Savour the City: Oh yes, it’s still a thing! Here are some of the best happy hour spots downtown

Spring Spirit Series at Gitanes. Photo by Yvonne Langen
Editor's Note

Savour the City is an occasional column prepared by well-known local food and drink writer Yvonne Langen of Taste and Tipple celebrating all that is delicious in Ottawa.

Everyone seems to be feeling the pocketbook pinch these days, so if you’re looking to make your money go further at your next after-work outing, hit up a happy hour. A variety of downtown dining destinations serve up sips and bites for a steal as part of their social hour offerings.

I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite spots for small bites and healthy pours to help you put an end to the age-old debate of, “Where should we go for drinks?”

Happy hour
A smoked cocktail at Aiana. Photo by Yvonne Langen

Aiana – Social Hour

Tuesday–Friday | 3-5 p.m.

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Delight your senses by stopping in at Aiana. This swanky establishment on the ground floor of the Sun Life Financial Centre features eye-popping décor and mouth-watering dishes. Chef Raghav Chaudhury has applied his ambitious culinary vision to the bar menu served during the 3-5 p.m. Social Hour. In his hands, the humble poutine is transformed into a sumptuous dish with a presentation worthy of Architectural Digest. Aside from artful plates, Social Hour offers 25 per cent off all beer, spirits, cocktails and wine – including the most exclusive bottles from the restaurant’s incredible cellar.

Oysters and wine at The Shore Club. Photo by Yvonne Langen

The Shore Club – Low Tide Hour

Daily | 3-5 p.m.

This dimly lit lounge at the base of The Westin Hotel is often overflowing with conference-goers pouring in after a full day of panel speakers and breakout sessions. The Shore Club’s Low Tide Hour serves up half-priced oysters, $12 wine selections and $9 Heineken draft along with other bang-for-your-buck bites. For an added bonus, most of those conference-goers are usually still sporting nametags, which could be helpful if you’re looking to drum up new business or make a friend.

A negroni at North and Navy. Photo by Yvonne Langen

North & Navy – 5 à 7 Aperitivo Hour

Monday–Thursday | 5-7 p.m.

This Nepean Street haunt serves up northern Italian nibbles and classic cocktails for a taste of la dolce vita. Grab a pint of Peroni for $6, sip on a $10 Negroni or glass of Prosecco during their Aperitivo Hour from 5-7 p.m. The drinks are accompanied by “cicchetti,” Italy’s answer to tapas, and are truly divine. The $6 polpette (meatballs) are destination-worthy in their own right, but the fried polenta currently in rotation is true ambrosia. Wash it down with an $8 amaro and soda.

A selection of Scotch for the Spring Spirit Series at Gitanes. Photo by Yvonne Langen

Gitanes – Spring Spirit Series

Wednesdays in April | 5:30-6:30 p.m.

If you’re a spirits connoisseur, you should definitely belly up to the bar at Gitanes for the Spring Spirit Series. On Wednesdays in April, the French restaurant on Elgin Street is offering guided tastings of high-end spirits with industry experts. These exclusive sips are served at cost, meaning you pay what they pay. They’ve covered off Irish Whiskey and Scotch thus far, on April 17 they’ll be exploring the complexity of Calvados, and for the final Wednesday of the month, tequila.

charcuterie and sparkling wine at Social. Photo by Yvonne Langen

Social – Social Hour

Monday–Saturday | 3-5 p.m.

Slip into the ByWard Market for Social Hour at Social. This well-appointed restaurant on Sussex pulls $6 draft beer, $6 house red/white wine, and $8 sparkling wine during their late afternoon happy hour. The charcuterie board is a standout selection from the food menu. Featuring two cheeses and two meats, pickled veg, jams, spreads, nuts, fruit and crackers – this board is as bountiful as it is beautiful, all for $19.

The bar at Abby’s. Photo by Yvonne Langen

Abby’s Wine Bar – Wine Wednesdays

Wednesdays | 5-10 p.m.

If you’re looking for something more toothsome, Abby’s Wine Bar on Elgin Street has a great wagyu burger that pairs beautifully with any number of the imported bottles of wine on sale for up to 50 per cent off on Wine Wednesdays. Aside from an incredible selection of juicy reds and dry whites, the nice thing about this option is that you don’t need to clock out early to take advantage of the discount. Promotional pricing is on offer all night on Wednesdays.

A cocktail at Q Bar. Photo by Yvonne Langen.

Q Bar – Happy Hour

Weekdays | 4-7 p.m.

Downtown office workers are likely well-acquainted with Q Bar inside the perennially popular Queen Street Fare. This bumpin’ bar is a great place for a quick one after work or an impromptu run-in with friends, colleagues and acquaintances. You’re almost guaranteed to cross paths with someone you know at this particular gin joint. If you don’t, the bar staff won’t leave you wanting for conversation. During Happy Hour, house wines are $1 per ounce, pints are $6, and cocktails are $10.

The petite salmon tartare at Cocotte Bistro. Photo by Yvonne Langen

Cocotte Bistro – Apéro Hour

Sunday–Thursday | 3-6 p.m.

This chic French bistro at the base of the Metcalfe Hotel is a lovely place to wash away the stresses of the day with an $8 glass of wine or beer. In the mood for a cocktail? Their take on the Old Fashioned is available for $11 during Apéro Hour. The Petite Salmon Tartare is an exceptional raw plate from the menu, composed of finely diced cured salmon with ratatouille vegetables, a mountain of fresh chives and crostini, priced at $9.

Cocktails at the Clarendon. Photo by Yvonne Langen

The Clarendon – Happy Hour

Tuesday–Sunday | 4-6 p.m.

The Clarendon serves up a generous happy hour from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday featuring half-priced food, $7 house wine, $7 beer, and $10 cocktails. This is probably the best bet for cocktail lovers as you can sample anything from The Clarendon’s full cocktail list for only $10 and there is a great variety of flavours and styles to choose from. If you accidentally overindulge, a half-priced pizza might be in order.

Yvonne Langen is the food and drink content creator behind Taste & Tipple. She is also a regular fixture on TV and radio as a lifestyle expert. You may have previously read her work in Ottawa Magazine. 

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