Looking for a cozy spot to plug in your laptop, grab a java and get a few hours of work done amid ambient chatter and clinking cutlery? The National Capital Region is abundant in coffee shops and eateries that offer free wi-fi connections as well as ambience. From campuses to cafés, we’ll keep you informed on the most wordsmith-friendly spots in town.
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BAKERY BLISS: Panera Bread – 320 West Hunt Club Rd. https://www.panerabread.com
A friend had insisted I try the new Panera Bread that opened recently in Ottawa, so I brought my laptop along just in case I could plug in and stay awhile. I’m glad I did, and will be returning soon!
With about 30 tables, the place manages to be both roomy and full of cozy seating. There are booths, tables and chairs of varying size; I had plenty of space for my winter coat, purse, computer, notes and food.
The menu is elaborate, featuring items from their in-house bakery as well as soups, salads, breakfasts, and hot drinks. Coffee is bottomless and customers serve themselves at an attractive station with several blend options. Twelve bucks got me a sandwich, soup, an apple and a coffee. The sourdough bread was bakery-fresh and tasted authentic, unlike other rapid-service joints where baked goods come with an aroma of cold storage.
Wi-fi is free and doesn’t require a password. I settled into a small booth at 10:30 AM when it was quiet, and by 11:30 the eatery livened up with the lunch crowd. I purchased food at the cash and was given a nifty tracking device that allowed a server to find me when my meal was ready. It was kind of like playing Marco Polo and the winner gets table-service.
Overall, Panera Bread is an excellent location for meetings, laptop work, and brainstorming sessions if you can work with ambient noise.
Perks: Tasty, elaborate menu; in-house bakery; free, unlimited wi-fi; comfortable seating with sturdy tables; plug-in options; great meeting spot; twice as large as most local coffee shops; free parking.
Quirks: In Hunt Club/Algonquin College area; busy at lunch hour; chain restaurant; noisy at peak hours; bakery items are plentiful and hard to resist.