Best Things We’ve Tasted: Weekends in Ventura

Exploring hidden local favorites from the quaint California beach town of Ventura

Located 100 miles up the Pacific Coast lies a quaint beach town renowned for it’s famous surf spots and growing craft brewery scene. Ventura is a home to popular eateries such as Spencer Mackenzies and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. It is also the birthplace of Topa Topa Brewery and MadeWest Brewing, labels that are quickly showing up in restaurants and groceries all along the California Coast. Ventura serves as the perfect quiet weekend getaway, far away from bustling city traffic. A modest downtown is set against gorgeous coastlines with a projected partly sunny and breezy forecast almost every day. And the city is also home to a few hidden gems and local favorites showcasing deliciously unique eats, perfect to explore on a long weekend.

Late Night Sweet Tooth

Free from frills or caviar, Foster’s Doughnuts an unassuming shop on the corner of Seward and Main Street, earns its stars from the exquisite and consistent mouthwatering tastes served up in every glazed and greasy bite. Although the shop gets a flow of business from it’s opening hours of 4:30 a.m. and 11 p.m., the crowds really begin to gather around 9:30 the evening. At this hour they make all of their fresh doughnuts, emitting a buttery waft far into the street. A personal favorite is the steaming hot maple buttermilk. This doughnut has a caramel-like glaze that drips onto your fingertips and instantly crystallizes. The interior is pillowy soft and cakey, with a slightly softer underbelly that holds all of the sweet and salty liquid sugars, relinquishing every bit of oozing flavor. It’s the kind of doughnut that makes you hum with every bite, leaving you in a sugar coma well worth the experience.

Transported to a Faraway Land

Within a strip mall located on a corner spot of Ventura Avenue and Main Street, is a brown building with a funky sign that reads Himalaya, the name set against a handmade textured mountain range. Often due to its obscure location and neutral colors, only locals can walk by this spot and know of the treasures within. As you walk through the door, the smells, sounds and colors surrounding you conjure images of an eatery off the mountains of Nepal. Prayer flags, bedazzled pillows, and sunset hues cover the walls, and the energy of the place tucks you into the environment at once. Glass Tables with carved tree-like wooden booths are set next to floor sitting, where low tables are surrounded with soft cushions and fabrics, and a place to leave your shoes before dining. The air is rich with the aromas of exotic spices and diverse flavors. Popular dishes include the butter chicken, a creamy tomato-like curry that serves as the perfect dip for the garlic butter naan, served warm and soft. Or start off with the vegetarian momos: traditional Nepalise dumplings filled with veggies and spices and served with a tomato-chutney dipping sauce.

Let’s Taco Bout it.

Although Ventura home to some wonderfully authentic and award-worthy taco spots, there’s one that truly stands out. Lalo’s, located on the Avenue as you head up to Highway 33, is a colorfully quaint Mexican eatery boasting options of everything from zesty fish burritos to deluxe cheesy nachos. Although you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, I frequent the little stop specifically for the famous carnitas taco. The team works quickly, which makes it nice for the workday crowd on lunch breaks and folks on the go. The heat of the fresh marinated carnitas creates a layer of steam in the container, and upon opening, the aroma of spices causes your mouth to water in anticipation. The carnitas are so flavorful, and I like them best simply topped with thick cuts of cool avocado to create a creamy pairing to the rich meat, which is folded into warm handmade tortillas. The last bite will leave you longing for your next visit.

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