When the mercury nears 30 degrees, the last thing you want to do is slave over a hot stove.
This summer, leave the kitchen behind and head out for a picnic, hit up a food cart,
or sit on a breezy patio and enjoy a cold drink
The Line Up
222 Beechwood Ave.
The Picnic Action Plan
Sandwich Board: Best Sammys
Sidekicks: Locally-made condiments
Holland’s Cake & Shake epic lunch
5 Cool Drinks
3 Chill Out Spots
5 Smashing Sippers
Sur La Terasse
3 Perfect Patios
The latest addition to Beechwood Avenue is Sundae School, which promises that blissful trifecta of ice cream, sauce, and a cherry (or two) on top. Owner Lindsay Taub (a.k.a. the Chief Sundae Officer) doles out small-batch ice creams from Carp Custom Creamery and classic sauces made in house (think hot fudge and salted caramel). Enjoy the hip classroom atmosphere, or head to the patio. From $8. Sundae School, 222 Beechwood Ave. — Sarah Brown
Want the picnic brought to you? Call Spread Delivers
Best known for her corporate breakfasts and lunches, delivered via bike courier, Julie Harrison of Spread Delivers has parlayed her expertise into a thriving “picnic boutique.” Hers is a travelling canteen, with a team from 2 Wheels Ahead Courier showing up at parks around town to drop off her gourmet picnic lunches between May and September. Her clientele? Office workers, stroller moms, and romantic dates. All you have to do is place an order by 5 p.m. the day before, then wait at your designated picnic spot for lunch to show up.
How did you get the idea to offer picnics?
Summer is short. I’d see everyone outside on a nice day, but by the time you’ve lined up for food, there’s hardly any time left to hang out. I started thinking about all of Ottawa’s green spaces and how people would love it if they could just show up at the park and have lunch delivered. I began offering picnics in the park to a few of my corporate clients, and it spread from there through word of mouth.
Why do you think the picnic-in-the-park idea has taken off so quickly?
There’s so much appeal to lounging in the grass — a middle-of-the-workday picnic is cooler than anything!
Are picnic dates a thing?
They are. We even had a picnic proposal a couple of summers ago. It’s a great way to impress a date — you look pretty good when your picnic rolls into the park!
How do your bike couriers find the picnickers?
They’re used to searching out picnickers — so, for instance, you might tell us that you’ll be at Lansdowne Park at noon by the water feature and you’ll be wearing a blue T-shirt and a Blue Jays cap. The courier will find you. As a last resort, they have your cell number, so they can give you a quick call.
What’s the key to a good picnic?
Keep it not too messy and not too fussy. Picnics should be simple and easy to eat.
Top picnic spots around town?
Our top three delivery spots are Lansdowne Park, the waterfront at the Canadian Museum of History, and the Museum of Nature. Dow’s Lake is pretty popular, and we get quite a few calls for Major’s Hill and Vincent Massey parks. — Sarah Brown
The Picnic Action Plan — Source strategically from cafés located
close to perfect parks
Union Street Kitchen Café + Stanley Park
Just minutes from the storied park on the Rideau River, Union Street Kitchen Café (42 Crichton St.) makes delicious pressed sandwiches, monster cookies, and salads.
Hot tip: There’s lots of parking on Stanley Avenue at the southern end of the park where kids and parents congregate at the play structures.
Kettleman’s + Sylvia Holden Park
Kettleman’s Bagel (912 Bank St.) is picnic central. Load up on bagels, flavoured cream cheeses, and gourmet cookies before heading to Sylvia Holden Park, an urban gem best accessed from Fifth Avenue, to picnic under the trees and enjoy the giant wading pool.
Hot tip: It’s a five-minute stroll to the adjacent Lansdowne Park, which boasts its own play park, water feature, and loads of lawn.
The Beachconers + Britannia Beach
The Beachconers (273 Britannia Rd.) is a cute café and ice cream shop just minutes from Britannia Beach. Stock up on muffuletta sandwiches, savoury scones, and vegan potato salad with avocado dressing before walking to the beach.
