Tours Travel

Hello from Ottawa – Darcy McGee’s on Sparks Street – An Irish Pub with a Bit of History

When traveling to a new place, you can also combine history with a unique dining experience and great food. Literally steps from our temporary home at the Lord Elgin Hotel, we found Darcy McGee’s, which calls itself “Ottawa’s real Irish pub.” Darcy McGee’s is located at the intersection of Sparks and Elgin streets, a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill and all of Ottawa’s main attractions.

In reality, Thomas Darcy McGee was a prominent Ottawa politician and one of the Fathers of the Confederacy. What made him famous were his moving speeches, which helped unite this new fractured country called Canada. On April 7, 1868, he was murdered outside his boarding house in Sparks Street, a few minutes from where the pub now stands.

When we entered the pub it was absolutely packed, every seat was full and the areas in front of the bar were full of people standing around. I found out later that there was a concert scheduled for 8pm with Lyle Lovett at the National Center for the Arts, which is literally across the road from the pub.

We got a comfortable seat in one of the corners of this cozy pub and relaxed after a busy day of skating on the Rideau Canal. Concertgoers started pouring out at 7:45pm and it got a little easier to breathe in this very popular venue.

Skating naturally makes you very hungry, so I had a pick at the fairly reasonably priced menu and one dish in particular caught my eye: a “Melted Stilton Dip,” consisting of Stilton, aged cheddar, and cream cheese mixed with fresh spinach. Served on a rye bun with toasted bagel chips and Granny Smith apple wedges. The taste was actually reminiscent of a creamy blue cheese sauce and I really enjoyed it.

I followed the appetizer with a Mediterranean Tomato Salad of sliced ​​greenhouse tomatoes with goat cheese, red onion, ground black peppercorns and extra virgin olive oil, with a side of garlic bread. Even though Darcy McGee’s has hearty traditional pub grub, I decided to cut back on the calories a bit for the entree.

After dinner I thought I should find out a bit more about the history and unique features of this place and looked up one of the people who run the pub. Jennifer Rafuse is one of the managers and she was kind enough to show me around and give me information about this unique place.

He noted that the pub’s furnishings were designed and built in Ireland and shipped to Canada. In fact, the pub has a unique decor consisting of handmade reddish wood with uniquely decorated glass inserts. The atmosphere is cozy with low lighting and several private seating areas that open onto the main bar area.

There is an area immediately to the left of the entrance that has a large window facing Elgin Street. The view from this window on the northeast side is fantastic: you can see the Parliament buildings, the beautifully lit Chateau Laurier, the National Conference Center and the National Center for the Arts. There really is nothing more central than that.

Jennifer took me to a historical wall exhibit explaining the history of Darcy McGee and showing pictures of his funeral which was attended by 60,000 people. At the time of his death in 1868, it was Victorian practice to create a death mask, an actual cast of the dead person’s head. However, because Darcy was horribly disfigured during the shooting, a cast was made of his hand instead. The cast of his hand is displayed in a glass case just below the historical plaque and I have to admit seeing this guy’s hand cast was a bit creepy.

Jennifer went on to explain that Darcy McGees is a favorite place for politicians who come to cool off after a long day on Parliament Hill. She said the pub used to be a popular gathering place for Liberals, and they are now turning more Conservative since Stephen Harper’s election as prime minister.

He also told me about the Barmaster competition, where bartenders compete in a variety of categories. They are supposed to create Irish “craic” which means a very fun atmosphere. The ability to pour a perfect Guinness, which must always have a shamrock on it, is part of this Barmasters competition.

Naturally, he had to see the technique of pouring a perfect Guinness and putting a shamrock on top. Jennifer was happy to demonstrate: First you pour the beer for about 45 seconds, then let it sit for a while, then fill and swirl the glass to create a perfect cloverleaf-shaped swirl. In total, this process is supposed to take 119.5 seconds. (Time, of course, is not measured by a stopwatch, but by the perfect judgment of an experienced barmaster.)

The atmosphere is enhanced by live music, and Jennifer said that the pub has musicians 3 days a week: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The music on tap is a mix of Irish and rock music.

Jennifer also mentioned that in April, May, Darcy McGees is opening a patio on Sparks Street where her guests can enjoy food and drinks outside. Sparks Street is famous as one of the most important heritage streets in Ottawa. Nicholas Sparks was one of the Ottawa City Fathers, founding the street in the early 19th century.

Once Ottawa was selected by Queen Victoria as the capital of Canada, this street became a bustling shopping center for the entire Ottawa region. Today Sparks Street is a pedestrian zone so cars are not allowed, allowing visitors to freely enjoy the boutiques, specialty shops, craft retailers and restaurants that do business on Sparks Street. This area is also home to a variety of special events such as the Ottawa International Busker Festival, Tulips on Sparks (held in May), and the International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off pitting chefs from Canada, Australia, and the United States against each other. each.

So Darcy McGees is located right in the heart of historic Ottawa and we got a taste of some of that true Irish hospitality. In anticipation of another busy day on Sunday, we finished our early dinner and walked back to our hotel to notice that the action in Confederation Park was still going on. Now we saw the complete ice sculptures, all illuminated in different colors. From there we went down to the Rideau Canal, where an outdoor concert was in full swing at the American Express Sno-Bowl across from the National Conference Center. Hundreds of people swayed to the music and the historic old railway station was lit up in shades of pink, orange and purple.

This city sure knows how to throw a great party…