From Ottawa’s Main Street to TV’s Schitt’s Creek, Annie Murphy has come a long way from her beloved hometown! But the Canadian actress, 31, remains close to her roots in the capital city, from where her husband – Hollerado frontman Menno Versteeg – also hails and which her family still calls home.
Here the TV star dishes her favourite local hot spots and must-see places to visit on your next trip to Ottawa, all with the loveable whimsy that’s made her a fan favourite on the hit comedy series. Consider this your insider’s guide to Ottawa with Annie Murphy leading your tour .
Favourite brunch spot
Head to Elgin Street Diner (374 Elgin St., open 24 hours), where I spent my prom night crying into a delicious poutine. Yummy, greasy diner food for your saturated body and soul.
Or pick up a bunch of sesame bagels and some dill cream cheese from Kettleman’s Bagel Co. (912 Bank St.), a.k.a. the best bagels west of Montreal.
Favourite treats to pick up from the ByWard Market
Take your friends to Le Moulin de Provence and order the Obama Cookie. This cookie shot to superstardom when a certain Barack Obama visited the bakery, ate the cookie (then probably just called “The Regular ol’ Maple Leaf-Shaped Cookie That Says ‘Canada’ On It”) and exclaimed, “I love this country.” Follow in his footsteps! Escape the madness! Eat what he ate! Love this country!
Best summer patio
If you’re looking for food and drinks and fresh air and a very gorgeous, very Ottawa view, you should head to Tavern on the Hill (1223 Alexandra Bridge). It overlooks the Parliament Buildings, the Fairmont Château Laurier, the Ottawa River, the National Gallery of Canada and people making you jealous by having fun on their boats. But that’s okay! Because on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings there’s live jazz, so you can feel real fancy, too.
Best artisanal coffee shops
Fiending coffee? Equator Coffee Westboro (412 Churchill Ave N.) is organic, fair trade and locally roasted, and The Ministry of Coffee (1013 Wellington St W.) in Hintonburg has both coffee AND beautiful, shiny, solid bike posts close by to strap Old Faithful to.
Favourite date-night spot
In high school, I’d go on double-dates with my three best friends to Light of India (730 Bank St.) at least once a month. The food was delicious and there were small, beaded lampshades on each table, which we would remove and wear on our heads as hats.
If Indian food and making hats out of things that aren’t hats doesn’t sound like the perfect date night, packing a picnic dinner and heading to one of the many beautiful spots along the Ottawa River is also fun and romantic (but sadly lacking in beaded lampshades).
Best place to take a friend who’s visiting Ottawa for the first time
If your friend likes jukeboxes, cozy vibes and burgers that make you go “THIS IS GOOD!” while accidentally drooling a bit, take them to Chez Lucien (137 Murray St.) in the ByWard Market. On top of the good vibe, good music and good food, they insist that your burger comes with both fries and salad, so you can eat the 15-20 fries you were craving while also feeling proud of your very, very healthy life choices.
Coolest night spots in Ottawa
…I had to ask a friend to help me out with this question, shhh. He suggested Riviera (62 Sparks St.). The name is written in cursive, the cocktails look fancy and delicious, they have oysters, and the pictures of the food make everything look very, very edible. And Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market (325 Dalhousie St.), a trendy-looking hotel that cool influential people probably stay at, with a rooftop patio called Copper Spirits and Sights that offers up a very gorgeous view of the city.
Your favourite neighbourhoods
Ok, I maaaay be a little biased as I grew up here, but Old Ottawa South /The Glebe are by far my neighbourhoods of choice. Divided by the Rideau Canal, the two hoods are easily walkable in 40 minutes or so and are full of awesome little restaurants, shops and bars. And babies and dogs. And my parents, who are often wandering around running errands and being adorable.
Best hot spots only locals know about
If there is one piece of life-altering information I can share with you, it’s this: whatever you do, no matter what, even if you’re only in Ottawa for one tiny hour, GO TO COLONNADE PIZZA (280 Metcalfe St.). I’ve eaten an embarrassing amount of pizza in my lifetime, and this is. By far. My favourite. Pizza. In. The. Entire. World. There’s no doubt in my mind that a pizza from Colonnade Pizza would be my last meal request. So, please, do us both a favour and go.
