Savour the City: YOW-za! Top picks for food and drink at the Ottawa International Airport

Savour the City YOW
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.

When you think of airport food, dry tuna sandwiches at soaring prices might spring to mind. Not so at the Ottawa International Airport — at least, not anymore.

Thanks to a sweeping overhaul of the food and drink offering, YOW now boasts a variety of homegrown flavours, including foodie favourites such as meaty handhelds from La Bottega and craft brews and bar bites from Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery.

The evolution of the food and beverage program is part of a multi-year terminal enhancement program that the Ottawa International Airport Authority initially announced in 2019. SSP Canada, the concessionaire for YOW, was tasked with creating new restaurant spaces and introducing dining concepts from the National Capital Region.

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If you’re flying within Canada or abroad, you can now get a “fairly traded” caffeine hit for your early morning flight from Bridgehead Coffee, the centrepiece of the freshly minted Canal Market Hall. No stranger to Ottawans, Bridgehead serves passengers throughout the day with a menu of hot and cold coffees, specialty drinks, baked goods, and grab-and-go items.

Prior to the renovations, the concession program at the airport had remained largely unchanged since its opening in 2003. The new vendors are designed to cater to the discerning palates of the modern traveller and showcase the flavours of some of the capital’s well-known culinary destinations.

The Cajun fish sandwich at Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery inside YOW. Photo by Yvonne Langen for Savour the City
The Cajun fish sandwich at Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery inside YOW. Photo by Yvonne Langen

For jetsetters with time to kill before boarding, Big Rig serves up casual fare best paired with craft brews at its full-service bar and restaurant beside the Canal Market Hall. The braised beef tacos and the Cajun fish sandwich are great options if you’re craving a handheld alternative to the classic burger. The Cobb salad provides a heaping portion of protein and roughage for anyone looking to get their greens. If you’re looking to tame pre-flight jitters, order one of the many beers on tap, such as Gold Lagered Ale, Big Rig Premium Pilsner or Big Rig Dropkick Irish Stout.

Over in the food hall, the sandwiches from La Bottega are the same you’ve come to know and love from the flagship ByWard Market location. Toothsome and tasty, they are served on freshly made bread or croissants and grilled to perfection on the panini press. If you’re overwhelmed by choice, try the Amalfi panini: chicken breast, basil pesto, tomato and mozzarella offer a taste of Italy before departure.

The Amalfi Panini from La Bottega at YOW. Photo by Yvonne Langen for Savour the City
The Amalfi Panini from La Bottega at YOW. Photo by Yvonne Langen.

In addition to Ottawa-born-and-bred businesses, the Canal Market Hall also features Bento Sushi, which was founded in Toronto in 1996 and has since grown into Canada’s largest sushi company. The YOW airport outpost provides grab-and-go sushi, including California or spicy tuna rolls alongside tasty tuna and salmon poke bowls.

Craving something comforting? Check out the soup bar in the market hall and tuck into a sumptuous bowl of french onion soup.

Krista Kealey, vice-president of communications and public affairs at the Ottawa International Airport Authority, says there’s more to look forward to as Zak’s Diner will be coming soon to YOW, along with future improvements to the food and beverage selection at the U.S. gates.

French Onion Soup from Canal Market Hall in YOW
French Onion Soup from Canal Market Hall in YOW. Photo by Yvonne Langen.

Whatever you’re in the mood for, the new and improved concessions at YOW have something for everyone. Just in time for March break travel madness!

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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