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4 nights/5 days in City of Ventura

I'm going to be in the City of Ventura on business in September (traveling from extreme Northern CA). What's relaxing, good and casual for a woman dining alone - I'm happy with any cuisine... Also, how long does it usually take to drive from City of Ventura to Santa Barbara? If reasonable (not too much traffic) I might choose to dine there for dinner. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  1. Aloha Steakhouse, just off the pier, next to the Crowne Plaza. Good for steak, seafood, prime rib, etc., and a view of the ocean. Try either the volcano cake or the hula pie for dessert.

    Santa Barbara's about 45 minutes up the 101, but the timing is kind of unpredictable as the traffic can be unreal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: asimen

      Thanks! I'll may try heading up to SB one night or since I'm flying in and out of SB, I might just aim to cut out of my class early on Friday...

    2. I can relate, I happen to be a "causual woman" when I'm in that neck of the woods, I can understand that if you're a "Chow Gal" you want to dine without the pretense and with out the creepy vultures lurking around but good food no hassle.
      Hmm, let's see...
      Hungry Cat just opened one of their places up in Santa Barbara.
      There's also Wine Cask/Intermezzo.
      and there's Brooks...
      I was supposed to go to a winemakers dinner there last night but I've gotten a horrible cold so I couldn't go...I haven't been there yet but my friend highly recommends it and he dines solo quite a bit too.
      In Ventura:
      Whenever I've gotten a craving for real food after getting off the Islands (Camping on Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Santa Cruz Islands off the coast of Ventura Harbor), I head to this odd Thai/Peruvian place in Ventura...I'm a gal, sit alone, read a book, the food is good, lots of yummy beers (oh, you'll be working) really interesting curries and all kind of other things...I'll try to remember it...if you go to Really Cheap Sports and ask the people about the Thai/Peruvian place, they'll point you in the right direction.
      I'll check back when I remember the name of the place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tatertotsrock

        Thanks for the reply. Brooks looks fun. I'm deciding what to order as we speak. Funny about the Thai/Peruvian place. I saw it on another website and immediately discounted it because I have a thing about places that combine cuisine. I'll have to retrace my steps and figure out which webpage I saw it on. Anyway, Thanks! (and even though I'm taking a class for work during the day I might need some beer at night!)

      2. Winchester's Grill & Saloon

        632 E Main St, Ventura

        Not to bad if you want some red meat.

        Should be fine for a single women.
        It is nicer than its name may imply.

        You can eat at the bar, which will probably have a women bartender.

        Try the tri tip.

        Lots of cold beers here too!

        here is the info of the thai and peruvian place:

        Thai & Peru Restaurant

        583 E Main St
        Ventura, CA 93001
        (805) 643-0583

        1. there's also this great european style bakery cafe place called savory bakery i think which i didn't eat at, but went to go buy a couple of baked goods while i left my bf sitting at the place we were eating across the street (i had wanted to eat there instead after reading about it here and asking a local). i glanced at their menu and they had nice salads and sandwiches, and the baked goods i got were yummy indeed. it's on main street on a corner, and seems like it'd suit your needs. have fun!

          4 Replies
          1. re: unocal

            This thread is great -- I too am going to be in Ventura for business in September (next week actually) and I'm a single woman looking for some good places to eat in the area (I'll have a car too). I'm coming from North Carolina, but I lived in LA for a couple years and have family in Southern California, so it's not totally foreign to me. I've only been to Ventura once, however, and it was only to the beach. Don't know the town or the pier at all.

            Anyway, I'm interested in this bakery, because I'm always trying to find excellent bakeries -- and there really aren't any around me. At least not for cookies, which is what I'm always looking for. Or scones. What type of bakery is this -- bread, cookies, cakes? I'm sure it does multiple things, but, IMO, bakeries are usually best at a certain area of baking.

            If there are any places in or around Ventura with awesome cookies and/or scones, I'd love to hear about them. Oh, and another question -- any Whole Foods in the area sell Carol's Cookies? They're made in Chicago, but a fellow cookie loving friend of mine was informed by her sister that they are now selling them in her Seattle Whole Foods, so I'm hoping they've made it to many places in California too!

              1. re: zomigi

                The closest Whole Foods is in Thousand Oaks, about 25 miles south. I don't know about the Carol's Cookies situation there, but OMG they are tasty, aren't they?

