Food Guide: Ventura

My time in Ventura is coming to an end. I will be gone for almost the entirety of May visiting friends in Croatia and we move up to the Redding land in June. With my move-out day growing closer, I wanted to write a smidge about my time spent eating in Ventura. While the list is not exhaustive of every place I've eaten here, it's pretty close. If you're not up for an extensive review of seventeen different Ventura restaurants then I would skip this post. Or if you're hungry and the only thing left in your cupboard is an expired can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. 

BREAKFAST

You will always find good breakfast in stoner, beach towns and Ventura certainly does not miss the mark in the breakfast department. While I've yet to find the breakfast burrito here, I have found my bagel shop and weekend lazy, fancy breakfast. Grab a bagel and head down to the beach to enjoy the fog and crashing waves. 

CAFE NOUVEAU

If it's Saturday morning you will likely find me at Cafe Nouveau, sitting on the patio. After trying several lackluster dishes (picture from top to bottom: bananas foster French toast, eggs ranchero with fruit, chile verde with eggs, white refried beans, and home fries), I discovered the Barcelona burger with eggs. 

The Barcelona burger is a chorizo patty with the optional topping of jack cheese and caramelized onions. Please, get it with the cheese and onions; it's worth the two extra dollars. It's served with two eggs of your choice (I usually do over easy or poached), a choice of bread, and a choice of potato (home fries, hash browns, or gratin). I always get it with the sweet potato biscuits because they're tender and on the border of savory and sweet. I forego the potatoes and order mine with fruit. 

My boyfriend orders the pancakes which come with this addiction-worthy apple cinnamon syrup. The pancakes are alright; it's all about the syrup. 

When you come to Cafe Nouveau, make sure to sit outside. The indoor dining room has terrible acoustics and is crowded. The outside dining area is filled with green plants, heaters, and sheltered from the street by a high fence. You can also bring your dog out there, which is just awesome. 

CAJUN KITCHEN

Admittedly, it's been several years since I've dined at Cajun Kitchen. I ordered the jambalaya eggs (pictured below) and remember it being a tasty dish. The restaurant is centrally located in downtown Ventura and is usually busy on the weekends. 

PETE'S BREAKFAST HOUSE

Pete's is a local favorite. Despite it being a ten-minute walk from my house, I've only been to Pete's once. The atmosphere is casual diner and it's jam packed with diners but it wasn't loud.. I ordered the chile verde omelet (pictured below), which was a special that day, and coffee. The chile verde omelet had far too much cheese, and I'm obsessed with cheese. The chile verde itself was flavorful and the meat tender. The home fries were well-seasoned, and they didn't fuck them up by adding bell peppers, just onions. My boyfriend ordered pancakes (of course!). He said the pancakes were better than Cafe Nouveau's but the syrup was not as good. 

TATIANA'S

It's all about the guava cheese pastelito at Tatiana's. I prefer them cold. I've got a weird thing about reheated pastry, even if you reheat in an oven or toaster oven it will always be a little soggy. Don't bother with the coffee at Tatiana's: it's nothing special. I also take issue with a coffee shop not opening until 7:30 a.m. Everyone who works there is super nice and they sell arts and crafts by local artisans.

BAGEL ROCK COFFEE

Some of the best bagels anywhere. These are chewy and soft rings of deliciousness. I typically order the Everything with Cheddar and hummus. Don't bother with the coffee unless you're desperate. The staff is warm and friendly but not always the best with remembering your order. It's located in midtown near the county hospital. 

Lunch and Dinner

Let me share something weird: I almost never eat dinner. In fact, the only time I eat dinner is if I don't eat lunch or I'm in someone else's company. If I go to bed full, I wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and fear from nightmares. Lunch tends to be my substantial meal of the day, but I have gone to dinner at a few of these places. 

HIMALAYA

Have you ever eaten yak? It's beef's super tender tasty cousin. While it's not always available at Himalaya, order the chili yak. Start with the momo, a close cousin to potstickers, gyoza, or dumplings. You can order them steamed or pan-fried (pictured below). 

THE JOLLY OYSTER

Order the kumamatos by the dozen for eating raw. Order the larger Pacific oysters for BBQing. Eat on the beach or take them home. It doesn't get much better or fresher than this. 

VENTIKI LOUNGE AND BAR

Go on a Tuesday for the all day and all night happy hour. Ventiki Lounge and Bar serves food with a Hawaiian flare. Dishes I've tried so far: pepper seared ahi tuna, island pork ribs with skipper sauce, the Spam musubi (pictured below), and the seared ahi tuna king bun with potato chips. Everything I've had here is spot on. 

The service is solid but the customers can get a little rowdy and obnoxious. 

LUCKY THAI

I order Lucky Thai for delivery about once a week. My go to item for testing any new Thai restaurant is Pad See Ew with flat noodles and tofu. Lucky Thai delivers on flavor, heat, and portion size with their Pad See Ew. Their noodles have the important caramelization just on the right side of almost burnt. I've never tried their curries but the Lad Na is not particularly good. The sauce is too runny without having much flavor and the broccoli overcooked. You can't go wrong with ordering the crab rangoon, but I'd skip the shrimp shumai and potstickers. 

SAVORY THAI

Savory Thai replaced the Thai-Peruvian restaurant in downtown Ventura. One of three Thai restaurants in town that deliver, I wanted to check this place out for a comparison with Lucky Thai. The Pad See Ew with flat noodles and tofu was spicy but lacked flavor and the caramelization I love so much on the noodles. The vegetables were in large chunks as opposed to slices leading to undercooked carrots mixed in with overcooked broccoli. Portion size and price was equal to Lucky Thai. Delivery speed was slower, but that's probably because I live right down the street from Lucky Thai. Fresh spring rolls with extra peanut sauce are a good choice and a double order would be a full lunch.