Hot tip: The Beachconers is across the road from Mud Lake, whose perimeter is crisscrossed with trails — a fine place to stroll while enjoying a cone. — Sarah Brown
The best things between sliced bread
The Furlonger Club
Toasted white bread? Check. Frilly toothpicks? Check. Real chicken? Check. It has been on the menu for as long as we can remember — and may it remain there forevermore. The Manx Pub’s Furlonger Club is a true classic, faithful to the genre. Where it strays, it does so flawlessly — delectable peameal bacon stands in for traditional bacon strips, and a lightly garlicky version replaces plain mayo. Served with a choice of fries, salad, or soup. $14. The Manx Pub, 370 Elgin St.
Some might consider it gimmicky, but we’re all in favour of the sushi burrito, a.k.a. the perfect hand food. Burrito Sensei‘s burrito-sized sushi roll (those with smaller appetites will want to share) filled with fresh fixings and wrapped up like a shawarma. Try the signature Pork Jab, a sinus-clearing delight, the seaweed wrapped around tonkatsu (breaded pork), rice, pickled cabbage, cucumber, a sprinkling of jalapeno and green onions, and a healthy dollop of wasabi mayo. Build-your-own options available. $12.95. Burrito Sensei, 199 Bank St.
As the star of the humble vegetable has risen, every joint in town does a veggie sandwich. But casual coffee house stalwart Pressed has been on the veg bandwagon since it opened in 2012. Pressed‘s Eggplant Tempura is straightforward and tasty. Three ingredients — eggplant, vegan miso mayo, and Asian slaw — in a pressed panini. Squishy and crunchy and just a little bit spicy. Served alongside a small salad and sweet-potato chips. $10.95. Pressed, 750 Gladstone Ave.
The sandwich masters at Red Door treat the humble grilled cheese sandwich as high art, creating a slew of first-rate renditions (eight on the menu on our last visit) that mix and match all manner of cheeses and condiments. Red Door Provisions’ The Dad Bod combines aged cheddar, cream cheese, and maple-candied Seed to Sausage bacon. A quick hit of heat comes from the pickled jalapenos. $5.50–$9.50, depending on the sandwich. Red Door Provisions, 117 Beechwood Ave. —Sarah Brown
Locally-made small batch condiments and snacks to spice up your next picnic
The Heirloom Kitchen
Forget sauerkraut! Kimchi is finally getting its due as the fermented condiment of choice to add kick to summer sandwiches, hot dogs, and burgers. Healthy, colourful, and crunchy. What’s not to love? About $10/500 mL.
Lowertown Canning Company
Nothing beats the classic dill pickle, and Lowertown Canning Company — the brainchild of The Courtyard’s head chef, Simon Brière-Audet, and his partner, Beth Evans — makes a doozy. Slice it on a burger or enjoy as a stand-alone picnic snack. These babies are tangy, crunchy, drippy, and dense, with just the right amount of mustard and dill. Pickle nirvana. $7/500 mL.
Top Shelf Preserves
Kick up your salsa game with Top Shelf’s spicy-citrusy version, made with locally grown tomatillos, serrano peppers, cilantro, and garlic. Pair with corn chips and get dipping. Bonus: Since there’s no added sugar, classify this salsa as health food. About $10/270 mL.
Beer Snacks International
Think of it as a drinking-snack upgrade, the perfect complement to a cold beer or fizzy lemonade. The lineup by this local duo includes S & S (that’d stand for sweet and spicy) Malay Mix, and “fiercely hot” Sichuan Peanuts. For traditionalists, classic Beer Nuts round out the offerings. $7/145 g.
— Sarah Brown
Inspired by Yogi Bear’s obsession with “pic-a-nic baskets,” Michael Holland of Holland’s Cake and Shake introduces his own pic-a-nic in a bun. Known for his ingenious sandwich creations, Holland has condensed the classic summertime picnic into a handheld roll: smoked deli chicken, gravy mayo, homemade macaroni salad, fried chicken breading, and chips. Close your eyes, take a bite, and imagine yourself lounging on a red-checkered blanket as the breeze ruffles your hair. $6.65. Holland’s Cake and Shake, 229 Armstrong St.
Its genesis — “I thought about summer and what you’d have in a picnic, then added everything together.”
