Since Town opened six years ago on Elgin Street, nestled between a Money Mart and a dry cleaners, it has become one of the city’s most popular restaurants. With its cozy space consistently full and reservations becoming increasingly necessary, an expansion seemed like the next logical step.
And so, just around the corner from Town at 207 Gilmour St., Citizen will open its doors in time for holiday bookings, with plans for an official opening in the new year.
Citizen’s development has been a couple of years in the making, but it wasn’t until this year that the right space came along. After gutting the former hair salon, the transformation has been relatively quick: in went chevron wood panels, a marble bar, banquettes, and a window spot for fresh herbs. Marc Doiron, one half of the pair that runs Town, describes it as having a Nordic aesthetic — a look he thinks fits well with the capital’s bar scene.
Conveniently, the two spaces share a kitchen; the menu at Citizen will include some of the same well-loved small plates from Town, along with a featured sandwich or two, some bar snacks, and late night treats. Citizen – named to tie in with the couple’s first restaurant, and yes, to give a nod to Ottawa’s eponymous newspaper – will be open from 6 p.m. until late, and will be doing weekend brunch spearheaded by Town kitchen veteran Alex Johnstone.
Doiron and Lori Wojcik, Town’s other half, are quick to praise their staff, who will be their co-directors at Citizen. Like Johnstone, Cameron Hill and Zach Lebert have been working at Town since its early days. Hill will be running the bar at Citizen, offering classic cocktails along with funkier seasonal drinks. There won’t be beer on tap (‘gasp’!). Instead, Hill is carefully curating a selection of bottled beer. Lebert will be taking care of the wine list at both restaurants. While Town offers solely Italian and Canadian wines, Lebert says his focus at Citizen will simply be to “pour good wine into people’s glasses.” Expect to see a variety of wines from around the world. Both drink professionals are looking to create a “democratic and accessible” bar program, hoping to bridge gaps between guests who might be nervous to order the unfamiliar and more adventurous drinkers. The say they’re looking forward to wine nights and cocktail collaborations with bartenders from around the city.
Along with drinks-focused events, Citizen will be Dorion and Wojcik’s space for private parties, as well as for all kinds of happenings. Art shows, DJ nights, pop-up shops, and movie nights are just some of the ideas the team has been throwing around. Doiron excitedly talks about a “chef in residence” who is slated to take over Citizen on Mondays, while Wojcik is keen to take care of the art side of things (harkening back to her gallery life before Town). When the space isn’t booked for an event, the crew envisions people casually dropping in — whether it be for a cheese plate and a glass of wine, or to do some work on their laptop. Aside from larger bookings and events, Citizen won’t be taking reservations.
Wojcik admits that they’re “kind of doing it all”, as they try to share a little bit of everything they love in their new space. At the end of the day, Citizen is what Doiron and Wojcik had envisioned Town would be. Town evolved over the years, and they’re thrilled with what it has become – equally sought after for casual meals as well as for special occasions. Citizen is Town’s more casual counterpart — or the “badass teenage sister restaurant” as Lebert put it.
However this new venture evolves, it’s clear that Citizen will offer the same warmth that Town has been shining on to Elgin Street since it opened. Come as you are – all citizens welcome.