Five Lively Spots for a Good Time in Ottawa

While we think it’s totally unfair, Ottawa is occasionally called “the land that fun forgot.” We’re sure that’s by people who simply don’t know any better and, obviously, have never stopped by any of these legendary bars to check out the good times being had. If you can’t find a good time in Ottawa, you’re probably not trying very hard. 

Elmdale House Tavern
Established in Hintonburg in 1934, the Elmdale was one of Ottawa’s first legally licensed bars, fast off the mark in its application for one of the first post-Prohibition licenses to sell beer in a taproom. Although it’s remained open ever since, its glory days were well behind it when new owners took over a couple of years ago to “de-grunge” the pickled egg and beer-by-the-quart dive. Now selling pickled eggs and beer by the quart, as well as fresh oysters right up to last call, this late-night retro-chic is a stellar success, with elevated bar food, an always excellent vibe and, some nights, first-rate roots music.

1084 Wellington Street West, 613-728-2848

Irene’s Pub
Ottawa South is blessed to have a burgeoning food and drink scene to back up its great live music presence, established years back with places like Barrymore’s and Cap’n Pinky’s. The latter of these two was bought out by new owners who re-christened it Irene’s, changed up the menu a little, but kept the chill vibe and community atmosphere. The pub attracts some of Canada’s best blues bands, in addition to rock, country and folk bands that fill the place with live music three to four times per week. Even when the stage is dark, the pub is anything but, since it’s one of the preferred locals for Glebe residents and everything south of that.

885 Bank Street, 613-230-4474

The Laff
Although it’s been reduced to half its size (not to mention half its former glory), Chateau Lafayette (a.k.a. The Laff) is still dive-y enough to warrant a visit. Established in 1849 as a tavern/hotel that catered to the needs of businessmen and farmers who exchanged goods in the market, The Laff has had many incarnations. Like in the 1980s, when the raucous, smoke-filled tavern that served beer in quarts and life-saving soup out of a machine was a foil to the nearby uber-upscale Chateau Laurier. Vestiges of those days still remain, including beer in quarts and lively entertainment, in particular its popular Saturday jam with Lucky Ron. 

42 York Street, 613-241-4747

The Standard
Bordering on becoming a real scene most weekend nights, The Standard doesn’t boast super-fancy cocktails or haute cuisine. Instead, it’s just everything a really good party bar ought to be — a comfortable, inviting tavern with a roster of killer deejays, great drinks, and solid pub food at extremely reasonable prices. Some come to watch the Sens, but what really makes the place is the eclectic crowd and lively atmosphere, all hopped up by inviting shots and other drink specials.

360 Elgin Street, 613-232-6274

Tempt fate and pick a new poison over at Absinthe, a resto-bar that specializes in the French wormwood elixir that was once banned because it was thought to drive people crazy. A century later, it was discovered that the spirit was essentially harmless (as harmless as a 140 proof alcohol can be) and the prohibition on its manufacture was repealed. Lucky for Hintonburg residents, who get to try it in all forms – in cocktails, in flights, in food, and as it was meant to be tasted, with distilled water. True converts will want to consider buying the swag, as the bar sells both spoons and absinthe fountains to keen fans.

1208 Wellington Street West, 613-761-1138

Published Wednesday, April 15th 2015

Header image credit: Courtesy of Elmdale House Tavern



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