Its mayo — “If you add gravy flavouring to mayonnaise, it’s the perfect texture for spreading on a sandwich. I don’t do hot sandwiches in the summer, so this gives you that sense of having gravy without the real thing. Real cold gravy would be kind of disgusting and gelatinous!”
Its breading — “I mix flour with all the spices I would use to make breading — paprika, cayenne, garlic — then add buttermilk and mix it till it clumps. When I deep-fry the clumps, it becomes that crunchy breading that you associate with eating fried chicken. I crumble it and add it into the sandwich for crunch and texture.” — Sarah Brown
A cross-cultural culinary success story
When Andrew Lay took a break from his Ottawa hot dog cart, he travelled to southern China. It was in the town of Yangshuo that he met restaurateur Xin Hui Su, known to everyone as Sula. “She kept feeding me momos!” says Lay, recalling the spicy Tibetan dumplings that he couldn’t get enough of.
Both came to Ottawa and set up something completely different. And we now have Asian tacos, fresh from a food cart! Sula Wok‘s build-your-own is the concept, with choices of fillings, greens, and sauces in a corn or flour tortilla or a lettuce wrap.
Here, Sula’s moma filling of beef with cumin, coriander, and black pepper takes on a whole new meaning. If meat is not your thing, give five-spice tofu a try. Greens include cucumber mint and homemade kimchi. Meanwhile, Sula’s spicy chili oil is positively addictive.
On the horizon? All kinds of stir-fries are being developed, as well as a bricks-and-mortar home on Main Street, scheduled to open this summer, that will house a takeout version of Sula Wok. Don’t worry, though, the Sula Wok cart is still operating at the corner of Bank and Sparks streets — all summer long. — Cindy Deachman
Crafted with care, cool drinks make it easy to sip the summer away
“Anna, ya gotta do these freddo cappos. It’s the biggest thing here!” said one of Anna Papadopoulos’s cousins from Greece. At the Nutty Greek Bake Shop, co-owner Papadopoulos pours espresso, made with Francesco’s beans, over ice; it’s topped with a dense milk foam with the highest head ever (courtesy of their milkshake machine). $3.50. Nutty Greek Bake Shop, 490 Rochester St.
Move over, 7Up — Bec’s lime soda from Montreal is here to stay! The soda is for “people who like pop but don’t want to ruin their health,” says co-founder Olivier Dionne. “We worked with chemists to come up with non-synthetic flavourings.” This lime pop is sweetened with maple syrup. $3. SuzyQ, 969 Wellington St. W.
Chè Ba Mau
This Vietnamese delicacy looks like a parfait, yet you drink it through a straw. And although it’s called Three Colour Drink, owner/chef Huong Nguyen at Huong’s insists she sees four! Count the sweet house-made layers: red adzuki beans, yellow mung beans, green agar-agar jelly, and white coconut milk. $4. Huong’s Vietnamese Bistro, 359 Booth St.
You can’t beat pure fruit — in this case, a gorgeous mango granita from gelateria Mantovani 1946. The drink is made by blending crushed ice with handmade sorbetto. The sorbetto recipe — fruit and sugar, but not sweetened too much — comes all the way from the original Mantovani 1946 in Naples. So lush! $6. Mantovani 1946, 87 Murray St.
Strawberry Iced Tea
Nectar of the gods! Brilliant red, this strawberry iced tea comes from chocolatier Cylie. Organic strawberry white tea has been cold-steeped — long and slow. Then, along with ByWard Market strawberries, a subtle made-in-house vanilla-bean syrup is added. Plus, the ice cubes are made from the tea. Such rarified balance! $4.50. Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers, 204 Dalhousie St.
Perfect lounges for late-night snacks
The Moonroom burns brightly at night. Without a full kitchen, there’s a solid list of snacks (get the bacon-wrapped olives) to complement the comprehensive drinks list. Add such classic cocktails as a delicate French 75 or a boozy Manhattan to the effortlessly cool vibe, cue the sweet beats — this little bar has it all. 442 Preston St.
Eclectically decked out with vintage maps and pennants, Belmont puts deliciously unorthodox twists on small plates such as kimchi and pork rillettes. Try “Ohh Baby, I Like It Rawww” — salmon tartar with togarashi mayo. The menu is as quirky as the decor. Check the chalkboard for a rotating list of such tipples as Lisa Needs Braces, which mixes chartreuse, gin, and grapefruit juice. 1169 Bank St.
