by: Brian Clarke
Every city has its late night staples. Everybody knows them – the places that offer cheap, greasy food and are packed with drunken bar-goers in the early hours of the morning.
In Ottawa, the early morning snacking “industry” seems to be dominated by pizza, shawarmas, and poutine. And of course, like every other city: McDonald’s.
But among the chaos of these hungry drunks, there is a smaller, quieter, less obnoxious, but equally hungry population: those who work in the bar scene. And yes, this includes us rickshaw runners. On our quest to find cheap food before heading to bed, we consciously try to avoid the popular late night food options. By that point, we’ve typically had enough of the bar crowd, and are looking for a quiet place to eat a not-quite-as-greasy meal.
Here are a few places in the Byward Market that have become our staples of late night snacks. To be included in this list of “hidden gems”, these restaurants must follow two rules: they don’t serve pizza, burgers, poutine, or shawarmas; and they are open after 2AM.
This little Caribbean-themed restaurant is located on Dalhousie Street, just south of Rideau. While this is usually a busy corner early in the morning, this tiny restaurant usually seems to get looked over for the next door Smoke’s Poutinerie and Maroush Shawarma. But Island Flava is where you’d find the best bang for your buck, getting a good sized jerk chicken meal with fried plantains (Yum!) for under $10. Also, $1 Jamaican Patties!
Due to its prime location on Clarence Street, this Mexican-themed restaurant is quickly gaining popularity and may not be considered a “hidden gem” anymore, I still included it as it is a personal favourite for late snacking. For under $10 you get a huge (really, huge) burrito, jammed with chicken, rice, beans and guacamole! It’s not always super busy inside, so if you can catch this place on a quiet night, it is definitely worth it.
Why not use a grocery store for late night snacking? Especially when it is open 24 hours, and a 2 minute walk from the Market? Metro has become a tradition for us rickshaw runners, as we frequent the store after almost every late night shifts. It is definitely the cheapest option you can find at that hour, and obviously has a ton more to choose from than a restaurant with three menu choices. Some of our teams’ favourite snack choices at Metro include Lunchables, pizza buns, cheese buns, chocolate milk, pita bread and dip, fruit and protein bars.
Obviously, this list and my personal experience with late night snacking don’t extend past the Byward Market, but I’m sure there are many more hidden gems located throughout the city.
What are some hidden gems for late night snacking on Elgin? In the Glebe? Or any other area of town? Share your favourite 2AM spots in the comments below. Just make sure they follow my two rules I mentioned above!!