Good eats in Ventura

We were pleasantly surprised to find a number of excellent restaurants in Ventura. In fact, the food was good enough that we never had to dig into our picnic basket full of goodies, and only ended up eating two meals a day.

The picture above is of twilight….end of nautical twilight, I’d say, with the waxing crescent moon, taken on our way to dinner on the first night there. The island is Santa Cruz Island….about as long as the island of Manhattan.


Our first restaurant was  Spencer Mackenzie’s Fish Tacos. It’s named after the owners’ son and daughter. It’s a bit too nice to be a real dive. Great, friendly atmosphere. You can eat outside if the weather suits you (a bit too cold for us, that night). There’s a counter you can eat at if you don’t want to sit outside or wait for a table inside. Also take-out. We both had clam chowder, which was clearly not out of a can, and one of the best soups I’ve had in a long time. Not a lot of cream, and not oversalted. Be forewarned: their portions are big. The seafood was excellent and we were both quite full. Lots of visiting fireman around. The younger kids who came in with their parents were wide-eyed to see the fireman. We heard that the restaurants in Ventura served the firemen for free during the fire.


The next morning we went to Pete’s Breakfast House, just to the west of Ventura High School. Glad that school wasn’t in session or we’d never have gotten in.

Pete’s may not look like much from the street, but it’s welcoming and delightful within. All sorts of nautical stuff, and a mural on the second room inside:

Standard American diner cuisine, well prepared and great service. If there’s a line, it moves quickly. Also has a counter if you’re alone.


A bit upscale for the evening, Pierpont Inn had Austen’s Restaurant, named after the founder’s son. It’s on the site of and run by the Pierpont Inn, and apparently had a commanding view of the ocean from the second floor of the original building. Because the building had been red-tagged for restorations undertaken without a building permit, we couldn’t visit the original restaurant. It has since moved to the Camulas room (presumably named after Rancho Camulas). Food is still good, and we sat by a fireplace which the staff fired up….a good idea, since it was cold! Still worth eating at, even if (temporarily, we hope). Service was thorough but unobstructive.


On the morning we left, we had breafast (or brunch….hard to tell, it was so late at the Cafe Nouveau, also not far from the Pierpont Inn. It’s a different restaurant, housed in a small Spanish revival bungalow, with lush plantings outside and a large outdoor patio. The decor is eclectic (50’s-style Formica tables with chrome trim in Spanish-style rooms with hard floors. It sounds a bit odd, but it works very successfully. Service was friendly and very attentive.

In reading the reviews, most people raved about the beignets, so we tried some. Good, though I don’t think beignets are my favorite kind of doughnut. Kathy had Eggs Florentine, and I had Eggs Nouveau, which was an interesting cross between Eggs Florentine and Eggs Benedict, with a tomato replacing the ham. Superb Hollandaise sauce, and the spinach was perfectly prepared. We left town and didn’t eat for the rest of the day!

So we had very good food in Ventura and enjoyed each place.  When we got back, one of my students told me that he’d had the greatest fish tacos ever in Ventura….at Spencer Mackenzie’s. One of my wife’s colleagues knew we were in Ventura, and when Kathy reported on having beignets with maple syrup and bacon, she said “let me guess…..Cafe Nouveau? We always go there!” So don’t think that Ventura, despite being a small city, is not without its culinary delights, or that those delights aren’t recognized and remembers, even from people who live in the Big Bad City.


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