Three Centretown restaurants acclaimed by The New York Times

By Amy Cook

Although Ottawa is best known for its political allure, three determined and deserving Centretown eateries were recently celebrated in a New York Times article.

The travel story, headlined “36 Hours in Ottawa,” recognized Riviera on Sparks Street, Art-Is-In Bakery at the City Centre and The Manx on Elgin as restaurants worth a visit in the nation’s capital.

As a result of the recent praise on an international stage, the businesses say they are receiving greater attention.

“I think it’s nice that Ottawa is on the culinary map,” said Leyla Ester Di Cori, a communications specialist, amateur cook, and regular Riviera customer. “What you love is the restaurant as a whole; not just the food. When you dine, it’s an experience for all the senses.”

Riviera general manager Stelios Doussis said the establishment’s success is a result of good management, committed chefs and a devoted staff.

Matthew Carmichael and Jordan Holley, the chefs who brought El Camino and Datsun to Elgin Street, decided to open Riviera last year.

The pair had originally looked at a space on Somerset Street, but took a risk in deciding to open at a spot on Sparks.

The risk has since paid off. Although Riviera saw success from the start, Holley said being recognized by the Times has resulted in more business.

“It’s humbling really,” said Holley. “It goes to show all the hard work we’ve put into this project.”

Kevin and Stephanie Mathieson, the owners of Art-Is-In-Bakery on City Centre Avenue, said their success stems from great products, hard work and perseverance.

“Our intention was to grow wholesale. We originally opened a small counter with nine seats. In less than a year, revenues reached the sales that already existed. It was a steep growth,” said Stephanie.

“I believe they have the look, feel, location, staff, product and business model to cater to an international clientele; especially visitors to Ottawa,” said customer Jason Cheney.

“I am not at all surprised it was shared by the New York Times,” added Carleton student C.C. Smith. “The boulangerie is certainly deserving.”

As a result of newfound attention, the Mathiesons said they hope to expand their business with new locations in Montreal and Toronto.

For The Manx’s faithful, it’s all about the pub’s microbrews.

“They have a great selection of local beers, which is not what I can say for all restaurants,” said Vero Gratts, a field biologist and regular at The Manx.

The pub is recognized as having one of the best selections of craft beer and scotch in Ottawa.

Shane Smith, a senior graphic designer, said it’s the service and quality that keeps him coming back. “I’ve been going there for over 10 years. The food and service is always top notch.”

Food writer and blogger Anne DesBrisay said she assesses restaurants based on quality of food, ambiance, price point and service, in that order. “I’m looking for flavor, balance and creativity.”

According to Gratts, The Manx menu provides exactly what DesBrisay is looking for.

“I have tried almost everything on the menu. The sandwiches have great flavour balance and their specials of the night are like fancy comfort food.”

In light of Canada’s sesquicentennial this year, the Centretown restaurants say the recent publicity will help them draw additional customers as hundreds of thousands of extra tourists flock to the capital.