10 Canadian Restaurants

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Harveys on Baseline and Merivale (Ottawa)

Harveys on Baseline and Merivale (Ottawa)

Welcome to my new series, the “Canadian List of Ten”! Ten weeks, ten posts, ten lists and one hundred new Canadian things for you, from food to language, from city to weather.

I must admit it, I’m not a fast food person. I can’t even remember the last time I visited one — I’m still too French to eat a greasy burger and fries. That said, when I first came to Canada, I did tasted most of Canadian’s fast foods and diner-style restaurants. There were only McDonalds’ and Quick (the French fast food) where I grew up and I was quite amazed by the number of franchises, Canadian or American, in Canada.

But it was only a few months-long phase and I now tend to go to ethnic restaurants or local places. I like a burger once in a while but I’m picky: I want a nice grilled burger, with real fresh meat.

So here a list of the top Canadian restaurants, fast food and coffee places. You must know at least a few…!

  1. The Works: this restaurant only exists in Ottawa where it has 5 locations but I couldn’t resist adding it to the list. It specializes in “gournet burger” and has a long menu of very funny and weird combination. You can have a peanut butter burger, some come with fried eggs, blue cheese or bananas. Each burger has a name (for example, “Don Cherry”, “Crappy Tire”, “Hold The Phone”, “Johnny Be Goat”).
  2. Extreme Pita: the company was founded by two Canadian brothers, in 1997, in Waterloo, Ontario. They sell a variety of pita wraps with stuffed with North American ingredients as well as more ethnic ones, such as hummus.
  3. Joey’s Only: the largest seafood restaurant chain in Canada started in… Alberta. The menu features a variety of seafood dish.
  4. La Belle Province: this is a well-known fast-food eatery in the province of Quebec. The first location was opened in the 1970s in Montréal… by a Greek immigrant. The menu features the usually greasy spoon items, some with a local twist, such as poutine, burgers, smoked meat sandwiches and bagels.
  5. Mr. Sub: this sandwich shop originally from Toronto is the third largest submarine restaurant chain in Canada. It sells submarines, footlong sandwiches stuffed with fresh ingredient and made to order.
  6. A&W: the Canadian fast food restaurant chain has nothing to do with the American A&W anymore. It is famous for selling Root Beer, a carbonated soft-drink popular in North American (and yes, alcohol free).
  7. Swiss Chalet: it is a chain of Canadian family restaurants originally founded in 1954 in Toronto, Ontario. It is best known for rotisserie chicken and smoked barbecue ribs served with sides such as fries, gravy sauce, beans etc.
  8. St-Hubert: this casual dining restaurant franchise is the 16th largest restaurant chain operating in Canada. Most of its locations are in Québec (including a busy one at Montréal airport). It specializes in rotisserie chicken.
  9. Harvey’s: this fast food is the second-largest Canadian-established restaurant chain behind Tim Hortons, and is the fourth-largest burger chain in Canada. It serves hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, onion rings etc. Burgers are grilled in front of the customers, who then get to pick among 11 different toppings and condiments. It is also famous for its “Free Original Hamburger Day” held every year: any body can come in and claim a free burger. Huge queue ahead!
  10. Tim Hortons: the Canadian fast food restaurant, known for its donuts and coffee, is a huge business in Canada. It has 2,939 outlets in Canada (more than McDonalds has!) and accounts for 22.6% of all fast food industry revenues in Canada. Yep, that much. Canadian are addicted to their “Timmies”, even though I still don’t get why. The restaurant are are packed, not exactly nice and comfy (drive through is the way to go) and the coffee isn’t great. But this is Tim Horton’s, a part of Canada!

About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Unfortunately I never heard some of the restaurant you mentioned, but I’ll add my own review here if you don’t mind :p

    La Belle Province: It’s so freakin’ greasy that it makes one wants to puke when they enter the restaurant. But it’s a good place to eat after clubbing.

    Mr. Sub: I prefer Dagwoods over Mr. Sub. But Subway is much better.

    A&W: Juicy burgers but overprices, in my opinion.

    Swiss Chalet: I think it’s an okay restaurant…I haven’t had it for over a decade.

    St-Hubert: I only eat its kids meals at my old job…Nothing special about it.

    Harvey’s: I love Harvey’s ’cause you can customize your own burger! Too bad the one near my house shut down.

    Tim Hortons: I love their soup, French Vanilla and Moka. When I’m too lazy to bring food I’d eat their combo at the airport. I also like their breakfast…Oh man, I miss Montreal! 🙁

    Thanks for letting me hacking your post :p I love ethnic and local restaurants…I know a couple in Montreal that has cheap and delicious food. I don’t like chain restaurants anymore.

