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What's the deal with Ventura? [Moved from California board]

Why don't I ever see any questions or topics related to Ventura? I used to live there and thought it had great places for lunch and b-fast...dinner was a different story....
I'd like to hear your comments....

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  1. Hi! I live next to Ventura. We finally have some good choices, even for dinner. Zach's Cafe is excellent on Thompson. Jonathan's across from the Mission is very good. Westside Wine Cellars next door has over 30 cheeses to choose from as well as very fine food. If you have a party of 6-10 you might get the private room. New sushi bar in Victoria Plaza. There are more...

    1. Lately I have been eating at Antojo's on Ventura Avenue (across the street from the bigger Red Barn Market) a lot. Mexico City-style snack foods. My only gripe is sometimes the food isn't hot enough, but it is certainly cheap and tasty. My fave is the huarache con hongos.

      I like Cafe Noveau for breakfast/lunch especially on the patio on a nice sunny day.

      Agree with Cafe Zack and Jonathans, both very nice. The biggest disappointment of last year was Sidecar Cafe, which has a lovely menu, freshest ingredients, and pretty much tasteless food. Very sad.

      I also like Taqueria Tepatitlan on Vta Avenue for good, cheap, Mexican cafe food. It is so warm and homey and the owners are just lovely.

      Tony's for pizza.

      That's about all I have to report lately.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Snackish

        Lived here 8 years- my favorites:

        Café Zack
        1095 E. Thompson Blvd., midtown Ventura, 805.643.9445

        Jonathan’s
        204 E. Main St., downtown Ventura, 805.648.4853

        Café Nouveau
        1497 E. Thompson Blvd.Ventura, 805.648. 1422

        Nona’s Courtyard Café
        67 S. California St., downtown Ventura, 805.641.2783

        Café Bariloche (South American tapas)
        500 Main St., downtown Ventura, 805.641.2005

        Sushi: In my opinion, we have only 4 really good sushi houses; here are two

        Sushi Marina
        120 S. California St., downtown Ventura, 805.643.5200
        Ozeki
        1437 S. Victoria Ave Ventura, 805.477.9897

        And if you haven't visited Ojai for the food you're missing:
        The Ranch House (incredible spot- eat in the bamboo forest, great wine list, excellent food- maybe special occasion etc.)

        Boccali’s (homemade food, best pizza I've ever had)
        11675 Ojai Santa Paula Rd. Ojai, 805.646.6116

        1. re: chocolatehorse

          Chocolatehorse- how is Juro cho sushi these days (down on Seaward at the old Eric Ericsons? Is the sushi still good?

          1. re: Displaced California Foodie

            Sorry- haven't been there for couple years but last I went it was mediocre- lots of fun sauces and sushi combos, party atmosphere but not the freshest fish. I prefer Sushi Marina, Oseki Sushi, and the new one in Pt. Hueneme Ralph's center, CI Blvd.

      2. We drive down to Ventura frequently (from SB), and I've never thought to ask here about food, even though we have a hard time finding places to eat. We're vegetarians, which makes things a little more complicated.

        Mary's Secret Garden is a vegan place that used to operate out of a liquor store! They now have a lovely location at 100 N. Fir St., with some really tasty and satisfying items on the menu.

        Any other ideas on places with veggie options? Doesn't have to be all veggie, just have something on the menu besides a "vegetable plate."

        4 Replies
        1. re: LBeff

          Westside wine across from the Mission- knock out veggie sides, cheese and fruit plate etc. Some excellent veggie entrees.

          Also Cafe Bariloche- see above.

          Don't bother with Frankie's on Main anymore- new owners, terrible food- used to be the big veggie place to go.

          1. re: chocolatehorse

            Actually, the new owners kept the old menu & just added new items. They have been voted "Best Vegetarian Items" in Ventura County for the last two years by the Ventura County Star Reader's Poll. They've got a killer tofu burger, it's not on the menu though, you have to ask for it. If the server doesn't know about it, ask for one of the owners, they'll take care of you!!

          2. re: LBeff

            Nature's Grill on Main Street (near Franky's) has great veggie options. You must try the tahini ginger sauce that they offer with the veggies. If you can figure out how to make the sauce let me know!!!
            In Ojai (Meiner's Oaks actually) there is a place called "the Farmer and the cook": All organic vegetarian kitchen.
            www.farmerandcook.com
            I have not been there yet but the owner used to own another restaurant that had been in VTA for years "City Bakery and Cafe"-she had a great sandwich and salad place along with wonderful baked goods. If you go to the farmer and the cook--let me know what you think......

            1. re: LBeff

              I like Mary's a lot.

              Don't bother with the Natural Cafe - they seem to come from that "natural food as a kind of tasteless punishment" school. They may have some good menu items but I'm not going to bother to go back and sort through to try and find them.

              I'm a veg and never worry about it. I find veg things to eat everywhere I go, except in the rarest of circumstances. For instance, I checked out the Aloha Steakhouse menu and there isn't a single veg item on it.

            2. Thanks for the Farmer and the Cook link, Displaced. I think I might have heard of it, but never checked it out.

              Snackish, we have a Natural Cafe here, too, and it's got a couple of things that are fun, like the Zog Dog - chili dog. But yes, it's pretty "old school" in terms of lack of spice and flavor.

              I find veg food everywhere I go, too, but that doesn't mean it's GOOD veg food! I just get tired of some of the mainstream options out there, like the overly vinegary grilled portabello mushrooms everyone serves. Ya know?

