New Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Prime
2009 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
652-1055

2ND PLACE
My Florist
76 S. Oak St., Ventura
653-0003

3RD PLACE
Brophy Brothers
1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura
639-0865

Health Food

1ST PLACE
Lassen’s
4071 E. Main St., Ventura
644-6990

2ND PLACE
Rainbow Bridge
211 E. Matilija St., Ojai
646-4017

3RD PLACE
Nature’s Grill
566 E. Main St., Ventura
643-7855

Gourmet Food Store

1ST PLACE
Paradise Pantry
677 E. Main St., Ventura
641-9440

2ND PLACE
Westridge
802 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai
646-2762

3RD PLACE
Fresh and Fabulous
212 W. 4th St., Oxnard
486-4547

Produce Store

1ST PLACE
Lassen’s
4071 E. Main St., Ventura
644-6990

2ND PLACE
Ventura Farmers Market
Palm & Santa Clara streets
Ventura, Saturdays

Pacific View Mall, Ventura
Wednesdays

3RD PLACE
Pierpont Produce
1038 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura
648-1051

 

Best beer stopDrink

Ojai Beverage Company
655 E. Ojai Ave. Ojai, 646-1700

What do chocolate, wheat, coffee, oatmeal, blueberries and honey have in common? You will have to make your way to the Ojai Beverage Company (formerly Regal’s) to find out. There, you will find 12 gorgeous beer taps plus another 700 bottles of beer in the cooler. Take one down, pass it around and avail yourself of the suds.

Cousins Jorge Alem and Joby Yobe have, since 2006, transformed what was once a simple wine and cheese shop and built an attractive tasting room in the back. They still have an impressive inventory of wine, but it’s the selection of hand-crafted beers from around the world (with crazy ingredients) that is getting noticed. You won’t find Coors Light here, though, so don’t even think of asking. Otherwise, be prepared for ridicule from a regular, while Alem and Yobe try to keep the peace and win you over with a sample.

I’m currently swooning over the tap that pours Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, requiring more patience than I can muster as I wait for the foam to settle and separate from the body, which is practically the color and consistency of motor oil. Licking the foam off my lips, I find it smooth and creamy and, yes, chocolaty. It’s absolutely luscious with a thick head that is almost like whipped cream. On the lighter side, try the Sierra Nevada Crystal Wheat, a great “starter beer” that’s blond in color with hints of citrus and a pleasant, clean finish.

Look for their new outdoor patio this fall. How does the song go? Oh, yeah — 699 bottles of beer on the wall!

— Lisa Snider

Seafood Market

1ST PLACE
Andria’s
1449 Spinnaker Drive, Suite A, Ventura
654-0546

2ND PLACE
Ocean Pride
2894 Bunsen Ave., Suite B, Ventura
644-4310

3RD PLACE
Sea Fresh,
533 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai
646-7747

Farmers Market

1ST PLACE
Downtown Ventura
Palm & Santa Clara streets
Ventura, Saturdays

2ND PLACE
Ojai
300 E. Matilija St., Ojai
behind the Arcade,
Sundays

3RD PLACE
Channel Islands Harbor
3600 S. Harbor Blvd., Oxnard
Sundays

Ice Cream Shop

1ST PLACE
Coastal Cone
1583 Spinnaker Drive, #104, Ventura Harbor, 658-2837

2ND PLACE
Ojai Ice Cream
210 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai
646-6075

3RD PLACE
Palermo
321 E. Main St., Ventura
643-3070

Bakery

1ST PLACE
Royal Bakery
4726 Telephone Road, Ventura
658-6030

2ND PLACE
Bread Basket
83 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo
482-1337

3RD PLACE
My Florist
76 S. Oak St., Ventura
653-0003

Donut Shop

1ST PLACE
KD Donuts
3855 Telegraph Road, Ventura
644-6778

2ND PLACE
Rolling Pin
2153 Las Posas Road, Camarillo
482-8711

3RD PLACE
Donut Queen
1700 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
653-0203

