Bay Street Bistro in downtown Ottawa does a mean lunch buffet

Bay Street Bistro at Albert & Bay, Ottawa
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Piles of Pizza & Pasta for lunch at Bay Street Bistro
We recently had friends who stayed at the Suite Hotel at Albert and Bay
And They invited us for lunch that very same day.
We’d oft seen the Bay Street Bistro but had never been in.
But to have missed their buffet lunch would have been a true sin.
For so much pizza and pasta and salad, just so little to pay!
No-one could possibly say that there is not a great deal of choice of where to go and what to eat for lunch on a mid-week day in downtown Ottawa. When we recently had friends visiting from out of town and they asked us where we should go for our midday meal, we were stumped not for lack of choice but rather that there was too much to choose from. Since they were staying at the  Albert and Bay Suite Hotel, we decided to try out the Bay Street Bistro which is actually attached to the hotel itself. Right beside it is the Black Bear Pub and frankly, it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began.
Bay Street Bistro Bar
Where we went: We had not considered that it might be necessary to make a reservation, especially since we were deliberately eating early to avoid the noon-time throng. Nevertheless, our group of five was a cause for consternation on the part of the hostess, who seemed uncertain as to whether they could accommodate us. After some flustering, we were, however, shown to a table. We could perhaps have opted to sit outside, since it was a fairly nice day albeit a little blustery.
The buffet and Salad Bar
What we ordered: Even though we were indeed so early that they had not yet had time to stock the buffet, we all agreed that it was our best choice. It consisted of a salad bar complemented with pizza and three different types of pasta. I don’t recall whether the price was $7.95 or $8.95 but it was a bargain at either price.
What we got: Shortly after we made the decision to all take the buffet, we discovered why there had been uncertainty about seating us as masses of people started to pour in. We decided that it was likely one or more bus loads. Within minutes, they were swarming around the buffet like wasps on a jam jar. As fast as the kitchen could supply it, the pizza and pasta disappeared. Although very busy, we were still all able to find sufficient variety and quantity of food to be satisfied.
Pizza & PastaAlthough the plate pictured might seem like it’s a little sparse, this was my second or third run at the buffet/salad bar. The pasta primavera was probably my favourite item. The pizza was passable if not necessarily something to rave about. Everything was at least hot and/or fresh and there was no danger that food had been sitting around for hours as can sometimes be the case with buffets.
Worthy of note: For our first ever visit, this was a pleasant enough experience to encourage us to go back some evening to sample their regular menu. Our friends who had been staying in the hotel had dined in the restaurant the previous evening and been happy enough to recommend it for lunch the next day.
  • Positives: Hot, fresh and relatively tasty buffet. Very reasonably priced.
  • Negatives: Kitchen had trouble keeping the buffet stocked! This was quite likely a one-off situation due to a sudden influx of clientele.
  • Recommendation: I don’t often recommend buffets but this one gets a nod from me!
Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality *** Quite good
Price $$ Moderate
Decor *** Dark but pleasant
Service *** Pleasant & efficient
Overall Rating **** Recommended

Frivolous Foodie Facts
The word bistro may derive from the Russian (bystro) which means quickly. According to an urban legend, it entered the French language during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815. Russian cossacks who wanted to be served quickly would shout “bystro.” However, this etymology is not accepted by several French linguists as there is, surprisingly, no occurrence of this word until the end of the 19th century.
Another version is that it is an abbreviation of bistrouille, a French term for brandy mixed with coffee
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1 ping

    • Spyreguy on May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm
    • Reply

    Please note that the Hotel that Bay Street Bistro is attached to is the Albert at Bay Suite Hotel at the corner of Albert and Bay Streets and not Les Suites (which is a suite hotel located near Byward Market).

    1. Thanks for that. I did not know the proper name for the hotel. Will correct the post accordingly

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