Gems in Oxnard and/or Ventura
Have researched on the board as best I could. Have two houndly friends spending 4-5 days in the area starting this weekend. Basically looking for seafood, Mexican, Italian, or any other cuisine except Asian. Price is no object, but quality trumps ambiance, views, etc. Here's what I have so far, would appreciate any additions the southland hounds might have sniffed out.
Cabo Seafood Grill & Cantina
Tutti's off Main
Jonathon's at Peirono's and J's Tapas
also threw in Saddlepeak Lodge in case they're willing to travel
TIA for any and all help.
Brooks in Ventura is easily the class of the town for foodies. Gets a bit loud and service can be a bit uneven, but the food is always first-rate, and by far the most interesting and creative in town.
The Watermark is a restaurant and lounge in a beautifully restored art deco building. The food in the restaurant downstairs is fairly good, if not terribly creative, and on the pricey side for the area. The small plates menu in the 3rd floor lounge tends to be much more interesting and a much better value, but can get very crowded on weekends.
We've found The Sidecar to be a bit hit or miss, but when the kitchen is on the food is very good, and at a fairly reasonable price.
Jonathon's, J's Tapas, and Capriccio are all fairly good, but in that price range we much prefer any of the above three restaurants.
It's In The Sauce is a great little BBQ shack on Main just East of Old Town Ventura.
Maria Bonita and Taqueria Tepatitlan are good Mexican in or near Old Town.
362 N Ventura Ave, Ventura, CA 93001
256 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001
204-208 E Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001
24075 Lake Dr, Crestline, CA 92325
Old Town Cafe
1055 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106
Having read other hounds’ quite positive comments on Brooks, my husband and I decided to dine there last week, on Friday and Saturday nights. Each of my dinners consisted solely of starters. That way, I usually figure, the odds of being disappointed are reduced.
Friday’s “Roasted Chestnut Soup with Maple Drizzle and Cranberry-Basil-Shallot Compote” was to die for. And actually so was Saturday’s, this time with the addition of wild mushrooms, even though there was visibly less of the heavenly compote. Chef, we were told, makes this soup only once a year. Friday’s steamed Prince Edward Island mussels were incredible, perfectly prepared, with an addictive “Limoncello, Oven-Dried Tomato & Lemon-Thyme Cream.”
The very full bowl of “Crispy Calimari” was tender and succulent in a light, crisp breading. They were adorned with a generous drizzle of tangy smoked chili aioli. Easily one of the best fried-calimari dishes I’ve eaten.
And that’s where the honeymoon ended. On Saturday night we discovered Chef Andy Brooks’ love affair with the salt shaker. This was confirmed (too late) by our waiter.
Other than revisiting the chestnut soup, we thought we’d choose different items for this dinner, so we went with “BROOKS Flatbread,” “Grilled Lobster Salad” and a special starter for the evening: a seafood cake atop a bed of roasted, sliced red-peppers.
The seafood cake was weighty and just okay, if a bit salty. Nothing memorable, I suspected it was the product of some creative reassembling of a few other menu-item components. We let it pass. The flatbread was a thin-crust pizza topped with bits of beef filet, goat cheese and roasted red peppers. ‘Tasteless’ would have been a complement. We were truly baffled and sent it back. Next came the lobster salad. This would have been sheer nirvana... for a deer at a salt lick. I managed one bite and thought my eyes would pop out of my head. And it’s accompanying tangle of pea shoots tasted tired and were drenched in oil. What was happening here?
Who knows who was in the kitchen that night. We pleaded with our waiter to have someone, anyone on staff taste these menu items. No luck. Although our waiter was sincerely apologetic, his manager was firm and would take only the flatbread off our bill. As a cook and a true hound, I cared more about finding someone to save this man’s reputation than I did about the charge on our bill. Not a happenin’ thing.
So, sadly, I list Brooks among those restaurants I’d label ‘inconsistent.’ A memorable restaurant is reliably good, a consistent dining experience. For us, Brooks was not.
My favorite restaurant in Ventura is Sidecar, they serve California fare. http://www.thesidecarrestaurant.com/
Tuesday nights are Grilled Cheese and Jazz, Thursdays are Burger night, and on Sunday they do a roast night: Each Sunday we will offer a different roast paired with a glass of wine for $19. We will rotate between prime rib, pork loin, chicken and leg of lamb. Reservations are recomended.
The Sidecar Restaurant
3029 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93003
I'll add Mai's on East Main for very casual, funky tiki bar ambiance and great Vietnamese and Hawaiian items. And Mai herself who fusses over everyone.
Capriccio for N. Italian on Main in Old Town.
Venture out to Santa Paula for Hozy's hidden behind their auto center industrial park area by the creek. And try some hit and miss cafes on their charming, old fashion small town movie set like main drag.
In the summer, the Limoneira company has Dinners in the Orchard special events. Check out their website.
For the truly awful for food, but can't be topped for lazy fun, try one of the dinner trains on the Filmore and Western RR that cuts across all the beautiful farm land and historic farm houses from Fillmore to Santa Paula. And of course all the fruit stands on Highway 126 after the free way stops in Santa Paula on its way to Fillmore/Santa Clarita.
Just got an update recommendation for Brooks, in Old Town area Ventura on 545 East Thompson Blvd - very creative looking fine dining menu with a five course tasting menu. Another worthy spot in a low key area, but very nicely freeway accessible for all of us on the coast.
Seconds for Aloha, at the pier on California Street, adjacent to Crowne Plaze Hotel at the beach side of the freeway.
One of my FAVORITE pizza dives in the So Cal area is in Ventura. It's in a renovated little drive through dry cleaning place I think... California and Main area. Called Tonys. Super yum. Picnic benches outside; sometimes seedy biker kinda of place, but the food is incredible.
Also in Santa Barbara on Milpas,...just down the street from the SB Bowl, there is a Mexican place called Super Rica. It's a tiny white wood place with a screen in patio and aqua colored trim. Homemade Mexican that's TO DIE FOR. There is usually a line around the corner. It's worth every minute of waiting.
On Main Street, near Seaward, there is a BBQ place that is outstanding. Great tri tip and ribs.
Living in Ventura I would suggest Cafe Zack (close to downtown Ventura) and for a real sleeper Hozy's Cafe in Santa Paula (very easy to get to). They both would satisfy your suggestion that price and quality are not a problem. Both have web sites and I would suggest that if your friends want to eat at either of these restaurants, then they should call for reservations.
Nothing at all against Saddlepeak, but if your friends are willing to travel the 42 miles from Ventura to Calabasas they'll presumably have no problem going 28 miles to Santa Barbara, which has Downey's, Super Rica, Citronelle, etc. (For more SB advice you should probably go to the California board.)
Closer than either of those is the Ranch House, 13 miles inland in Ojai, my favorite outdoor restaurant in southern California.
And in downtown Ventura, I enthusiastically endorse Jonathan's and J's Tapas. 71 Palm may be the most universally reviled restaurant experience north of Pink's or the Waffle.
This may be the most comprehensive CH thread about Ventura County ... the thread started over two years ago, so take the older recs with a grain of salt and call first:
La Super Rica
622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
1305 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
500 W Lomita Ave, Ojai, CA 93023
204-208 E Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001
901 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA