With warm weather coming we’ll soon be heading out in droves to park our fine queer selves on Ottawa’s sunny patios. But where to go? The city suffered the loss of some great queer-friendly spots in the last year, like Benitz’s and Savana Café, but there are still lots of places to choose from. We’ve put together a shortlist of Ottawa’s best outdoor hangouts so Xtra readers have a head start when it comes to sun and (tasty) fun.
The Lookout Bar
41 York St
The Lookout Bar doesn’t quite have a patio, but we perch on the metres-long balcony like it’s a patio all summer. Lookout is aptly named — it’s a great vantage point to view all of Byward Market. Historically a lesbian hangout, The Lookout has become more mixed in recent years, with gay men’s events such as Thirsty Boy Thursdays and drag shows every Saturday night. But the women’s events are still running strong — there’s a weekly cocktail gathering every Friday night, followed by Friday Fixxx, a ladies’ night featuring reruns of The L Word on the big screen and special feature events the first Friday of every month. For some mixed fun, hit up karaoke nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, hosted by Christopher “Dog” Doyle. Just remember — if it gets too hot, you can always cool off outside.
Wasabi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
41 Clarence St 613-241-3636
Wasabi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar is a tasty and queer-friendly spot in the heart of the Byward Market that serves up some of Ottawa’s best sushi, as well as various salads, appetizers and a selection of cooked Japanese cuisine. Its raised, streetside patio is one of the most charming in the area, with excellent people-watching potential. The patio is large enough to accommodate small to medium-sized groups, but parties of eight or more will probably have to move inside to Wasabi’s spacious dining room. This resto is only steps away from the famed cruising grounds of Major’s Hill Park and a handful of downtown cultural venues: the National Gallery, the National Arts Centre and a few smaller galleries along Sussex. Wasabi also boasts a good selection of wines and cocktails, including delicious lychee martinis.
340 Somerset St W
Centretown Pub — or CP’s, as it’s more affectionately known around these parts — offers up the quintessential queer patio experience. As the longest-standing gay bar in the city, the CP front patio is a hub for cruising guys and spontaneous friend catch-ups, but the back patio is where it’s at if you’re looking for a tucked-away nook for hot make-out sessions, wet T-shirt contests, Pride events or howling laughter with friends over a couple of beers. If you’re looking to go inside and get a little break from the heat (double-entendre intended), you’ve got a couple choices. The main floor of CP’s boasts a pool table and a gaggle of friendly regulars. Upstairs is Cell Block, Ottawa’s only gay men’s leather bar, which features the kink-themed “Bar Knights,” put on by the Ottawa Knights Leather and Denim Club.
Jak’s Kitchen Downtown Bistro. You wouldn’t expect to find such a queer-friendly and tasty gem on this bustling stretch of Bronson Ave, but its tucked away patio on McLeod, to the side of the restaurant, is perfect for private, outdoor dining in the warmer months. The restaurant has daily specials that are mostly for the meat-lovers out there, but there are certainly one or two items on the menu that are suitable for vegetarians. The food is fresh, delicious and as locally–sourced as possible. This place is perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks — including Jak’s Kitchen’s famous Canadian mojito. As you may have already heard, Jak’s weekend brunches are to die for. If you’re dining during the week, be sure to try the crispy fried duck spring rolls with chili orange sweet and sour sauce and the smoked tofu entrée.
Il Piccolino Ristorante is a cute little Italian spot that’s located in a converted Heritage Home on Little Italy’s Preston St. As a long-time participant in Ottawa’s annual Taste for Life event, a fundraiser that benefits Bruce House, this bistro stands out as a decidedly queer–friendly spot — one that has a fabulous, sunny patio out front that’s draped with a canopy of grapevines and dotted with generous sun umbrellas. The dining room can fill up fast and get somewhat cramped, so be sure to snag a spot outside instead. The dishes are bold and delicious, and the price tag is low to moderate. This place is known for its tasty and innovative pizza, so you may want to give that a try your first time out. Their pollo calvados and tiramisu are also winners.