Going Out

HIDDEN OTTAWA: Voices of Venus, one great Red Wall, and eight more hideaways where underground scenes flourish

Ottawa Magazine’s October issue uncovers “hidden Ottawa” with a hole-in-the-wall handbook that embraces the city’s undercover ambience, celebrating 39 overlooked nooks, hipster hideaways, secret foodie sources, and other mysterious locales. Get your copy at Britton’s magazine store and other newsstand locations around town.

Expect plenty of brass, bass, and maybe even some Bossa nova, at Groovy's Roti Hut on Sunday nights. Photo by Angela Gordon.

Groovy jazz
While Groovy’s Roti Hut regularly serves up flavourful (and filling and affordable) Caribbean cuisine, there’s something else special on the menu on Sunday evenings: jazz standards. It gets going around 7 p.m., and it’s a jam night, so no promises about who will show up. One night seven middle-aged men took to the lowered stage, covering trombone, drums, guitar, upright bass, alto sax, vocals, and keys. Later on, some kids straight out of High School Musical straggled in, instruments in hand. Food is mostly in the $9-to-$14 range, with lots of Caribbean faves like goat and codfish, as well as vegetarian options. On Sunday nights, the music takes over. 292 McArthur Ave., 613-744-1551. – Dayanti Karunaratne

In character
Taverns teem with drama — tall tales, fights, broken hearts — so what could be more logical than Chamber Theatre mounting plays in the venerable Carleton Tavern? The sightlines aren’t great (an incentive to get there early), but it’s a dandy place to watch slice-of-life theatre while quaffing a few. Tavern regulars seem mildly bemused by the events and stick to one side of the tavern during the shows. Their conversation sometimes spills over into the performance side, adding reality to the show (or is it vice versa?). Michel Tremblay’s Marcel Pursued by the Hounds opens Nov. 23. 223 Armstrong St., www.chambertheatrehintonburg.ca – Patrick Langston

Down and in
Next time you’re at the corner of Bank and Somerset, stop for a second and cock your ear to hear the beats trickling out of Fall Down Gallery, the new art space in the narrow store formerly occupied by Daniel Richards Gallery. Follow the bass to find an urban arts mecca: one wall features native-inspired Fall Down T-shirts (designed by co-owner Robbie Lariviere) and colourful skate shoes; the opposite side showcases photography and art books. In the middle is an island of comfy benches and a display case of colourful skateboard components, as well as a custom BMX. Adorned with feathers and fur, the funky BMX is a not-for-sale piece by Ottawa artist Jeff Dudka. Visit the back room for a walk down memory lane: one full wall is decorated with flyers from bygone Ottawa concerts and art exhibits. Event alert: On Sunday, Oct. 16, local arts group The Collective Seen will be joined by vintage clothing sellers Crackshots & Petticoats and upcyclers Hand Down Your Pants,  with beats by DJ KROM. Free.  288 Bank St., 613-421-3269. www.falldowngallery.tumblr.com – Dayanti Karunaratne

Cool treats

The Dairy Queen located at the unlikely corner of St. Laurent Boulevard and Hemlock Road has been around forever. What distinguishes this place from any other DQ in the city is the vintage sign: neon, so old and solid as to resemble a pop-art sculpture, and a nostalgic beacon to all those wishing to return to a childhood ideal. Sitting at one of the exterior tables, you can look out over the field it backs onto and recall the hot summer nights of childhood when you would drop your bicycle and hit the ground running, scrambling to the DQ for one last Mr. Misty before the store closed for the season and school started up anew. 345 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-749-2280. – Michael Murray

Photo op
Back in 2007, Len Ward left the firm Temprano Young & Ward Architects Inc. to open a storefront operation in Old Ottawa South combining his two great passions: architecture and photography. The resulting magnet for neighbourhood art aficionados serves as architectural office, frame shop, and art gallery exhibiting the works of Ward and other photo-artists. Exhibitions this past year have included the minimalist, architecturally themed compositions of Sylvia Klein and a multi-artist show titled The Nude in Nature. Event alert: Vernissage for The Art of Asana, a series of warm, black and white photos resulting from a collaboration with local yoga teachers. Proceeds from the sale of the prints and donations made during this event will benefit cancer research. Free. 1181 Bank St., 613-737-7300, www.artsandarchitecture.ca – Paul Gessell