                1. re: zomigi

                  The Savory Bakery isn't very good IMO, at least what we ordered wasn't. However, the Royal Bakery on Telephone has great pastries and lunches. Le Petit Cafe at the Ventura Harbor also offers French-styled pastries and a really fun, French menu. Sadly Ventura's best bakery -- the Anacapa Bread Co. closed suddenly a few months back and nothing has taken its place. There is a teeny bakery next to Tipps Thai in downtown Ventura, I forget the name, and they have some decent cookies. The closest Whole Foods, sadly, is in Thousand Oaks more than 30 miles away.

              2. The best restaurant in downtown Ventura is Jonathon's at Peirano's. Solid Cal/Mediterranean menu, excellent paella, not obscenely expensive.

                Ventura to Santa Barbara is a beautiful 28-mile drive, anywhere from 30 mins. in good traffic to 45-50 in rush hour. Not an unreasonable distance for dinner, and of course there's a lot of good food ... Downey's is still my preference. SB restaurants can be pricey.

                And then there's my all-time favorite restaurant in southern Cal, The Ranch House in the Meiners Oaks area of Ojai (13 miles inland from Ventura). Wonderful food in a gorgeous and peaceful setting ... I've eaten there alone on any number of occasions and have never felt awkward. I recommend the wild mushroom strudel appetizer and New Orleans delight for dessert, but I have never gone wrong with any meal there. Be sure to print out a map, it can be a little hard to find if you've never been there before.


                1305 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

                Ranch House
                500 W Lomita Ave, Ojai, CA 93023

                J's Tapas
                204-208 E Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001

                2 Replies
                1. re: maxzook

                  A very strong qualifier for the Ranch House: reservations are necessary (yes, even for one) as they are relatively small and frequently closed for private parties. (805) 646-2360

                  1. re: maxzook

                    Thank you very much for all the information! For some reason I was thinking Ojai was a lot farther inland. I am going to look into a reservation at the Ranch House :)

                  2. For no frills and super seafood, go to H.C. Seafood at the Channel Islands Harbor Fisherman Wharf. They close early, so go before 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. They have fresh crab, live shrimp, live fish, live lobster. You order at a window and then eat at picnic tables. Very yummy and casual.

                    1. Hi ThisNThat,

                      You have recieved some good replies. I take it from the 4 night, five day trip that it will be weekday/night only? I would offer lots of suggestions if you had time to putter around on a weekend day... that being said, I would not go to the Ranch House. It is a lovely spot, and as much as I had a very odd time there on my last visit and would not recommend it simply for that, I don't think I would want to do the drive up 33 and back by myself.
                      I also don't think it is set up for single diners.

                      The drive to Santa Barbara is a nice one, 30 minutes or so along the coast. I probably would want to walk along the wharf, take some photos, and head to Paradise Cafe
                      for a nice dinner. Casual but very good. There are plenty of other options- Winecask,
                      Bouchon, etc. But Paradise is welcoming and happy to hang out at. You could do that
                      and have a good time by yourself.

                      Your drive down will be very pleasant- you need to walk a bit to grab your car, but getting on the freeway (which ultimately turns into the coast) is very easy. You will have a short
                      bottleneck of cars right after downtown- don't worry- it lasts only about ten minutes then you are on your way along the coast. Time from airport to Ventura coast hotels is about
                      45 minutes max.

                      Don't discount the nice restaurants right near you, Jonathon's (previously mentioned)
                      is one. You could have a table there easily as a single woman. Plus the walk up and
                      down Main Street Ventura is fun. There are quite a bit of happy hours right near
                      the hotels (I am assume you are staying at the Sheraton or thereabouts?). A fun old
                      place to have happy hour which I have gone to by myself is the Whale's Tail (in Oxnard
                      but very close by) on the second floor. From 4 - 7 lots of things half off (chowders, raw bar, finger foods, sandwiches, etc.)

                      Thai and Peruvian is good, too. I would make the drive to Santa Barbara if I had the time to eat and time to walk a bit to enjoy the beauty. Hang out on State Street. Otherwise,
                      you have good options near you.

                      Should you want to have a nice meal before your flight, you can drop off your bags and
                      check-in at the airport (keep your car) and drive about two minutes to the beach to the
                      Beachside Bar and Cafe. It is right at on the water, at the end of the airport.

                      Check out Ventura Harbor, too. There is one shop (name escapes me but easy to find)for great blown glass- local and very professional- and wonderfully priced. The man only sells local artists' works. Also sells works of local wood work. You can buy good gifts for under $10.00. A nice meal can be had a couple of shops down at Le Petit Cafe, but while the food is great and sitting on the harbor is wonderful, the service is usually awful. Still, I always go...