Runners up include: Sherwood Market & Deli (111 Sherwood Dr.), for the chicken bacon avocado sandwich on thick challah bread with secret sauce. DiRienzo Grocery & Deli (111 Beech St.) has sandwiches the size of your face and homemade pasta, and Quinn’s (1070 Bank St.), a tiny wood-paneled pub with good food and very good vibes.
Best place to watch the Ottawa Senators play
Let’s be honest, the BEST place to watch a Sens game is from a box seat at the Canadian Tire Centre (1000 Palladium Dr.) that your rich and well-connected aunt hooked you up with. If, like me, you are sadly lacking in rich, well-connected, sports-obsessed aunts, I’d suggest heading to any number of small pubs you’ll find scattered across the city.
If you’re thinking to yourself “Man, I could really use some beautiful flowers, and a 25-minute drive to a small town where the beautiful old mill is haunted by a ghost named Anne," have I got a florist for you! Mill Street Florist in Manotick, Ont. (just outside of Ottawa, and where my husband grew up!) is a pretty little shop just minutes away from an old haunted mill. Say hi to Anne for me, and tell her we should definitely do lunch sometime soon – it’s been too long.
Favourite local art galleries
Cube Gallery (1285 Wellington St. W.) is a beautiful gallery for contemporary art, and of course, we can’t ignore the National Gallery of Canada (380 Sussex Dr.). The beautiful National Gallery is home to a lot of incredible works of art and exhibitions that leave me both inspired and depressed about my astonishing lack of artistic talent. I once danced through this ol’ gallery at midnight wearing a stranger’s wedding dress to the sounds of a live orchestra, but that’s a story for another time. Plus, there’s an over-30-foot spider named Maman standing guard outside, so please go do some gawking.
Best way to spend the day in Ottawa
Ok, we’ve been over this. You need to get yourself to Colonnade Pizza immediately. When you’re done eating the best pizza in the world, take a walk down Bank Street all the way to the Parliament Buildings, have a peek at the Centennial Flame, and then check out the gorgeous view.
Best way to get around town
Biking all the way, baybee! Ottawa isn’t too sprawling, so you can check out a lot of it in a day on your bike. If you’re not one of those people that owns and travels with a bike, you can rent a VeloGO bike and rip around on that. Ottawa has a ton of really lovely bike paths, so you can cruise along the Rideau Canal or through the Central Experimental Farm (960 Carling Ave.) without having to dodge cars and their opening doors.
Best trails to take a hike
The bike paths I just mentioned are also jogger/walker/dawdler-friendly, but if you’re looking for some dirt under your feet, and outdoor birds and animals going “eeeeeeeeeee” from the trees, head to Gatineau Park, which is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. The park is full of beautiful lakes and trails my 16-year-old-self wandered while wistfully daydreaming about my hot and heavy hypothetical relationship with Josh Hartnett (circa Pearl Harbour).
Best family-night-out spots
My mum and dad and my in-laws still live in/around Ottawa, so we’re home a few times a year to visit. On the very, very rare occasion my family convinces me not to eat Colonnade Pizza for every meal, we head to either The Green Door (198 Main St.), a very yummy cafeteria-style vegetarian restaurant, or the Siam Kitchen (1050 Bank St.), VERY delish Thai food. Then we walk over to Mayfair Theatre (1074 Bank St.) in Old Ottawa South – it’s a really beautiful and old one-room independent theatre that shows movies that have recently left theatres AND rad older movies that you forgot you loved.
Best shops for vintage finds
Some people don’t love the idea of wearing clothes that have been worn and lived in by others. I am not one of those people. Vintage all the way, baby! The breaking-in has already been done, the clothes have lived lives you’ll never know about – what’s not to like? Head to Bellwethers Vintage (9 Florence St.) or Darling Vintage (502 Somerset St. W.) for well-curated collections, or to Ragtime (43 Flora St.) for some treasure hunting.
Best jewellery shops
There’s an annual rummage sale at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church (95 Somerset St. W.) that can offer up some pretty awesome finds if you’re having a lucky day. If that one weekend a year isn’t the most convenient time to try to find some jewellery, head to Magpie (430 Richmond Rd.).