Cool, Casual & Cozy Coasters

Welcome back!

As the winner of the Ottawa Fish Market Project Food Blog 2012 contest, I’m excited to share with you my third, and last, Blog entry of its three restaurants! I’ve blogged about The Fish Market in November, then a great blogging experience at Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro last month, and last stop: Coasters Gourmet Grill!


Coasters Gourmet Grill is housed on the top floor of a gorgeous and imposing heritage building standing tall at the corner of William Street and York, with a full view of the ByWard Market in Ottawa.

The interior brick walls, heritage mouldings, floor-to-sky windows and the historic Canadian photographs framed large on every wall, give Coasters a distinct and stylish Canadiana vibe that will excite tourists and entice visitors to the historic Byward Market. Look up: you’ll see a canoe paddle, instilling pride in the locals.

In short: it feels like home.

Right below it is the street-level Fish Market, designed with an authentic maritime feel perfect for any occasion. And underneath that, Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro with an underground European vibe ideal for a mature crowd that likes their romantic dinners or stylish get-togethers.

At Coasters, you get a chill and casual environment for everyone from university students or couples, through to the solo diner, families and up. And judging by the menu, your options are as interesting as your surroundings.


For my meal, I was joined by a couple of old friends, Paul and Jeannie. Their appreciation for a quality space and inspiring atmosphere, and knowledge of good food and drink, are a couple of the reasons I wanted them to join me at Coasters for the last installment of Project Food Blog.

Always great to spend time together, but I was curious: how would Coasters hold up?


For me, I had been to Coasters before during my University of Ottawa days. Back then, there were sofas we’d crouch into and talk about life, and mostly music, over pitchers of beer and bowls of chowder. While the sofas are gone (and may make their return says owner, Barb) and replaced by fireplaces, the welcoming “Cheers”-bar vibe is still the same.


Amidst this warm, woodsy decor in an historic building overlooking the ByWard Market, the food also still fulfills.

Paul started with the famous chowder that I used to have. He enjoyed it as hearty creamy seafood delight. Next, for his main, he went with the spicy cajun shrimp linguini, very impressed with the food presentation. It had just the right blend of spicy southern seasoning giving the linguini some bite, and the seafood was fresh.

Jeannie’s starter was Nova Scotia lobster chunks & stone crab meat in a light cream cheese spinach dip heated slightly and served with warm grilled pita. So good, I shared in some of this goodness.

Remember that at Vineyards, I recommended selecting from the Lighter Fare menu if you’re looking to mix and match an array of filling tasters. Same with at Coasters. Put this dip on your list when you come in for “Threesome Thursdays” – 3 appetizers for $20!

Jeannie also selected one of the trio-restaurants’ famous “sides” and went with two skewers of garlic shrimp to add to her main of salmon fillet stuffed with cream cheese, dill, lemon, red peppers and green onion served with arugula salad, tossed in a balsamic dressing.

I had to try some of her salmon: as usual, the three restaurants, Fish Market, Vineyards and Coasters deliver on what I’m now coining for this establishment about the way they prepare all their fish: SUCCULENCE.

Her dessert was divine: two luscious velvety balls of gelato — one chocolate, one mango. YUMMY!

As for me, my meal was absolutely splendid and delicious! Labourious to make at home, those signature crabcakes were a real treat. I’m going to buy some Gift Certificates for friends and families so they can go try these for themselves!

Another labour-intensive treat I enjoy are fish tacos because the preparing the right salsas or taco fixins takes time, right? So, it was a welcome treat to sink my teeth into one cajun tuna tempura-fried taco, and one talapia, served with shaved radicchio, red grapes, red onion and wasabi mayo on a warm flour tortilla. ONE was filling enough, so you get your money’s worth; I had leftovers.

Speaking of cost, Coasters features a variety of specials, including cheap prices on Taco Tuesdays!

The fish tacos came with fries, which I often leave behind when I’m dining out. But not here (nor at Vineyards with their $12 fries featuring a plump, grilled, juicy steak)!

For dessert, having read Project Food Blog, Rachel knew what I was going for. Three guesses!

You should know that Coasters offers special Holiday menus, too! For the holidays, there are table d’hote selections of divine gems like swordfish.


Before Paul and Jeannie arrived, I sat by myself by the Christmas tree, amidst the heritage brick walls and warming fireplace, took my first sips of my Heineken, and looked out the long windows straight down into the Market.

The view took me down memory lane to the late 1980’s, a time most Ottawa music-lovers will remember. Back then, “the Market” was bustling with Rideau Centre punks, and around it, tiny cafés that attracted music-loving “alternative” crowds.

Up the street on Sussex where Social is, Café Wim was a smoky Dutch gathering place of the old Le Hibou of the 60s where Jimi Hendrix once stepped in.

On the same street as Coasters today, was The William Street Café, where it was rumoured the keyboard player for British icons, The Cure, would sometimes stop into.

And, looking north out my window, beside the deli, I can see the doorway that used to lead underground to a “goth-music” bar where punks and new-wave rockers danced in black to British bands like Boy George and Depeche Mode.

Finally, across the street, past the Buskers quarter and Mother Tuckers was Café Bohemian on Clarence Street.

The Market was a hotbed of culture. I’m probably not the only one who mourned its demise with the rise of more touristy restaurants and chain coffee shops.

And while time moved on, Coasters, and The Fish Market and Vineyards remain as fixtures in an evolving downtown core. Even though Ottawa may not be full of artists visible on the streets and in non-existent cafés of before, I couldn’t stop smiling while I sat waiting for my guests at the long-lasting Coasters.

That’s because 20 years later, here I am in the Market again, eating better food than some of the cafés served and overhead, on their sound system, Coasters were spinning some British tunes. Yup. Wasn’t dancing, but definitely delighted by the 50s, 60s and 70s tracks from The Beatles to the Byrds going, and some gris-gris New Orleans smooth from Dr. John, one of my favourites.

When Paul and Jeannie joined me, our conversation was peppered nostalgically by Paul and I playing Name That Tune [see Paul, deep in thought about a song title, below!]. While we enjoyed the music, there was something for Jeannie, too. Manager Ashley designed a wonderful menu of holiday cocktails. Jeannie & I have got to go back there for some!

To me, that I can sit in a restaurant in the center of downtown Ottawa again and eat well, enjoy a pint with friends, and actually LIKE the music, is a very positive thing.

And it didn’t hurt either that highlights from the Manchester United & Man City game earlier that day were being shown on the tele…


Thanks to Ms Rachel for the delightful service, recommendations and interesting stories about travelling in the UK. And a thank you to Manager Ashley, and the youthful Bartender. Kudos to the Chef for preparing a wonderful spread of food on a cold night that we’ll be talking about for months to come!