We all have our favourite neighbourhood breakfast retreats. Mine is Carmen’s Veranda, an eclectic little cafe nestled between a maternity shop and a photography studio. In the rush of Bank Street traffic, you’d miss it unless you knew where to look.
Well, I am here to tell you that you should look. Or don’t, so I never have to wait in line for a table.
Carmen’s falls under the category of “I will never be able to write a restaurant review about it because it is a sacred food space.” The heart-of-Old-Ottawa-South cafe is kept cozy in that category by my beloved Art-Is-In Bakery, Stella Luna Gelato Cafe and the Scone Witch. I would be substantially more wealthy and less happy without these four local loves.
My last trip to Carmen’s was this past weekend, on the Sunday morning after my birthday (no, I was not hungover, mom). I went with my two roommates, Freya and Shannon, Shannon’s sister Erin, and my other good friend Tara. They are all lovely people and wonderful brunch mates.
Now, not only is the food at Carmen’s great (more on that later), but the look of the place is spot-on, Hilary-appealing.
There’s colour everywhere, and the tables (the kind like my gramps had, with the opening drawers and winged extensions) have been retrofitted with fun studs (not of the male variety) and patterned tops. Beautiful artist displays adorn the wall, colourful dishes scatter our table, and the front window where we sit fogs up in accordance with our steaming plates of brunch. A piece of plastic mounted in between the two windows is printed with a yellow “8” – something that I just realized meant the number of year’s the restaurant has been open. Happy eighth birthday, Carmen’s!
The brunch menu at Carmen’s remains generally the same, with omelette and quiche ingredients switching up every so often based on the seasonal readiness of items. My favourite item is the poached eggs, which are perfectly cooked and ooze onto the English Muffin beneath and mingle with my potatoes.
Speaking of the potatoes… they are the best. I don’t know what it is about them, but I need them everytime I visit.
Story: about a year ago I went to Carmen’s late in the morning with Freya and my then-roommate, now Paris explorer extraordinaire, Brittany. I ordered my usual poached eggs, my mouth watering in anticipation of that oh-so necessary yolk-potato tango. My conversation with the waitress (indicated as “W”) went something like this:
W: What would you like today?
H (in a sing-songy voice): I’ll have the poached eggs, please! I’m so excited for my potatoes! Carmen makes them soooooooo well!
W: Oh no, we’re actually out of potatoes this morning…
H (GASP GASP GASP): Oh my GOD! But..but.. I know, can I run down to the grocery store and buy you some more? …
I continued to beg, plead and drool until finally the waitress told me that there was, in fact, enough potatoes left for one breakfast serving. She probably just wanted to shut me up, to be honest. Regardless, the potatoes and I were united again. I went back to Carmen’s a few months later and the waitress remembered me: “Oh you’re the one who offered to buy us potatoes that one time!” she said. Guilty as charged.
This past Sunday I ordered the same thing, as did Freya, Tara and Shannon. Hey, it’s just that good, okay? Enjoyable as always.
Two days later, Freya, her cousin Madé, and I recreated this brunch at home. This was after I had already eaten my usual two pieces of toast with peanut butter and apple sauce. I couldn’t resist.
There’s no recipe with this post, so I encourage you to go to Carmen’s Veranda and try the brunch for yourself. I swear on my love of potatoes that you won’t regret the visit.