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Sep 8, 2006 03:54 AM

Santa Paula - The Chili Hut - on Main Street

The sign on the Chili Hut on Main Street in retro downtown Santa Paula claims it is "Japanese-American", but it recently changed hands and is now more Chinese, and very much American as well.

The decor, without any thought or pretension, remains 1950's diner with booths, tuck and roll naugahyde upholstery and an authentic counter with revolving naugahyde stools. It is just simply the way the restaurant has kept its looks, both spacious and cozy. The service by the limited English speaking owners was cordial and efficient.

I ordered the Teriyaki chicken (holdover menu item from prior owners?) and companion had the sweet-sour chicken. Two standard dishes to try in this very modest diner setting.

What a surprise - both were superb. Mine was $5.99, companions was $6.99. Served with eggroll, fried rice and vegetable garnishes. Plan on going back to try a few more items recently listed on new menu - garlic chicken for sure. Hope they keep the quality high and the crowds keep coming. They deserve every success.

This makes two special dining destinations for Santa Paula: Hozy's and now The Chili Hut.

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    1. Unfortunately Santa Paula got consigned to the Los Angeles group because it is in Ventura county. It is east of Ventura/Oxnard and west of Santa Clarita - on Highway 126 between Highway 5 and Highway 101.

      Actually is is known as the Citrus Capital of the World and grows exceptionally good lemons and avocados - many exported to Japan via the deep water port at Hueneme. There is a dinner train from Filmore to Santa Paula - report on that later.

      The verdant and fragrant citrus and avocado groves separated by tall eucalyptus trees make this a particularly lovely river valley, only about an hour away from teeming Los Angeles. Main Street is very old-fashioned in an art deco way and is emerging as kind of the "Santa Barbara" of Ventura County.

      Hozy's is worth a fine dining trip on Lemonwood Drive, off Hallock and Highway 126. And if you stay in the area, it is fun to poke around the rest of the mom-and-pop eating establishments in this cozy and as of yet undiscovered old fashion corner of Southern California.

      Union Oil got started here - there is a surprising history of wealth here and it still retains its small town appeal. Terrific oil museum and perhaps you did not know it was the fictional hometown of President Vinick on West Wing. Recently the site for a new Lindsey Lohan movie too.

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