Between the covers
The sign on the door of After Stonewall says it all: David’s Bookstore and Daycare. Former nurse David Rimmer not only sells gay-themed books (Neil Plakcy’s Hawaiian detective thrillers are the top sellers) but also offers sage advice to troubled and lonely customers. “I often wish I had an OHIP number,” says the Saskatoon native. Romances have even blossomed at the overcrowded shop: two men who met at Rimmer’s former book club have been a couple for 14 years now. The store’s name refers to the 1969 riots at New York’s Stonewall Inn that launched the gay-liberation movement. That makes After Stonewall definitely post-revolutionary and very gay-family-friendly. 370 Bank St., 613- 567-2221. – Paul Gessell

Raw Sugar owner Nadia Kharyati welcomes students and self-employed types by day, indie rockers and poets by night. Photo by Angela Gordon.

Raw Sugar Café
While still a relatively new addition to the scene, it’s already hard to imagine Ottawa without Raw Sugar Café. In daylight hours, it serves as a workspace and meeting place for all types of self-employed folks, who enjoy the bright interior, kitschy furniture, quiet nooks, and ample reading material (because even freelancers need a brain break). After sunset, indie musicians and their fans fill the funky joint, craving Beau’s beer and everything else that comes with the alt scene. Homemade goodies, both savoury and sweet, appeal to the vegetarian set. It all adds up to a space in which one can easily spend hours. A dream realized by owner Nadia Kharyati, who spent years collecting retro furnishings, Raw Sugar is a welcome respite in an industry overrun by chain establishments. 692 Somerset St. W., 613-216-2850. – Dayanti Karunaratne

Girl power
This fall, Voices of Venus, Ottawa’s female spoken-word showcase, moved to Venus Envy, our town’s in spot for the G-spot. The second Wednesday of every month, female-identified poets gather to slam and bam (thank you, ma’am) in verse form at the independent woman-run shop where books and toys to tickle your every fancy keep folks coming — back for more, that is. Actively queer- and trans-friendly, the shop is a dandy match for the upstart, open-minded Voices of Venus gang (not to mention Breathless, an adult community centre and private club that occupies the second floor). VoV, BTW, also plays host to live lit and spoken-word performers from across the country and, natch, there’s a lively blog. 320 Lisgar St., www.voicesofvenus.wordpress.com – Patrick Langston

Picture this
A good photograph prompts you to imagine an entire world beyond the image you’re looking at. The tiny, perfect Red Wall Gallery (it’s actually on one red wall) inside the School of Photographic Arts of Ottawa abounds with worlds you’ve never imagined. Unleash your inner modern-day Columbus at exhibits by emerging and established artists, as well as SPAO students. Upcoming: Moment(o) by John Hewett Hallum and The Family Farm Project by Rob MacInnis. Schmoozing alert: ample chit-chat opportunities (and sometimes homemade cookies) at vernissages. New: Poets, inspired by exhibits, scribble at Call and Response curated by local versifier rob mclennan. 168 Dalhousie St., www.spao.ca/redwall.html – Paul Gessell

Older crowd
This freshman-free Carleton campus watering hole is run by and for graduate students and is populated with those requiring a break from researching and theorizing. Profs and those who want to read the day’s news usually take up the bar stools near the only ample lighting in the small lounge at Mike’s Place. The rest of the space is textbook unfriendly and much more conducive to convivial gatherings. The 75-seat pub, located in the main university centre building, is hard to find, but here’s a hint: it’s just down the way from Porter Hall, a storied venue that saw the likes of the Ramones, the Pixies, and Billy Bragg take the stage in the ’80s and ’90s. The menu caters to the grad student’s vow of poverty, with $2.15 samosas and curries for $5.75. The pub is named after Lester B. Pearson — that was his nickname. The framed letter on the wall, asking for permission to name the pub after LBP, is good for a chuckle. 2nd level of Unicentre, Carleton University, 613-520-6681, www.gsacarleton.ca – Fateema Sayani