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Zak’s serves up the classic diner experience at four Ottawa locations


    Mark down Zak’s Diner as simply a fun place to eat when in Ottawa.

    Established in 1986 by John Borsten and some partners, one of whom had a son named Zak, there are four separate locations for this ’50s-themed eatery: the happening Byward Market, Elgin Street, Carleton Place and Kanata.

    While the ladies dined elsewhere one night, I jumped at the offer from Zak’s Director of Marketing Sofia Santiso Borsten to experience Zak’s for the first time. I am a huge fan of this kind of restaurant. The Byward location is open 24/7 and offers all-day breakfast, unbeatable burgers, sandwiches, world-famous milkshakes and much more.

    I got a coveted table on the patio and my server Sean Rakowski, who was one of the managers that night, made some helpful suggestions. Since I was dining solo on this night there was nobody to share with.  Zak’s is noted for its burgers, so the Zak Attack looked like a good option:  two patties with bacon, swiss cheddar cheese and 1000 islands dressing.  All burger meals are served with coleslaw, a pickle and either fries, curly fries, soup, salad, or onion rings. I had both the curly fries, along with garlic mayo for dipping and a piping hot bowl of tomato bisque soup.  And no, I could not finish everything on my plate. I washed everything down with my favorite soft drink, Dr. Pepper.


    After this, I took a good 20-minute break to prepare for one of the famous Zak’s milkshakes. I was delighted to learn that they have a lactose-free option, so I went for the banana chocolate flavor with a nice serving of whipped cream and a cherry at the top. In fact, you get the equivalent of a full second serving as well so there is plenty to share.

    This was a very satisfying meal and I look forward to going back to sample other menu items such as their salads, wraps, sandwiches, poutine, vegetarian and plant-based alternatives, all-day breakfast items and dessert options. They even have vegan shakes.

    The Byward Market location is indeed open 24/7 and Sean says there is always a steady flow of customers. For latecomers, the menu consists of all the marquee items.

    At Zak’s, kids eat free Sunday to Thursday from 4 pm to close for indoor dining (holidays excluded). The way it works is you will get one free kids meal (10 and under) with the purchase of one adult meal and beverage.

     “Zak’s does a good version of comfort food. It’s accessible, a good neighbourhood diner,” says John Borsten. “It is food everyone wants to eat and the price point is easy on the wallet.”

    Zak’s Cantina is attached to the restaurant at the market, serving up Mexican street food. They share a kitchen and a patio of more than 30 tables.


    While I would love to see Zak’s expand to Montreal. Sofia Borsten (John’s wife) says that new franchises outside of Ottawa are not part of the plan. However, a location at the airport in Ottawa may be in the cards.

    The Byward Market location is handicapped-accessible. Call ahead of time and they will make a ramp available for indoor dining. The patio is at street level. Washrooms via Zak’s Cantina are also accessible. You can also order take-out or delivery. The address is  14 ByWard Market Square. For more details call 613.241.2401 |or go to

    Mike Cohen

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