              1. I grew up in Ventura and lived there until I was 18.
                After living in Los Angeles and travelling a bit, in other words, expanding my culinary horizons, I have to say Ventura is one of the worst cities food-wise. There's a small handful places I'll eat: Taj Indian, Cholada Thai, and Farmer and the Cook. I'll make exceptions after hanging with the boys back home and smoking a joint of course. I would avoid Cafe Noveau, I've had two very bad experiences there. Hashbrowns were deepfried in old oil. Toast was ice cold and came late. Food just not good quality. Fake atmosphere. Last time I went, there was one server for the whole restaurant. I sympathized with her and tipped well, but it shows horrible ownership.

                Nona's isn't good. Wasn't good when "Wonderboy" Chris Watson was there. Isn't good now. Food never fresh, never cooked properly. Beautiful setting though.

                No sushi that compares to anything in SB or LA. Best would be I Love Sushi and last trip there sushi chef was incredibly rude and quality was decent, though mushy.

                Mary's is good. Agree to go there instead of Nature's Grill, which as one friend who used to work there informed me, isn't really organic and they cut a lot of corners.

                I like Tepatitlan, am friendly with the owners, but it definitely falls under the category of gloppy Mex food. Go for tacos and the homemade chorizo and a 32 of Tecate, safest bet.

                Cafe Zack is decent, but for the price and menu items I'd rather just cook at home. 71 Palm is overpriced hack french food and the chef/owner treats his employees like crap.

                Jonathans is home of fusion whatever Med food. Nothing real or authentic about it. Been here twice and both times wished I hadn't. Can say the same about Westside cellar. These places aren't bad, per se, just not worth going out to.

                Farmer and the Cook is gold. 100% organic. You can literally feel the love in the food. Very very high quality ingredients. Feel great afterwards. Love this place.

                I've heard great things about L'Auberge in Ojai. Avoid Feast Bistro. Gourmet Tamales in the same mall as Jersey Mike's subs is a very chowish hole in the wall with decent to very good Mexican food. Ruben's burritos are good. Emporium cafe is very decent, great service, nice outdoor eating. Ojai Pizza is good small down Americanized pizza, good beers on tap.

                I wish I didn't sound so down about Ventura, but seriously, Ojai has a population of around 8k I think, SB has under 70k. Ventura has like 120k I think and has no excuse for the crap food scene. Every time I visit there's more sprawl and is turning more and more into another Bakersfield or Valencia. More chains, more crap, more sameness and mediocrity.

                Phew, /endrant

                8 Replies
                1. re: fooddude37

                  I had one of the worst Indian food experiences of my life at Taj Cafe. It was filthy and the food was tasteless. Yasmeen's has been on the Health Dept list for shutdowns, so I haven't been there.

                  Cholada Thai was also horribly disappointing. We got a totally inedible dish of Pad See-Ew. When the server saw it was pretty much intact, she asked if we would like a box. We said, no, it wasn't good. No comment. It was left on the bill. A friend had the same experience the same week.

                  Yeah, Tepatitlan is gloppy Mexican food but tasty and the spirit of the place keeps drawing me back.

                  1. re: Snackish

                    Sorry your experience at Taj was so bad. I will say that it can be very inconsistent. I've had Indian there that's as good as any place in WLA (if that's even saying anything) and had also very disappointing Indian there.

                    Cholada varies depending on what you get. By Ventura standards, I find it leaps and bounds above Tipps and Thai/Peruvian place. And that chain, Exotic Thai Cafe or whatever. Yasmeen's...sigh, I owe my Indian virginity to Yasmeens and was also friendly with the family that owns it (had a meal prepared at their house which is still the best Indian meal I've ever had) but I must concur that it's just not that great.

                    I can ask my friend about the tahini dressing next time I see her

                  2. re: fooddude37

                    Fooddude
                    Any chance your friend remembers how to make the tahini -ginger dressing from Natures Grill?

                    1. re: fooddude37

                      Have to disagree with some of the above. Agree that Ventura should have more good restaurants. Most of us who live here welcome the downtown upgrades that are occurring, happy to see a few thrift stores and hot dog stands go. Bakersfield or Valencia, I think not- not at all.

                      We eat at Cafe Noveau every two weeks, has been consistent and very good. Initial server issues, seem solved now.

                      Close to Ventura (true, not actually in): excellent new sushi bar in Ralph's center on Channel Islands Blvd. in Pt. Hueneme. Don't know why one would go to Ojai Pizza when Bocalli's is up the road- they serve ingredients (basil pesto, etc.) from their own garden and even sell their fruits and veggies outside. Bodee's, recently reopened, is in a spectacular setting in Ojai and has great food.

                      1. re: chocolatehorse

                        I didn't mean to say that it's Bakersfield or Valencia now, but that every time I go back it's becoming more and more like it. Downtown has always been a revolving door of independently owned businesses due to the difficulty the city of Ventura makes it on people, (I've talked to various business owners and it sounds like "permit and fine" water torture)

                        Believe me, noone wants to see Ventura turn into a great town more than I do. Most of my friends and familty still live there.

                        The pizza is fine at Boccalis, but everything else I've had there (sandwiches and pasta) has been horrible. Love the setting though.

                        1. re: fooddude37

                          Boccali's lasagna is OK. The best I had there is their strawberry short cake. We had our class reunion there last year and we were all moaning over the still warm out of the oven shortcake with fresh strawberries!

                      2. re: fooddude37

                        Agree on avoiding 71 Palms- in trouble with Health Dept. repeatedly (trust me I know), overpriced

                        1. re: fooddude37

                          Have you tried Marina Sushi on the corner of Santa Clara St. and California St.? They used to be fantastic. My Japanese exchange students thought it was great! Maybe Tom sold it and retired though. That can make a humoungous difference.