Hangout Handbook My Ottawa

Hangout Handbook My Ottawa
In our annual Hangout Handbook, Exclaim! asks some of our favourite artists to discuss the hidden gems in their hometowns. Here, Jon Bartlett outlines his picks in Ottawa, Ontario.

El Camino (380 Elgin St.)

In the El Camino, Ottawa finally has a serious taco contender, with beef tongue, lamb and crispy fish tacos all on offer. A great playlist and atmosphere, with the best local brew on tap, makes El Camino a winner. (

The "Speakeasy" at Union Local 613 (315 Somerset St. West)

The term speakeasy refers to bars during Prohibition times were liquor was served illegally; this place mimics the feel — bar staff suspenders and bowties are in effect. This cosily lit behind-the-library-shelf bar in the basement of stellar haunt Union Local 613 is always packed and friendly. (

Raw Sugar / Pressed (692 Somerset St. West / 750 Gladstone Ave.)

Both Raw Sugar and Pressed are cozy cafes with delicious food that have morphed into important music venues. Raw Sugar destroys the sweet tooth with chocolate and carrot cakes, baklava and other secret recipes; Pressed have masterful pressed sandwiches and wonderful weekend waffle brunches. (;

Mugshots Jail Bar (75 Nicholas St.)

The site of Canada's last public execution, where a former jail and chapel comprise a snug bar that hosts everything from hip-hop karaoke to movie screenings to Taco Tuesdays. In summer, the courtyard is bustling with international revellers from the hostel Mugshots is connected to.

VIP Karaoke (610 Somerset St. West)

When you are tossed from whatever show you're at and it's not quite pho o'clock, belting out some tunes armed with a bottle of soju might be for you. Private rooms with couches provide the perfect environment for going deep early in the week; it says that closing hours are 2 a.m., but I don't think we've ever left before 3:30. (

Jon Bartlett is the founder of Ottawa-based Kelp Records. Aside from preparing for his label's 20th anniversary next spring, Jon keeps busy by converting his garage into a personal boxing gym.