Pizza Parlor

1ST PLACE
Topper’s Pizza
3940 E. Main St., Ventura
385-4444

2ND PLACE
Rusty’s
1413 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura
658-6666
444 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura

3RD PLACE
Pizza Chief
1612 E. Main St., Ventura
648-1877

7770 Telegraph Road, Ventura
647-8888

 

Best red velvet cake:

Nothing Bundt Cakes
1610 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, (805) 446-3082

In these days of everything-retro, one memory from the past is making th e rounds, and we are so glad that it is back: the red velvet cake, a lighter-than-chocolate cake, which is usually sporting a cream cheese frosting.

Nothing Bundt Cakes has created its own riff on the traditional holiday-time Southern beauty. It is just one of their tasty collection of bundt cakes that will knock your socks off.

So what is a bundt cake, and why should you care? Remember those cakes with a drizzle of icing and a hole in the middle that Aunt Gracie used to bring to family dinners? It looked like a Jell-O mold and was, well, usually pretty dry and dense.

Nothing Bundt Cakes, a franchise, has performed a magical change-up on the boring bundts. They are all deeply flavored, and you can order extra decoration to make it look like a flower. They come in singles for $3.99 each. Larger versions and a double-layer are available for the big gatherings.

Although no one knows for sure, it is rumored that red velvet cake had an auspicious beginning. Legend has it that many decades ago, a woman asked the chef at the Waldorf-Astoria for the recipe. Along with the recipe, she got a bill for $100. Not to be trifled with, the woman then spread the recipe to all of her friends through a chain letter.

Nothing Bundt Cake’s version rocks. It’s red velvet cake that resides beneath a very sweet cream cheese frosting, and is a reserved and almost sophisticated confection. Especially when compared to the chocolate chocolate chip, which can pound you over the head screaming “I AM CHOCOLATE! HEAR ME ROAR!”

There are also the white chocolate versions, plain or with raspberry. Pretty sweet, but kids love them. I have yet to taste the pecan praline, which is next on my to-do list. The marble, cinnamon swirl and carrot bundt cakes are not the top choices of the people I asked. Red velvet was hands-down the most popular.

— Joan Trossman Bien

Coffee House

1ST PLACE
Palermo
321 E. Main St., Ventura
643-3070

2ND PLACE
Simone’s
7818 Telegraph Road, Ventura
659-0860

3RD PLACE
Django’s
2271 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura
648-5467

Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Aloha Steakhouse
364 S. California St., Ventura
652-1779

2ND PLACE
Fresh and Fabulous
212 W. 4th St., Oxnard
486-4547

3RD PLACE
Brooks
545 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
652-7070

Seafood Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Andria’s
1449 Spinnaker Drive, Suite A, Ventura
654-0546

2ND PLACE
Brophy Brothers
1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura
639-0865

3RD PLACE
Aloha Steakhouse
364 S. California St., Ventura
652-1779

Steakhouse

1ST PLACE
Aloha Steakhouse
364 S. California St., Ventura
652-1779

2ND PLACE
Prime
2009 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
652-1055

3RD PLACE
Wood Ranch
1101 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo
482-1202

 

Mexican Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Yolanda’s
2753 E. Main St., Ventura
643-2700

86 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo
389-9922

590 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley
306-9933

2ND PLACE
Casa de Soria
1961 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
648-2083

3RD PLACE (TIE)
Corrales
795 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-1043

1951 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-6138

Sal’s
1450 S. Oxnard Blvd., Oxnard
483-9015

Italian Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Ferraro’s
2788 E. Main St., Ventura
648-7270

2ND PLACE
Café Fiore
66 S. California St., Ventura
653-1266

3RD PLACE
Capriccio
298 E. Main St., Ventura
643-7115

 

Best Indian buffet:

