The King Eddy is revitalizing the ByWard Market … one juicy burger at a time

ABOVE: Johny Bonney and Lindzy Thompson of The King Eddy.

As the ByWard Market regains its post-pandemic stride, one local restaurant is showing that there is a promising future for local family-owned businesses on Clarence Street.

If you live in Ottawa, you’ve likely heard of The King Eddy, but you may not know that the popular eatery has moved to a new location, literally steps away from its previous spot on the corner of Clarence and Parent. And the new place is already helping redefine the market with its vintage look that has a modern and kind of a glam feel that is warm and inviting.

It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has struggled during the last two years. Still, Johny Bonney, one of the owners and managers of The King Eddy, said that even though “in the beginning, it was just about survival,” they had to be optimistic.

When The King Eddy re-opened for outdoor dining, the restaurant sat between two vacant retail spaces with an extra-wide sidewalk out front. The restaurant asked the landlord to take over the existing patio spaces on either side. Bonney says, “We had basically half a city block, at that time there was still six-feet-distancing, and we knew our (existing) little patio, as it was, was not going to make a go of it.”

Following the summer patio season, the owners recognized the potential at the corner of Clarence Street and Parent. They started re-imagining The King Eddy on that corner.

The plan went ahead: renovations began on the new space while the old restaurant continued serving customers. Bonney said that “an opportunity was made out of nothing; we made lemonade out of the lemons we were given.”

Bonney credits his wife Lindzy with the inspiration for the look and feel of the new space executed with the help of Shannon Smithers of 180 Design. “We thought about what made the King Eddy great and what we could do to improve it and have it bright and cheerful.”

The new restaurant has a beautiful glow with soft pink walls, whitewashed brick, and light wood tables. But it’s the sizeable horseshoe-shaped bar that catches your eye first. Inspired by the classic diners, the bar has lots of space for staff to serve without bumping into each other, and groups of up to six can sit at the bar. Bonney says that the design “lends itself to conversation.” Patrons of the original location will be happy to see the iconic 15-feet long, fun vintage illustration from the old location gracing the back wall.

Since it first opened in 2014, The King Eddy has become such an institution in Ottawa, known for its burgers and waffles that come with a side of fried chicken. Bonney attributes the success to  being “committed to quality and value, so that people could taste the quality, and that customers were satisfied and wanting to come back.” He went on to say the focus has always been on “quality over everything, and we just stuck with it.”

Initially, the restaurant was a dinner spot, but the brunch and 24-hour service have become very popular. Bonney thinks that the market is transforming from the club and bar hub of the city back to a restaurant destination too. There are plans to add a few new items to the menu and do more specials to attract the dinner crowd.

When you visit The King Eddy, grab a seat at the bar and order the house lager. The restaurant now offers its own lager to complement the burgers, chicken, and other tasty dishes. Bonney describes the beer as “food-friendly, laid-back, and easy-going,” like the restaurant itself.

The restaurant industry in the city suffered some terrible losses during the last two years, but The King Eddy is a positive sign that the ByWard Market is on the rebound and is being built back better than it was before.

When I asked Bonney about the future of the market, he said, “when you go through anything as traumatic as the pandemic was for the industry, not everyone made it through, but out of the ashes, there’s new life, and there’s an appetite for the market to re-establish itself as a destination.”

Bonney describes the new location as “centre-ice” in the ByWard Market and says there’s nowhere else he and the rest of the owners and management would rather be.

If you haven’t yet been, check out The King Eddy, home to one of the city’s best burgers at 47 Clarence Street in the ByWard Market.

Keep an eye open for a new pizza restaurant called Lil Z’s Pizza, due to open later this month in the old The King Eddy location. Knowing The King Eddy, the quality and service will be fantastic.

Photos: Mckenzie Donovan