                      4 Replies
                      1. re: orangecat

                        For fish try Brophy Brothers which has been in Santa Barbara for some years now right on the water. They also just opened up a new location in Ventura harbor. The Ventura location was just positively reviewed in the Ventura County newspaper. I cant locate the exact information for the Ventura location but call the SB location for info.


                        1. re: SIMIHOUND

                          Oh Yeah,
                          Brophy Brothers!!!
                          So goo.
                          A bowl of clam chowder and an Anchor Steam-perfect.

                          1. re: tatertotsrock

                            I had to add this too. Old Vienna Restaurant. Great German food and not busy unless its Oktoberfest. It's a shock to see this place so empty, especially after eating their great chow. I can't figure it out.


                            1. re: SIMIHOUND

                              Old Vienna has excellent and hearty Bavarian homestyle food; schnitzels are great and big, the duck is the best I've had in the LA area. But they may be half-empty because the service is mediocre considering dinners with wine or beer quicky run to over $30 per diner with a couple wines or beer. The food is great, but no bargain. We can get great local "homestyle" dinners for two for thatin several comparible places .

                      2. If you are looking for a slice, my wife and I recommend Tommy's Pizza that is, I think, on Thompson. Yes, it's a hut with one oven, but they toss great thin dough.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Alfredo Garcia

                          I think you mean Tony's Pizzaria on the corner of Thompson and Figueroa. Eat outside under the banana trees (there is no inside). I like the pizza depending on who makes it.

                          If you have some time and want to feel loved and nurtured, try Jamaicamecrazee on Main down near Ventura High School. It is an experience. It is a family operation. All the food is fresh and homemade and the woman who runs the place makes sure you feel like one in a million when you dine with her. Jamaican food, fresh juice drinks (try the soursop). The meal begins with a tasty gorgeous salad with ingredients from slivered colored peppers to grapes, blueberries and squash. The menu is recited, not read, and the decor is festive, colorful and unique. Jerk chicken marinated 24 hours, goat in curry, rundown shrimp, vegetable stir fry, whole fish...all good.

                          I also love Mary's Secret Garden on the corner of Santa Clara and...oh, near Plaza Park. Vegan food, but what vegan food it is. Fresh and prepared with love, vibrant with life and tasty.

                          On Ventura Avenue, Antojos (look for the purple wall in the parking lot) serves up Mexico City-style street and snack food - huaraches, tostadas de nopales, chilaquiles, etc. Try their sangria.

                          At the Harbor, Andria's has insanely popular seafood - fish and chips, chowder in a bread bowl, onion rings, etc. Order at the counter and eat outside under the watchful eye of seagulls waiting to pounce.

                          As mentioned above, Jonathan's is great. The tapas bar will really set you back, though.

                          My favorite downtown Thai is still Tipps (California and Main) after all these years. DO NOT go to Cholada Thai. It is foul.

                          If you want dinner company, email me at snackishblogATyahoo and maybe we can work something out.

                        2. While Santa Barbara is just a short drive up the coast, and Paradise Cafe's burgers are maybe the Best in the World, there are a plethora of places to go in Ventura. Most people, even in Southern California, don't realize that Ventura has undergone an amazing transformation in the past few years and is no longer Santa Barbara's red-headed stepchild. If you are a single woman, I'd avoid Winchester's as it's a local pick-up bar for the 20s crowd after 9:30. Locals go to The Sportsman for steaks, which is like stepping in a backwards machine without Mr. Peabody, cplete with stuffed red leather booths and racy bar mirrors. 71 Palm can have some really good food, if Didier is having a good night. Tuttis, across the street can also be good, although the lats time we were there it was spotty. Don't forget Capriccio's for passable Italian and then there's Taj for great Indian food. Avoid Dargan's for food. The Ventura Harbor also has The Greek, which has real belly dancers and massive portions of Greek classics. The Spinnaker Broiler isn't too bad either. Andria's is amazing and if you're in town on a Saturday morning, check out the Fisherman's maret there where local fishermen sell fish straight off the boat. In downtown Ventura the Saturday farmers market is the place to see and be seen and to sample some of the amazing Ventura County produce.
                          Oh and if you're looking for breakfast, Ventura is the breakfast mecca of the West Coast. There's Pete's, Golden Egg, Art's Corner Cafe, Alison's, Cafe Nouveau and some swear by the Vagabond and the Eggs N Things.
                          I agree with other posters that the Ranch House is hit or miss, plus if you're exploring Ojai, there are a ton of restaurants up there that are fabulous -- Azu, Pangea, Suzanne',s Auberge, Boccalis. Only four nights and five days? Too bad, because once you've exhausted Ventura County, Santa Barbara has an incredible dining scene.
                          Anyway, you're sure to have fun.

