Mystery Diner in Ottawa: Maria’s Cafe Bistro conquers your appetite with large bites

Generous lunch sandwiches more than a handful

Maria's Cafe Bistro, 406 W. Main St. in Ottawa, is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

I made a tall order during a lunch date last week at Maria’s Cafe Bistro in Ottawa.

Not a tall order in the sense that I made a difficult demand. I mean it literally – my sandwich was tall.

A coworker and I have heard high praise about Maria’s breakfast offerings since the restaurant opened in October 2021, so we decided to step out of the office and venture to the Main Street eatery. We strolled through the door at 12:57 p.m., at which point we spotted a sign notifying customers the breakfast menu ends at 1 p.m.

The Hawaiian chicken melt includes a seasoned chicken breast with a slice of ham, sliced pineapple and mozzarella cheese on sourdough bread.

Even though we missed the opportunity to sample the expansive options of frittatas, omelets, skillets, waffles and crepes, among other breakfast favorites, we found plenty of options on the lunch/dinner side of the menu. I debated between the Hawaiian chicken melt ($11.50) – a chicken breast covered with a slice of ham, pineapple and mozzarella cheese on sourdough bread – and the Nashville chicken sandwich ($11.50) – a large breaded chicken breast coated in a sweet and spicy sauce and topped with coleslaw.

Both sandwiches ended up at our table because I went for the Nashville chicken, and my colleague decided the Hawaiian chicken was the right choice for him. We also split an appetizer of the Maria’s basket ($11.99), which includes two potato skins, four chicken wings, four mozzarella sticks and a handful of onion rings.

When the waitress delivered my plate, I realized my sandwich would be a handful and a mouthful. The chicken breast was so sizeable it was cut in half and stacked. Once you add the coleslaw and bun, it was a large portion, but I was up to the challenge. Doing my best alligator impression, I opened wide and went to work on my meal.

The Nashville chicken sandwich delivers a large breaded chicken breast coated in Nashville sauce and coleslaw at Maria's Cafe Bistro in Ottawa.

The coleslaw is worthy of special mention. I am especially picky about coleslaw recipes, and it’s always a risk when I order a meal at a new-to-me restaurant in which the slaw is a key component. Maria’s Cafe Bistro hits the bulls-eye with its creamy, rich slaw.

My coworker also offered unprompted praise for the Hawaiian’s well-seasoned chicken breast and the burst of fresh flavor provided by the pineapple slices.

Sandwiches include a cup of the day’s soup and french fries. Coupled with a large appetizer, our hunger was appeased with food to spare. The fried foods in the appetizer reheated well at home. My coworker took home half of the Hawaiian chicken sandwich, which served as the following day’s lunch.

A cup of the day's soup is served with sandwich orders. A basket of complimentary bread also is delivered to diners.

The restaurant offers a carousel of daily specials, often posted on its Facebook page and also featured on the chalkboard in the dining room. Recent specials have included Mexican favorites, seafood, pork chops and more.

Be sure to be hungry when visiting Maria’s. The portions are plentiful, and they’re worth an appetite. We’ll be back – and next time, we’ll be on time for breakfast.

The Maria's basket appetizer includes two potato skins, four chicken wings, four mozzarella sticks and a handful of onion rings.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.


WHAT: Maria’s Cafe Bistro

WHERE: 406 W. Main St., Ottawa

PHONE: 815-324-5092

INFORMATION: Facebook at