Bollywood Café
453 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Port Hueneme, 984-3333

A buffet is like a late-night infomercial: It pushes a product that, in our weaker moments, seems like a great deal — “Jesus, I’m starving. If only there were some way to pay a fixed price and decide my own portions and keep coming back for more …” — until we come to and realize what a horrible mistake we’ve made. It’s born of the same impulse that causes us to order an electronic ab-massager that promises to tone muscles without any actual exercise while lying groggy and half-drunk on the couch at 3 a.m. “God, I’m so fat. I want to lose weight, but I’m incredibly lazy. Wait, there’s a device I can strap around my gut that will sculpt me into an Adonis while I play Call of Duty? Where’s my phone?!” In the end, both typically leave you with little more than a lighter wallet and a case of irritable bowel syndrome.

Not Bollywood Café, on either count. A spin off of Downtown Ventura’s also magnificent Taj Café, the small Port Hueneme eatery offers a host of dishes to poke the salivary glands (including a wicked chicken tikka masala), but it is the lunch- and dinnertime buffet, served Monday through Friday, that is worth the trip to an area not exactly known for its choice Indian cuisine. It presents a literal smorgasbord of savory, exotically named dishes such as gobi aloo (cauliflower and potatoes), bangain bhartha (eggplant with onion, tomato, ginger and chili), gulab juman (a ball-shaped dessert dipped in syrup) and something called a “green salad.” In all, the restaurant boasts more than 50 variations of these dishes, none of which will leave a burning pit in your stomach (and at $8.95 and $12.95 for the lunch and dinner buffets, respectively, it won’t sear a hole in your pocketbook, either). And the best part: It’s all low-fat, meaning that AbTronic won’t look quite as appealing when you get home.

—  Matthew Singer

 

Vegetarian Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Mary’s Secret Garden
100 S. Fir St., Ventura
641-FOOD

2ND PLACE
Nature’s Grill
566 E. Main St., Ventura
643-7855

3RD PLACE
Barroco’s
529 South A St., Oxnard
822-5160

DinerBee

1ST PLACE
Busy Bee
478 E. Main St., Ventura
643-4864

2ND PLACE
Danny’s Deli
3263 Telegraph Road, Ventura
289-9200

3RD PLACE
Vagabond
756 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-1390

Thai Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Tipp’s Thai
512 E. Main St., Ventura
643-3040

2ND PLACE
Sawasdee
2887 Johnson Drive, Ventura
642-8879

3RD PLACE
Cholada
387 E. Main St., Ventura
641-3573

Sushi Bar

1ST PLACE
Marina Sushi
120 S. California St., Ventura
643-5200

2ND PLACE
I Love Sushi
5772 Telephone Road, Ventura
639-4009

3RD PLACE
O-Sabi
5795 Walker St., Ventura
642-6200

Chinese Restaurant

1ST PLACE
Golden China
760 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura
652-0688

2ND PLACE
Mandarin House
4020 E. Main St., Ventura
654-0933

3RD PLACE
Peking Inn
330 N. Lantana St., #31, Camarillo
987-8188

Indian Restaurant

1ST PLACE
The Taj Café
574 E. Main St., Ventura
652-1521

2ND PLACE
Maharaja
2437 E. Main St., Ventura,
641-3644

3RD PLACE
Bollywood Cafe
453 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Port Hueneme, 984-3333

Breakfast

1ST PLACE
Allison’s Country Café
3429 Telegraph Rd., Ventura
644-9072

2ND PLACE
Eggs N Things
4020 E. Main St., Ventura
642-3190

3RD PLACE
Pete’s Breakfast House
2055 E. Main St., Ventura
648-1130

Outdoor Dining

1ST PLACE
Café Nouveau
1497 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
648-1422

2ND PLACE
Tutti’s Off Main
34 N. Palm St., Ventura
643-0880

3RD PLACE
Zoey’s Café
451 E. Main St., Ventura
652-1137

Romantic Restaurant

1ST PLACE
The Ranch House
500 W. Lomita Ave., Ojai
646-2360

2ND PLACE
Café Fiore
66 S. California St., Ventura
653-1266

3RD PLACE
Café Zack
1095 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-9445

Late-night Dining

1ST PLACE
My Florist
76 S. Oak St., Ventura
653-0003

2ND PLACE
El Rey Cantina
294 E. Main St., Ventura
653-1111

3RD PLACE
Jimmy’s Slice
586 E. Main St., Ventura
648-6133

Sunday Brunch

1ST PLACE (TIE)
Café Nouveau
1497 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
648-1422

Joannafina’s
1127 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura
652-0360

2ND PLACE
Capistrano’s
2101 Mandalay Beach Road, Oxnard
984-2500

3RD PLACE
Alexander’s
1050 Schooner Drive, Ventura
658-2000

Place to overeatTaj

1ST PLACE
Taj Café
574 E. Main St., Ventura
652-1521

2ND PLACE (tied)
Cooke’s Smokehouse
1751 E. Main St., Ventura
652-1446

Chicago for Ribs
692 E. Main St., Ventura
641-0812

3RD PLACE
O-Sabi
5795 Walker St., Ventura
642-6200

Place to eat with Kids

1ST PLACE
Duke’s
1124 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura
653-0707

2ND PLACE
Busy Bee
478 E. Main St., Ventura
643-4864

3RD PLACE
Topper’s Pizza
3940 E. Main St., Ventura
385-4444

Smoothie

1ST PLACE
Blenders in the Grass
607 E. Main St., Ventura
641-0916

2ND PLACE
Mary’s Secret Garden
100 S. Fir St., Ventura
641-FOOD

3RD PLACE
Juice on Chestnut
27 S. Chestnut St., Ventura
643-3775

Sandwich

1ST PLACE
Urban Café
4960 Telephone Road, Ventura
654-1619

2ND PLACE
Fresh and Fabulous
212 W. 4th St., Oxnard
486-4547

3RD PLACE
Royal Bakery
4726 Telephone Road, Ventura
658-6030

Waitstaff

1ST PLACE
Brooks
545 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
652-7070

2ND PLACE (TIE)
Aloha Steakhouse
364 S. California St., Ventura
652-1779

Anacapa Brewing Co.
472 E. Main St., Ventura
643-2337

3RD PLACE
The Greek
1583 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura
650-5350

Business Lunch

1ST PLACE
Fresh and Fabulous
212 W. 4th St., Oxnard
486-4547

2ND PLACE
Café Fiore
66 S. California St., Ventura
653-1266

3RD PLACE
Café Zack
1095 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-9445

Cheap EatsCorrales

1ST PLACE
Corrales
795 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-1043

1951 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-6138

2ND PLACE
Nature’s Grill
566 E. Main St., Ventura
643-7855

3RD PLACE
Casa de Soria
1961 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
648-2083

Hotel Dining

1ST PLACE
C-Street
450 E. Harbor Blvd., at Crowne Plaza, Ventura, 648-2100

2ND PLACE
Capistrano’s at embassy suites
2101 Mandalay Beach Road, Oxnard
984-2500

3RD PLACE
Austen’s at the Pierpont
550 Sanjon Road, Ventura
643-6144

Tacos

1ST PLACE
Snapper Jack’s
5100 Telegraph Road, Ventura
642-5111

2ND PLACE
Tacos & Beer
1054 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura
653-5854

3RD PLACE
Corrales
795 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-1043

1951 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-6138

Place to eat dessert

1ST PLACE
Mary’s Secret Garden
100 S. Fir St., Ventura
641-FOOD

2ND PLACE
Café Zack
1095 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
643-9445

3RD PLACE
Aloha Steakhouse
364 S. California St., Ventura
652-1779