I sit here yawning at work, not because I have nothing to do, but because for the past 6 nights (yes, 6, in a row) I have been experiencing what many of my fellow 20 something citizens of this lovely town called Ottawa refuse to believe exists: a night life. Or, a life in general.
Let me explain: Ottawa has always been seen as a pretty conservative kind of town. You know, button down, proper, 9-5 Mon-Fri standard city. Don’t get me wrong here; I, too, have fallen into the trap of complaining that there is nothing to do in Ottawa save finding yourself in front of your TV with your girlfriends or a bottle of wine… and if you’re extremely lucky, both, and then the vicious circle starts again until you go to, let’s sat Toronto or Montreal for some entertainment.
I’d like to throw out there to whoever reads this in Ottawa (HI!) that yes, there is INDEED a multitude of ‘stuff to do’ in Ottawa all the way from Monday to Friday. You just have to look for it; on that note, for the past 6 days I’ve kind of fallen into Ottawa’s hidden night life, the bags under my eyes and my constant yawning can attest to it, and I thought I’d share some with you before I make a great escape for an epic nap.
Mondays: As I said in my last post, you are BOUND to meet some interesting (read: weird) people out on a Monday night, with the exception of 2: musicians and servers. Zaphods in the heart of the market hosts an open – stage of sorts for local bands to come and jam. Elizabeth and I went last Monday for a drink and some surprisingly good music. The crowd is small and intimate; the musicians unpretentious and playing for the love of it, and it sure as hell beat the laundry I was supposed to be doing.
As for servers; there is a little place called Oz Kafe on Elgin Street, where the Oh So Good used to be. Oz Kafe stays open SUPER late (like, 2-3 am) so that servers coming off the night shift can get a decent meal at a trendy and delicious spot to eat. Also, every so often on Mondays (I can’t remember if it’s the first or the last) is Chef Appreciation Night, where a guest chef comes into Oz and has a theme for a 4 course meal; all for 20$. Book early my fellow Ottawa-ites, because when I was there the place was PACKED and bumpin. Might I also add, it was here that I had the most delicious Cosmopolitan I have ever had in my life. What’s it like? Go… and you tell me.
Tuesdays: My girl Mackenzie B introduced us to this lovely night while we were discussing the 2nd Narnia movie. Now, I’m not cheap, but I wouldn’t spend 12-14$ to go see Narnia. But… I would be convinced to pay less. Significantly less. Tuesdays are our 4.20… movie nights. At Silver City and other theatres that Famous Players, or is it Cineplex Odeon now? Whatever… Tuesday night movies are 4.20$ for general admission, and thanks to reelmail, you can buy your tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in the inevitable gong-show of a lineup 10 minutes before the previews start. And of course, with all the time you save not waiting in line, you can forego the overpriced popcorn and soda for a real meal at Moxie’s, where Tuesday nights are Margarita nights. What could be better on a Tuesday night than cheap drinks and an even cheaper flick? And yeah, it may be in Gloucester, but it’s still Ottawa.
Wednesdays: I haven’t quite gotten into this little tradition, at least without being either a) tipsy b) forced or c) all of the above, but apparently many people in this lovely city really really enjoy karaoke. You can find a bar anywhere in the city with at least 1 karaoke night, and on Wednesdays it’s the Bytowne on Elgin Street right beneath Hooley’s. The closer you get to the Rideau Centre on Elgin the more sit-down pub fair places you’ll find, like Sir. John A which used to be… Oh I don’t remember, but that’s really not the point. Either way, you can spend the rest of your hump day singing the blues away in a collection of taverns and welcoming in the weekend.
Thursdays: Now we all know about 90s night at Barrymores, the 2nd most popular night at said club for drinks and dancing. Except for the fact that you spend half of your night waiting in a never ending / never moving line up. So my girls and I have turned to the next best thing; a hidden gem on Sparks St called Ja’zoos café, a coffee shop turned dance hall when the sun goes down and the DJ’s come up. Rumour has it that the drinks are cheap and the night ends a bit on the early side, say 1:30 am, so that the working stiffs can get home and sleep and still be ok in the morning. For sure I’ll be there next week to check it out; so grab some friends if you’re in the vicinity and come on down!
Also, the Thursday night dinner out is becoming more and more popular here in Ottawa. Thursdays are a funny night; it’s not quite the weekend, so the majority of the population probably won’t be waiting in line with you at Barrymore’s or rubbing arms at Ja’zoos, however it’s still close enough to the weekend that warrants some sort of celebration. Reso’s are becoming more and more recommended by the independent restaurants that are hidden around Ottawa; my favourites are mostly in Westboro – if you’re heading to WestFest this year, be sure to stop at one of the so-called ‘no name’ restaurants before the Citizen reviews it: otherwise, you’ll be waiting for a table.
Fridays: This tends to be the night when the majority of Ottawaites go out and enjoy the town. NAC shows, GCTC, and smaller groups like Ottawa Pocket Opera, Centerpointe Theatre, and anything at Arts Court are all open and raring to get audiences in for a show. Check ‘em out and see what’s playing; you stand a chance at being pleasantly surprised with how much hidden talent is in Ottawa and her citizens. Of course, if the bar is still more your scene, almost every sit down place will be packed before 11, and every dance hall will be packed after midnight. A few of my personal favourites include the Honest Lawyer, Heart & Crown, the Velvet Room, and Metropolitan.
Saturdays: Again, a night where you’ll find most of the 20-30 somethings at the bars that are sprinkled across the national capital region. Our first ‘upscale’ club is called Parliament: I’ve never been, but Mackenzie B told me that she was pretty sure that girls got their hair done to go. Now I’ve got nothing against getting your hair done in general; I’m a regular at local Aveda spas and like nothing better than having someone else wash my hair. However, I can’t justify spending 50$ + every weekend to get my hair done up and have it turn into a sweaty mess or a solidified helmet head by Sunday morning. But who knows; I haven’t been and maybe one of these days I’ll let you know, but really, Saturdays are club days in Ottawa… and yes, there are good places to go.
Sundays: Ah Sundays. The day of rest; the day to relax and sober up and find your other shoe and tackle the laundry monster that’s invaded your closet. Or, if you’re STILL finding yourself with cabin fever, the open air market – yes, the same one with the bars at night – is really gorgeous in the day time. You can find Canadian versions of Boulangeries with fresh croissants and coffee, and spend the day watching the world go by, hearing the many French dialects of the farmers selling their fresh veggies, reading the paper on the patio of Second Cup or Planet Coffee, or just seeing the city for all it’s got.
Of course, if you’re like me, you are in NO shape to go out unless dragged by your well-meaning but selectively attentive to the fact that I go out parents. So on Sundays I rely on good old Spike TV’s CSI:Sundays while waiting for my laundry to dry and my hang over to dissipate.
Now tell me: does that seem like Ottawa has nothing to do?