                          1. I've been either living or working in Ventura for over 10 yrs. I see alot of people mentioning "Thai/Peru". It is nothing to write home about and their prices aren't that great for Thai. The only thing I've had there that I enjoyed was their Chicken Pa-anang. Do not try their Beef Salad.

                            I also recommend Winchestors Bar and Grill. I've eaten there many a time and am never let down. I usually get the Kobe burger with Blue Cheese and Carmelized Onions. It is to die for. I haven't been able to eat a regular burger since. The other entree I like is the Duke's sandwich which is a grilled chicken breast with melted swiss and sauteed mushrooms and onions on grilled sourdough. Nothing fancy but just good food. Try a Stoli surpise (drink not shot) which is a mixture of a few flavored vodkas and seven up. Just drink one because they are strong. Please note Winchestor's is only open for dinner.

                            Cafe Fiore is the best Italian in town. Homemade Pasta Noodles.

                            Cafe Bariloche has amazing Argentinean empanadas. The chicken empanada is the best and you can get a lunch special with 2 empanadas and the Bariloche salad (which is amazing) for under 10 bucks I believe.

                            Happy eating!

                            1. I just had dinner at Taj this past week. The garlic chicken tikka was so good and they give you soooo much food. My friend had the lanb chops, wow! So tender and flavorful. Also, my friends that live out there have taken me to a place called Zack's (I think) any ways, small, cute little place with wonderful food. They love their apple desserts.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: justagthing

                                I ate at Taj once and the food was some of the worst Indian food I have ever had. Like flavorless reheated left-leftovers. And it was filthy. There were food stains on the walls, the carpet was dirty, and every single piece of dinnerware and flatware I got had food crusted on it. Awful.

                                1. re: Snackish

                                  I've been there twice now and had no problems with cleanliness and the food we ordered were off the specials menu. Really was good and I eat in Little India as well.

                              2. I just took my grandmother to 71 Palm for lunch and I have to say, it was a terrible experience from beginning to end.

                                Server was complaining about some kind of drama with another employee, LOUDLY, at a table next to ours. One of our party didn't get his meal for close to 10 mins after everyone else was served. Appetizer (pommes frites with aioli) didn't come until after the food and wow, we wished they hadn't because they were terrible. Cold, limp, greasy, and no aioli. We told the gentleman who brought the food that they were terrible and asked him to take them back - imagine my surprise to still see them on my bill! When my grandmother mentioned that we were dissatisfied with the fries to the server, he ARGUED WITH HER, saying they were limp because they were fresh, not frozen potatoes. Yeah, not so much.

                                Our food was served by someone else, I assume him to be the owner? Whoever he was, he was dressed in a ratty t-shirt with giant sweat stains on his back and under both arms. Yummy. They didn't clear our plates until they dropped the check, even though it was obvious we were finished well beforehand. No one asked us how our meal was (one of our party sent back his plate almost completely untouched - no comment from the staff) and I had to fight with the server (after he argued with grandma) to take the fries off the bill.

                                The kobe burger was good, but considering the price point and the service? Not worth it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jencounter

                                  71 Palm has always been terrible ... next time I recommend Jonathan's, a block away.

                                  J's Tapas
                                  204-208 E Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001

                                2. Beware of dining value, especially in Downtown Ventura. A lot of hypertrendy, over-priced places have opened (and closed) in the past few years and are passing as restaurants to the impressionable. Ventura is a family-style chain restaurant town but has a number of very good nieghborhood places that have been there for generations; Ferraro's on Main St. in midtown for great homestyle Italian pasta, Casa de Soria on Thompson Blvd for heavy-duty Mex, Old Vienna on Telegraph Rd for wonderful schnitzel or duck. All are reasonable, very casual. For more formal dinner, the century-old Pierpont Inn is excellent, Whereever you go, go early...the good places are packed 6:30, and they roll up the sidewalks at 9. I'd advise against wandering around downtown Ventura alone at night.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: DWPC

                                    I haven't been to Old Vienna, but the other two aren't worth going out of the way for. They are okay for local, reasonably priced dinners, but not chow-worthy IMO.

