Sand, surf and (fog-obscured) sun are Ventura’s stock in trade, but you might not guess it on a Friday or Saturday night as the bars around Main Street fill up. It seems that bargoers rarely head the extra few hundred feet to imbibe at the beachside watering holes along the Promenade.
Perhaps it’s because people don’t realize that the two stand-alone restaurants on the Promenade – Eric Ericsson’s Fish Co. and the Aloha Steakhouse – also offer decent sized bars, as does the newly renovated Crowne Plaza Hotel.
So it was with a pioneering spirit that my friend Jen and I journeyed across the Ash Street pedestrian bridge to explore some seaside imbibing possibilities.
I had been to Eric Ericsson’s upstairs Rum Bar before. It seemed like its vast selection of rums had been pared down a bit, but we still found plenty of options.
Eventually, we settled on a C Street Mai Tai and a Ventura Pier Hurricane. My mai tai featured a few different kinds of rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, and splashes of liqueur. Jen’s hurricane included two kinds of rum, pineapple and lime juices, and a splash of Alizé.
Neither were remarkable.
Despite a friendly and professional server, a slick atmosphere and ocean views, the bar clearly spent more time milking the local landmarks than perfecting the drinks. Our unanimous opinion was “boring.”
Although the Caesar-style potato wedges and pepper-encrusted ahi we ordered turned out to be excellent, we were there to enjoy our drinks, and I can’t say we were hooked.
So it was time for our next stop. New to both of us, we appreciated the cozy sliver of a bar hidden behind the Aloha Steakhouse’s main dining area. The dim lighting, stylish wine rack and hanging glass lamps all made for inviting décor.
We stayed on the fruity drink theme at Aloha. Jen ordered a Malibu Third Point, which featured three different flavors of Malibu rum as well as strawberry and other fruit juices. I chose Laurie’s Lemonade, which consisted of Smirnoff Strawberry Vodka, lemonade, strawberry juice and a third ingredient my scrawled note has left illegible.
The clear winner of the evening, we agreed that Laurie’s Lemonade tasted like Nerds (the candy, not the people). Jen also pointed out that her smoothie-like drink met her approval, particularly because she was able to stand her straw up straight among the concoction’s thick layers of fruit juice.
Sadly, the service at Aloha left something to be desired. Our server was gushingly friendly at first, but her badgering left us little chance to enjoy ourselves before she asked if we wanted food or another drink (despite the fact we had said we just wanted drinks, which we were barely a quarter through).
Although we originally planned to move on to the Crowne Plaza’s bar, we quickly lost interest in the triple play after seeing its bright lights and $10 martinis (although the cushy chairs looked comfortable).
All in all, there’s something to be said for catching a different scene still close to Ventura’s heart. If Eric Ericsson’s service and Aloha’s drinks could be combined, we’d have something close to a tropical getaway right in our own backyard.