Happy Hour in Ottawa
Surprisingly stylish for a somewhat drab stretch of Bank Street, the gay-friendly restaurant called The Buzz draws a mixed, trendy crowd that enjoys a good conversation. The jazzy music is a great backdrop, but you don't have to shout to be heard. Nosh on appetizers like curried blue mussels or duck empanadas as you admire the artworks-many by local painters and for sale-on the high, exposed-brick walls.
374 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 1Y4
Best deals: $5 martinis on Wednesday nights, $6 mojitos on Thursday nights, and BYOB wine Sun-Tues nights with $5 corkage fee
Fourth Avenue Wine Bar
If you're lucky enough to get a seat at the cozy Fourth Avenue Wine Bar, guard it with your life-whenever we've dropped in here, vacated tables have been immediately claimed by thirsty patrons huddling near the bar. It's slightly less packed in the summer, when the overflow crowd spills onto tiny tables on the front sidewalk and a pretty deck at the back. It's a great place to try something new because the wine list-global in range but heavy on Italian, French, New Zealand and Canadian wines-changes almost weekly. There's also a good selection of beers, cocktails and fortified wines. The menu consists mainly of small plates and desserts, and this is one of the few restaurant kitchens in Ottawa that's open until at least midnight, seven days a week. Like its Glebe neighbourhood, it's classy and quiet. No reservations.
Fourth Avenue Wine Bar
107 Fourth Avenue, Unit #1
Ottawa, ON K1S 2L1
Best deal: There's usually at least one imported beer at under $6 a glass
With DJs six nights a week starting at 10pm and drink specials every weeknight, The Standard-which styles itself as a "luxury tavern"-is a magnet for young professionals. The cozy banquettes are a cut above the average pub décor, and since the restaurant has another of Ottawa's rare late-night kitchens, it's a great place to linger long into the night.
360 Elgin Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 1M8
Best deal: $2 mini-burgers and $4 Jagerbombs on Tuesdays
There's nothing remotely luxurious about The Prescott-it's just a good-old-boys' watering hole that's been here since dinosaurs roamed the earth (well, since 1934, if you want to get specific). To give you some idea of how traditional this spot is, it wouldn't let women into the tavern section until 1976. But if you just want to chow down on a great square pizza and a couple of pitchers of beer as you watch the big game on TV with an eclectic crowd of cops, jocks, office workers and Italians, this is your place.
379 Preston Street
Ottawa, ON K1S 4N1
Best deal: The variety platter-a pound of wings, onion rings, breadsticks and zucchini-feeds eight or more for $22.99
Sit back. Get funky. Sip your brew. And chill to the music. That's the vibe at The Rainbow Bistro, an Ottawa institution that presents live music-blues, jazz, folk, world, whatever-every day of the week. It offers a wide selection of beers but no food, but that's no problem for the regulars-the main attraction here is the entertainment.
The Rainbow Bistro
76 Murray Street
Ottawa, ON K1N 5M6
Best deal: Free matinee shows Wed-Sat, 4:20PM
If you're convinced you were actually separated at birth from Wallis Simpson, channel your inner flapper with cocktails at Zoe's Lounge. Like the rest of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel in which it's housed, it will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012. The old gal doesn't show her age, though, due to regular but sensitively managed renovations. The potted plants in their giant urns are still starchy, the huge windows still give you a great view of Confederation Square, the waiters are still charming and discreet, and the cushy wing chairs practically beg you to stay for a nightcap. If you're lucky, a pianist will be playing in some hidden alcove.
Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel
1 Rideau Street
Ottawa, ON K1N 8S7
Best deal: A glass of Italian Prosecco, $9