Eat the Strip

Chai Talks

1081 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON K1Y 1V3

April 30, 2024 8:00 PM

By: Ameya Charnalia


Merivale Road has been dubbed an emerging little South Asia in Ottawa.

Over the past few years, numerous subcontinental grocery stores and restaurants have opened on a stretch of the road south of Carling Avenue. Not far from the intersection is Chai Talks, a new Indian restaurant and café serving chai in clay pots and street food.

With the loss of Carlington Coffee House, our neighbourhood has lost a vital spot to hang out, sip a warm beverage and grab a bite to eat. With a serious dearth of cafes in our area, Chai Talks has come to the rescue. And with a closing time of 2 a.m. at the time of writing, night owls, including employees of the neighbouring Ottawa Civic Hospita, have a spot to chow down before beginning a graveyard shift.

While technically not in a strip mall, Chai Talk is tucked away on the east-side of a commercial building on Carling Avenue, next to a pharmacy. The colourful eatery features dining tables that doubles as board games, some of which will be instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up in South Asia in the 1980s or 1990s. Cue the nostalgia.

We ordered a samosa bowl, tadka maggi and an iced cardamom chai. Over a game of ludo, we noticed how the restaurant started filling up around 9 p.m. The owner and the staff were kept on their toes by the growing clientele of students and folks from the Indian diaspora visiting to get a fix of street food from the homeland.

Samosa chaat is a dish made with chickpeas, crispy samosa, assorted sweet and spicy chutneys and crunchy toppings
Samosa chaat is a dish made with chickpeas, crispy samosa, assorted sweet and spicy chutneys and crunchy toppings

The samosa chat was tangy, sweet and spicy. It was served with a green chutney, tamarind sauce and was topped with onions, cilantro and onions. One of the restaurant’s signature dishes, it remains a must-try at Chai Talks.

The maggi was served warm and spicy, a perfect dish for a chilly April evening
The maggi was served warm and spicy, a perfect dish for a chilly April evening

However, I am an unashamed Maggi noodles fan. For those who are unfamiliar, this is the Indian equivalent of mac and cheese—a comfort food consumed by students and those looking to get a fix of carbs on the cheap. At Chai Talks, they prepare it just like street vendors do in India. They add vegetables, oil and was that…a hint of cheese I tasted? If not, fret not. They even have a cheese maggi for order. The maggi was, hands down, my favourite dish.

We washed down our meals with the delicious iced chai. This was the real deal. You could tell it was made fresh and not from a powdered pre-mix.

Our entire meal cost us less than $25. It's good knowing there’s a pot of cardamom chai brewing walking distance from our home.