to family and I’ve had so much fun sourcing local products and developing relationships with producers in the area, including trout and beef suppliers, local microbreweries, chocolatiers and more,” notes Tristan. “Their excellent products appear on our new menus and many will be featured in our upcoming pairing dinners which are highlighted on our website.”
In the summer, the lakeside Boathouse Bar & Grill offers delicious, casual bites like Korean barbeque pork lettuce wraps. At Canthooks, the new menu incorporates both gourmet and family-friendly fare including lots of healthy dishes. Cedar-smoked pickerel, chorizo gnocchi and crave-worthy parmesan frites are just a few of the regular items. “We plan to offer specials as well to encourage creativity in the kitchen; it’s fun to work on different dishes with interesting elements,” says Tristan.
An expanded on-site garden gives Tristan and his team ready access to fresh herbs and vegetables to complement the foraged items he’s sourcing from the resort’s grounds. Other improvements include a brand new kitchen at the Mountain Cat Lodge, which will allow for enhanced food offerings at the top of the hill, including for private events.
Having great food and drink is just the beginning when it comes to success in the busy ByWard Market. For Lowertown Brewery, location is also key to making it one of Ottawa’s favourite places to while away a summer’s day or evening. Lowertown has expanded its foothold and now boasts the city’s largest patio, with room for about 130 patrons on its York Street frontage, coupled with 250 seats on a new Clarence Street back patio. Add in the option to purchase beer to take home from 11 am to 11 pm, plus an ever-changing lineup of events, and it’s little wonder that Lowertown is hopping every day and night.
Regulars know that one of Lowertown’s secrets is a fun little arcade featuring a handful of pinball machines and two foosball tables. “The classic games like Kiss, Elvis and Star Trek are the most popular by far, though we vary the lineup from time to time,” says Lowertown’s engaging chef, Kyle Mortimer-Proulx. With a DJ spinning vinyl on Friday nights and live music on Saturday nights, Lowertown delivers a full-customer experience.
While there’s always a buzz at Lowertown, the environment is laid back, making it even easier for Kyle’s kitchen artistry to shine. “To me, Lowertown is Canadian smokehouse with elevated pub food,” he explains. “I love preparing smoked meat, brisket and our famous brined, smoked, deep-fried chicken wings which are served with our housemade sauces. I try to incorporate our beer into the food as much as possible, using it for marinating and braising as well as in barbeque sauces.”
Kyle’s cold-smoked cod is dressed in a pale ale batter for the fish and chips; chicken is brined in beer before air drying then roasting, giving it a hoppy flavour matched with a nice salinity. While there is much meat on offer, vegans also recognize a kindred spirit in Kyle, thanks to his time as executive chef at Zen Kitchen.
Ideal for date night or a large family gathering, there’s ample room indoors or out at Lowertown. It’s also a great late-night spot. The menu switches at 10 pm to include such delicacies as deep fried mac ‘n cheese with house-smoked brisket – perfect fuel for the impromptu dance parties for which Lowertown has become famous.