MAI'S CAFE

People on Yelp are not fans of Mai's Cafe. They think the service is rude, the food expensive, and the location sketchy. The location is about a ten-minute walk from my house and I don't really consider my neighborhood sketchy. Less than ten dollars for a lunch in California that's not a burrito? Not too bad. I've had lovely service there because I didn't expect the waitress to be on top of us the whole time and I knew what I was ordering. Their Cafe Sua Da is some of the worst I've ever had. I make much better at home. I find the classic pho ga and pho bo rather boring compared to other Vietnamese soups and dishes. I've ordered the Bun Bo Hue here, which has a spicy rich broth but the plethora of organ meats is not really my thing. The Banh Xeo was much better than what I had in Hoi An, Vietnam: fresh greens and a fatty, flavorful crepe. The banh mi is mediocre compared to what I ate in Vietnam and even Little Saigon in San Jose. 

SPENCER MAKENZIE'S

I've never eaten the "world famous" fish tacos. I almost always end up ordering the fish burrito Brooklyn style (Brooklyn style is with a spicy sauce) with the wontons. The wontons are wonton wrappers filled with cream cheese and either shrimp or jalapeno served with a spicy and sweet sauce. Last time we went there after a hike and I wanted to try something new. I ordered the Parker Burger, a seared ahi tuna steak topped with lettuce, marinated red onion, and Brooklyn sauce and served with a near bucket of French fries. The Parker Burger was delicious with a great mixture of textures: unctuous tuna, crunch from the onions, and the toasted bun. The place is packed every day of the week, so if you don't want to wait call your order in ahead. 

CORRALES MEXICAN FOOD

If you come to Corrales at lunch time, order ahead or expect a long wait. I hate talking to people on the phone, so I never bother ordering ahead and the place is only a ten-minute walk from my house. I've never ordered anything here but burritos. Of the chorizo breakfast burrito, pollo, pollo asado, and beef burritos, the pollo asado is my favorite. It's very simple: cheese, rice, and grilled chicken. The salsa here is the best thing on the menu: tart, spicy, and just the right balance of chunky and smooth. The chips are fresh tasting, never tasting of old oil the way some places do. 

TAQUERIA VALLARTA

In Santa Cruz, there's what I call the taqueria mafia. Every time a business goes under a taqueria comes in. The most proliferate of all these taquerias is Taqueria Vallarta (numbers one through twenty-five or something). This is not one of these taquerias. Taqueria Vallarta is a hole-in-the-wall joint with a run of the mill selection of burritos, tacos, and combination plates. Whenever I go to a new taqueria, I order a burrito al pastor. Al pastor is essentially bbq pork cut into small pieces and then fried up. Super greasy deliciousness. Taqueria Vallarta has bomb salsa verde and the chips are fresh. 

KOBA SUSHI

Located in midtown on Main Street, I found myself in this small casual sushi joint on a rainy Thursday. The only customer in the restaurant, I sat at the bar and ordered the sushi lunch, one California roll, 6 pc assorted sushi, rice, salad, and soup. The food came out super fast and tasted fresh. The miso soup was rich and flavorful with a substantial amount of tofu. Everything on the menu appeared to be standard California sushi joint. I enjoyed my sushi in peace, reading my mystery novel and they left me alone the entire time I ate. Perfect service. 

IT'S IN THE SAUCE B-B-Q

I don't understand how this place could be the highest rated bbq place on Yelp for Ventura. Another midtown place not far from my house, I had a craving for tri-tip and macaroni and cheese one afternoon. The Cali-tex tri-tip and brisket were overcooked, tasted slightly of bleach, and having an identity crisis, not quite Texan and not quite Santa Maria style. If you're unfamiliar with Santa Maria style bbq, this is bbq centered on tri-tip simply prepared with black pepper, salt, and garlic and grilled over local live oak. The tri-tip and brisket plate comes with one side and bread. The macaroni and cheese was bland as was the bread. Service was fine and the portion sizes are ample. 

GOLDEN CHINA

Golden China is the fucking shit and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise then screw them. They don't belong in Golden China. We don't want them there. This place is a true dive blast from the past with authentic American Chinese food. Don't go into this dining experience expecting authentic Chinese food. Please go to the San Gabriel for that. This is chop suey, MSG, and cornstarch territory. There's a water feature inside the restaurant, a koi tank, and they serve a pu pu platter. It brings back all those squishy memories of my first "Chinese" food experiences. Need karaoke on a Monday night? Tuesday night? Every night? Then, the Golden China can meet your needs. You want to see a metal cover band while eating delicious paper chicken, then Golden China is there for you.

Golden China, I love you. 

Roommate Recommendations

KAO RAMEN

I've never been here but my roommates who have lived here far longer than I have highly recommended the tom yum ramen. They say if it's traditional ramen you're looking for then this is not the place. 

ANDRIA'S

Go here for the fish and chips. 

JOHNNY'S 

A hole in the wall place on the Avenue with solid Mexican food. 

THE SALOON

They say the food is good here. 

PIZZA CHIEF

Solid pizza. 

TAJ CAFE

Go for the Bombay Frankies, essentially an Indian-style burrito. 

ROSABELLA'S

This Argentinean and Mexican bakery is extensive.

STEPHEN'S MARKET

Get the gyro here.