                                  2. I used to write a food column for the local paper, so am acquainted with almost everywhere in Ventura. Of course, all dining is subjective, but my experiences have been that Cafe Zack's hasn't been good since it was sold a few years back -- service and food have suffered horribly. Old Vienna is fabulous if you want heavy, perfectly prepared German food -- perfect for a Winter repast -- the cracking pork shank is simply amazing. Ferraro's is inedible and an affront to Itialian cooking IMO. Gallo's (Cafe Bariloche) empanadas are to die for and a nice little nosh. I'm not a huge fan of Aloha and Cafe Fiore, although they can be good and Cafe Fiore has a great back room that's perfect for family occasions. Eric Ericssons (I can never spell that right) has the best views in town, but the food and the service are extremely uneven, and sure to tend toward terrible when they're busy. Stay away from Joe's Crab House at all costs -- no one has ever had anything good to say about the overpriced food. I'm still having trouble getting over the Savory Cafe's version of biscuits and gravy -- they billed it as Italian biscuits and gravy -- a tomato-based cream sauce with Italian sausage serve over foccacia buns -- ewwwwwwwwwww. There's Anacapa Brewing, which is fun and the Riviera Bistro, which I've never tried. The Busy Bee serves great homestyle food but is plagued by rumors from locals about cleanliness. Franky's Place used to be wonderful for lunch, but hasn't been the same since it was sold. Zoey's can't be beat for ambiance; it's set back in a courtyard and at night there's live music. The food isn't that great, but they have a pretty good coffee/wine bar. The Peru/Thai place is an acquired taste and the sushi place isn't very good. I haven't tried the new Cholada Thai place, but Tipp's Thai has been a Ventura institution for years. Chicago Ribs is an OK rub joint. Jonathan's is OK, not the greatest, but not too bad.

                                    1. Oh! I thought of more! For great breakfast - try Cafe Nouveau's seafood benedict. They have a great mango mimosas and a cute patio.

                                      On Sundays, "Joannafina's" on Seaward has a pretty good mexican brunch. They have a yummy homemade watermelon juice that cures even the worst of hangovers.

                                      "Pete's" on Main Street has a killer veggie friatta.

                                      "It's in the Sauce" BBQ joint on Main has amazing authentic Texas BBQ. I suggest the pulled pork sandwiches. Get your food to go and enjoy eating it at the beach only 5 minutes away.

                                      The aforementioned are all pretty casual and reasonably priced.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: missmodular818

                                        I've had two very good dinners at Brooks on Thompson in the last few weeks. The last meal was the tasting menu. I strongly recommend this place.

                                        Tipp's Thai and the Thai/Peruvian restaurant have typical Thai fare. Cholada Thai has some dishes you don't normally see. I find Peruvian food kind of bland, unless you add the "green sauce" they have as a condiment. All of these restaurants are downtown on Main.

                                        Bariloche's emapandas are "heavy" in my view, more like English pasties than the real deal.

                                        I like Jonnathan's. The have updated their menu recently. They are downtown on Main.

                                        I've had some good lunches at The Sidecar Restaurant and have been meaning to go back for dinner. They are located midtown on Main.

                                        By the way, if you can't find parking on the street downtown, which is free, there are free parking lots all over downtown off of Main. Just follow the signs.

                                      2. I'm amazed no one has mentioned Maria Bonita, on Main St., more or less across the street from the Mission. They do wonderful riffs on regional Mexican dishes, at very reasonable prices and in an attractive room. Here are some reviews, all favorable: http://www.ventura.com/dining/review_...

                                        1. I really like The Sidecar! I've eaten there a few times, and it's always been great. I've also had a really great meal at 71 Palm, and thankfully I did not have to pay for it. I regularly eat at Andria's in the harbor. The fish and chips or halibut and chips are usually very good. The coleslaw is crap. The food is served on foam plates and the atmosphere is very humble, but it is extremely popular often with long lines out the door. I've also had some of the nicest, tenderest calimari ever there! Not rings, but shaped more like thick french fries.

                                          If you want to drive to Santa Paula, there is a really nice, fancy restaurant in the very cool, mysterious Glen Tavern Inn.

                                          In Ojai there is a very causal place that serves lots of unusual wild game. Can't remember the name of it at the moment, but it's a neat place to go for sure.

                                          1. I am surprised I didn't see Westside Cellar down by the Mission. They are about the best. Cafe Zack's is still very good. Tipps isn't.