“Burn one, take it through the garden, and pin a rose on it!” might have been what you’d hear if you ordered a burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion in 1955. While the little known dialect of ‘diner lingo’ may not have survived to the modern era, the classic restaurant styles of the now-retro decades have withstood the test of time––and nowhere is it more celebrated than in Ottawa. Check out these 4 retro-themed establishments for your daily fix of a radio (tuna sandwich), a cowboy with spurs (western omelet and fries), a houseboat (banana split), or some Friday evening cocktails.
According to their website, Rockin’ Johnny’s opened its doors in 1991 with the hope of recreating “the days when jukeboxes were rockin’, the Big Bopper was bobbin’, Marilyn Monroe was stealing hearts, and Elvis was King”. Black and White checkered floors contrast the shiny, red bar stools and neon lights that line the doorway. The menu includes all of the diner classics you’d expect, including a menu section devoted entirely to hot dogs.
A staple of the Ottawa food scene since 1986, Zak’s Diner is a local favourite. A step into their Byward Market location will place you directly in front of the Corvette-turned-countertop host station, where you’ll be directed to your teal-coloured booth, surrounded by 1950’s style artwork. Each table has a non-functional mini-jukebox, calling back to a true 50’s diner, and on the menu you’ll find classic favourites like burgers, fries, shakes, and all-day breakfast.
Elgin Street Diner
Voted the Cities’ Best Diner year after year, Elgin Street Diner is an Ottawa institution––and has been since they opened their doors over 22 years ago. With poutine that locals rave about and a decidedly retro aesthetic complete with neon signs and bottomless coffee, this is a must-go location for anyone craving a classic comfort meal.
This recently-opened pizzeria on the corner of Preston and Somerset has an uncanny resemblance to a 70’s fever dream. Wood walls and burgundy faux fur complement iconic 70’s wall decals and framed photos of times past. Aside from the aesthetics, diners rave about the authentic roman-style pizza, with thin crust and non-GMO ingredients.