Checking Out this Elgin Street Cafe is a ‘Wise’ Decision

As a food writer who focuses on the best of the best in restaurants and bars in the city, I also have a great affinity for coffee shops and cafés. A few times a week, I head to one of my favourites, where I write. When you spend this much time in coffee shops, you compare them and decide on your favourites.

I’m always on the lookout for new spots so that my rotation continues to grow, and recently, that resulted in a new staple in my repertoire of go-to cafes.

Wise Town Cafe on Elgin Street has become part of my weekly routine. The atmosphere is everything I want in a coffee shop: the music is good but not too loud; the aesthetic is artsy but not overwhelming; and the selection of seating ranges from intimate to social — my personal favourite is the big brown couch. Oh, and for my dog-loving friends, Wise Town Cafe is dog-friendly. That’s right; I often take a break from my work to pet the nearest Golden Doodle or Frenchie.

Wise Town offers all your coffee and tea needs at an elevated level. Each drink is served with an appropriate accompaniment—like a palate-cleansing shot of water with an espresso—and often a small piece of chocolate as a treat. As you’re standing at the counter being served by the friendly staff, gaze to your left at the glass case full of pastries and treats. From sweet cakes and macarons to savoury phyllo pastries, Wise Town offers authentic coffee shop fair.

Unlike most spots in Ottawa, Wise Town is open late. It offers a selection of cocktails and speciality coffees for those needing something a little stronger than the typical bean juice. The weekly events board is posted at the entrance for anyone interested in trying something different for a night out.

Writing this article on the brown couch, I decided to give one of their pastries a go. I paired my usual order of an oat milk cortado with a parmesan and leek pastry. The pastries are not made in-house but are sourced from a local bakery and are of high quality. The phyllo was buttery and flakey, with a nice crisp texture. The filling was gooey, warm and well-seasoned without being one note. You taste both the leek and the parmesan, which may seem like an obvious statement. Still, far too often, one ingredient overpowers the other when muddled into a pastry filling, so finding the right balance can be difficult.

As for the cortado, this is my favourite place in the city to enjoy one. I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend with coffee shops in Ottawa: espresso pulls that provide a sour product. It is something that I’m not used to, especially since my Nonno is the espresso-pulling king. However, at Wise Town, they are doing it right. They clearly know their stuff when it comes to coffee.

Now, I am a simple man when it comes to caffeine, but that is not to say you can’t enjoy more extravagant options behind these Elgin Street doors. Wise Town is equipped with a variety of roasts, syrups, milks, teas, and accoutrements to satisfy even the most elaborate of orders. So, if you’re a Starbucks-going Venti-iced-chai-with-oat-milk-two-pumps-of-hazelnut-and-sweet-cream-cold-foam type of person, you will find your caffeine fix at Wise Town.

Whether you go to read, write, socialize, or just kill some time people-watching, I can’t recommend this place enough. The rewards program will keep you coming back to enjoy your complimentary beverage, and their friendly owner is always happy to chat, not to mention he WILL remember you. Seriously, on my second visit, he noted that I previously didn’t opt for sugar, but this time, I did . . . impressive!

Everyone needs a community coffee shop, just as we need a local pub and a favourite date spot. A visit to Wise Town has quickly become part of my weekly routine. I hope it can become part of yours.

Find Wise Town Cafe at 329A Elgin Street and online at