A Students Guide to Downtown Oshawa

Photo of Emily Fontana. Emily Fontana

In 2011, Downtown Oshawa became home to Ontario Tech University’s Faculty of Education and Social Sciences and Humanities. The University has intertwined itself into the heart of Downtown Oshawa—repurposing historical buildings like the Regent Theatre and 61 Charles Street into utilized campus buildings.

For first year students, the transition to university can be a daunting task. Having to tour a new city, meet new friends and adjust to a new routine can be overwhelming.

Ontario Tech campus building Bordessa Hall.

Source: Ontario Tech University

With campus buildings scattered around downtown, from Simcoe Street to Charles Street, you’ll find yourself walking through the downtown core daily. For a first-year student, the downtown astrosphere can be entrancing, especially with little knowledge of the city’s layout and history. With an immense number of shops and little time to wander, it is easy to miss out on some essential pre-and post-class stops. But don’t worry, as an experienced fourth year student, I will give you the inside scoop of the best downtown spots to check out around the campus buildings.


If you’re looking for a sandwich to keep you full throughout your three-hour lecture, Coffee Culture is the place. Only a five-minute walk from Regent Theatre, Coffee Culture has everything from smoothies to salads to decadent desserts. You’ll be able to subdue any craving here. It is a great breakfast or lunch option with lots of seating available for you and your friends in between classes. And, if you happen to forget to submit an assignment—don’t worry—they have free Wi-Fi. Coffee Culture is also a popular spot for many workers located in Downtown Oshawa due to its proximity to office buildings.

Person holding a coffee inside of Isabella's.

Source: Isabella’s Chocolate Café

Need a pick-me-up before class? Isabella’s Chocolate Café is the spot to be at. A three-minute walk from Regent Theatre and a four-minute walk from Bordessa Hall, Isabella’s Chocolate Café has a great selection of coffee and tea. They also sell baked goods and sandwiches that are delicious! Isabella’s is a go-to spot for students and professors alike.

Pre-pandemic, there was a good chance you’d run into one of your professors sitting at Isabella’s with a cup of coffee enjoying the free Wi-Fi. Professors like to mention the café whenever they find it appropriate in lectures too—I would argue that it is a Social Science and Humanities faculty favourite. This local café is an essential spot for many at the University. And they also sell adorable stationery items like cards and mugs, making it very hard not to buy everything in sight.

Iced coffee being made at Cork and Bean.

Source: Cork and Bean

Another café hotspot downtown is Cork and Bean. This local café has an atmosphere like no other. Located across from the Faculty of Education on Simoce Street, Cork and Bean is a great place to relax with its cozy ambiance. The lower level of the café contains a beautiful wooden table surrounded by local art. It’s the perfect spot to meet with friends to work on group projects while enjoying their student discount and free Wi-Fi!

As the name suggests, Cork and Bean also serves beer, wine and spirits. If you find yourself downtown during the evening, this is a go-to for local wine and craft beer. Pre-pandemic Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Cork and Bean would host local live music, which they are beginning to host again. They are currently offering limited outdoor seating as well.

Beyond Coffee

Want to get to know your classmates better, outside of class? Hit up Brew Wizards Board Game Café—only a six-minute walk from 61 Charles Street. Brew Wizards has created a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy board games while enjoying a fresh beverage. The Brew Wizards serves a local favourite, Deadly Grounds Coffee, and craft beer. Even though they offer free Wi-Fi, you won’t want to be on your phone. The concept of a gaming café is inviting and a great place to connect with friends. Brew Wizards hosts a variety of game nights catered to specific games. Make a reservation to ensure a great night out!

Do you love Indian food? Do you love Mexican food? If the answer to both is yes, then you’ll love Bollywood Tacos. Located right across from a popular Durham Region Transit stop, and a three-minute walk from Bordessa Hall, Bollywood Tacos is a unique and delicious lunch spot. Create your own tacos and burritos, and try their raved-about masala fries! And, you can’t forget about the churros either! If you’re a fan of the Cheesecake Factory’s cheesecake, they sell that too!

Across the street from Regent Theatre and a two-minute walk from Bordessa Hall sits Pizzamunno Artisanal Pizza. Pizzamunno is a great spot to grab a delicious slice of pizza, especially if you’re in a time crunch. Its proximity to Regent Theatre and Bordessa Hall makes it a perfect take-out spot for students. Another bonus of Pizzamunno is that they offer vegetarian and vegan pizzas! Everyone can find a slice they love at Pizzamunno. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Want to grab a savoury meal on your way to 61 Charles Street from Bordessa Hall? Smoke’s Poutinerie is right on route. Three-minutes from Bordessa Hall and five-minutes from 61 Charles Street, Smoke’s will cure all your savoury cravings. With what feels like an unlimited number of options, Smoke’s has something for every poutine lover, from butter chicken-less cauliflower poutine to popcorn chicken poutine. They are currently only open for takeout and delivery, so keep that in mind on your next visit.

With at least four years to explore the many local businesses, we would love to hear your favourite spots in Downtown Oshawa! Check out these spots or share your favourites using the hashtag #DowntownsofDurham on social media.

Want to explore more things for students to do in Durham? Check out this blog post!

NOTE: At the time of publishing, Durham Region and the Province of Ontario are in Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen; the Province’s three-step plan to safely and gradually lift public health measures, based on ongoing progress of province-wide vaccination rates, and improvements of key public health and health care indicators. Many businesses now require proof of vaccination; please check ahead for specific business policies. Residents are encouraged to follow health guidance when safely exploring their local communities, including wash hands frequently, wear a mask and physically distance from others.