    Cheers 🙂

  2. Of the ten places you mentioned, only Tim Horton’s and Swiss Chalet are present here in Buffalo. I’ve always been curious how far south Tim Horton’s goes: they are everywhere here in Buffalo, and so in Rochester, but I don’t find them in New York City. And I didn’t even realize that Swiss Chalet is a Canadian restaurant before you mentioned it.
    .-= Linguist-in-Waiting´s last blog ..Evening in Beirut =-.

  3. @Nigel Babu – We have tons of Macdonalds, KFCs and Starbucks as well, but since they are American and not Canadian, they are no mentioned here 😉

    @the writer – A&W was one of my favorite when I first came.

    @Bluefish – La belle province is greasy, I agree with you. We went last time we were in Montreal (only place opened nearby on a Sunday morning). This is were I took the pictures of the “American breakfast” if you remember.

    I also prefer Subway, it’s cheaper and nicer subs. AW is expensive… I didn’t mind Harveys but the meat is a bit… not so good I find.

    I don’t think I ever had Tim Hortons lunch food actually. I should try once.

    @Beth – I knew he was a hockey player, but I didn’t know he played for the Leafs. This fact isn’t advertised in Ottawa 😆

    @Soleil – I’d love to try the fried fish! That must be good, especially in the summer with a cold drink… lucky you!

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – I don’t think I have ever been to a Tim Hortons in the USA… Even major NorthEastern airports don’t have them.

    @Rémy – Oh God, my mistake — I knew it on top of that! Okay, so the French really didn’t invent any fast food 😆

  4. I was stunned to see so many different types of fast food in Canada as well! In Mauritius we have a few local fast food restaurants and then the usual known franchise like KFC, McDonalds and Steers. But in Canada, you actually have a fast food restaurant in every road corner!

    If I had to choose from your list, I think I’d pick Swiss chalet as my first choice. And I agree that Tim Horton’s coffee doesn’t taste great. But I like some of their donuts. I didn’t know that Harveys was Canadian. Thought it was American or something. Anyway, Harveys, Wendys, Burger King… they all taste more or less the same to me. O_o hahahah :p

  5. Excellent list!!! I have been to the following:
    * Tim Hortons (well, duh)
    * Harvey’s (like their burgers very much)
    * A&W (best breakfast sandwich ever and really good chicken strips)
    * St. Hubert (there is one in Cornwall, ON)
    * Mr. Sub (but only to take my kids)
    * Swiss Chalet (for a few years, our mandatory place for birthday dinners)

    There is a sports bar chain in the Ottawa / Gatineau area, that I loved when I was there back in June… oh, I know: “La Cage aux Sports”

    I went to that place every single night!!! 🙂

    I have my own preferred spots here in Waterloo, and I just can’t wait to go to Argentina next week so I can visit my favourite ones there, especially “Tatalo” bar and “Solchaga” restaurant in Necochea (my hometown)… 🙂
    .-= Gabriel´s last blog ..Mr. Mom =-.

  6. @RennyBA’s Terella – And slow food tastes so much better…!

    @Agnes – It’s a start!

    @Seraphine – We actually have much more than Tim Hortons, but if you like the latter better, there is on every block to satisfy your cravings.

    @Angele – France is the same, there aren’t that many fast food options, and not that many franchises in general.

    @Gabriel – I know where la Cage au Sport is, besides the Casino, right? I pass by once in a while but I have never been there.

    I didn’t notice Argentina had a lot of franchise restaurants, it seemed to be more independent places. But then, I may be wrong. Food is definitely something to experience over there… You are going to OD on steaks, aren’t you!?!

  7. I live in Ottawa Canada and I would agree that Tim Hortons is number one. They also sell a lot of different fresh sandwiches, smoothies, yogurt and ice cream, and I personally think their coffee is my favourite. It tastes smooth almost like hot chocolate and isn’t very strong, which is good because I’m a caffeine light weight. The Works is hands down my favourite burger joint. The burgers are huge, filled with the most imaginative toppings you can think of, and you can get a 3 foot tall tower of onion rings that are piled on a stick, but they don’t deliver & the restaurants are always jam packed at lunch or dinner, so I don’t go as often as I would like to 🙁 But my addiction has to be Swiss Chalet because I order out from them minimum three times a week. They have really high quality chicken or ribs meals at fast food prices. I highly recommend the chicken club wrap made with all white meat and a poutine on the side. Yum!

    • I like The Works as well but I find service is slow, tables are too close to each other’s and the queue to get a table can be crazy. This is why I rarely go.

      I haven’t tried Swiss Chalet!

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