Copper Spirits and Sights
On the 16th floor of the Andaz Hotel in the ByWard Market, Copper Spirits and Sights has a view that’s hard to beat, and you’ll be sure to catch a cool evening breeze outside on the patio. Local spirits and ingredients are big features — sip on the NCC (National Capital Caesar), featuring Perth’s Top Shelf vodka. There’s a live DJ on weekends to provide the perfect soundtrack to your late-night snacking (salami chips and caviar, anyone?). 325 Dalhousie St. — Katie Shapiro
A survey of Ottawa’s ever-growing cocktail scene
The Spa Water ($14) — an elegant cocktail of sake, elderflower liqueur, and cucumber water — feels like cool bliss. But if you’re looking for something a little stronger, turn to the bar’s Nightcap ($18). With a frozen sphere of sweet vermouth and gin in a glass of Campari and rye, the Nightcap dances between a traditional Negroni and a boulevardier. Booze-forward and deliciously assertive, it’s one to savour slowly. Sutherland, 224 Beechwood Ave.
With different drink lists in the restaurant and the speakeasy, there’s always an abundance of refreshments to choose from at Union 613. But don’t overlook their standards. The Bourbon Lemonade, a spiked Southern staple, is made with in-house raspberry syrup and fresh lemonade. It’s a bright pink palate pleaser that will go down nicely on their new patio. $12. Union 613, 315 Somerset St. W.
The Uncommon Mojito
Made with gin, Lillet Blanc (a French aperitif), lemon juice, blackberry juice, and mint, this mojito might not be one that you recognize — but the Common Eatery likes to stand out. With moody lighting and a bumping soundtrack, the airy space makes for a cool summer hideaway. $11. Common Eatery, 380 Elgin St.
If it seems strange to drink your gin and tonic in a glass that looks as though it’s meant for a big red wine, that’s only because you haven’t yet enjoyed the pleasures of a Copa Serve. The wide-mouthed wineglass, called a copa de balón, highlights the drink’s aroma. The Bar Laurel lineup includes seven gins and five tonics, and each pairing is finished with complementary or contrasting garnishes. Take your Copa out to the patio, and you’ll be transported to a Spanish plaza in no time. $8-$12. Bar Laurel, 1087 Wellington St. W.
Though Ward 14 is filled with vintage trinkets and curios, the cocktail list is anything but stuffy. Drinks at the consignment bar are light and fruity — the B*tch Belize, for example, is a quaffable mix of rum, apricot juice, and coconut water. You may even want to buy the chalice it comes in (and you can!). $9. Ward 14, 139 Preston St.
Sur La Terasse
Out-of-the way patios offer an escape — and excellent drinks
Café My House
“I really like apples with my cheese,” a diner once said at Café My House. “Just one second,” came the reply. And out to the back garden the server went to pick an apple from the tree. “That was a moment,” says owner Briana Kim. The tree, along with herbs and edible flowers, grows in a garden behind the My House patio. Sitting on the cozy terrace, enclosed by a wrought-iron fence, “people feel like they’re in Montreal.” says Kim. While there, enjoy the restaurant’s Pisco brandy cocktail infused with lemongrass and shot through with their house ginger liqueur. 1015 Wellington St. W.
Rustiek’s newly renovated deck is high enough to be away from the hue and cry. And although protected by a big green maple, the terrace feels open and spacious. Food here is inspired by German and Dutch cuisine, so feel free to quaff a German-style lagered ale. Evenings, you’ll be revelling in the brilliant setting sun.
51, rue Saint-Jacques, Gatineau
Soif bar à vin
Ping-pong, you say? Yes, when it’s not too busy, Soif sets up the table on their back patio. Planters set up all around, high and low, have been sown with heritage seeds of herbs and edible flowers. Owner Véronique Rivest has even been known to take a few nibbles of shiso (a Japanese herb that tastes of mint, basil, and coriander). At night, while you’re sipping your rosé on the terrace, tiny little lights hanging from the surrounding trees twinkle. 88, rue Montcalm, Gatineau — Cindy Deachman