For this year’s year in review issue, we decided to start a new tradition of highlighting the newcomers to the Ventura County foodie scene. If you missed out on one of these new adventures in cuisine, it could be one part of your New Year’s resolutions to explore more.


• Institution Ale Company
In this brand-new tasting room tucked into an industrial park in Camarillo, beer drinkers will find a delicious little haven, with recommendations of Sedation and Bad Scene. Owned by by Roger Smith and his two sons, Ryan and Shaun, it’s a great place to grab a pint or a tasting flight. All beers are handcrafted in small batches on site. 438 Calle San Pablo, Camarillo, 482-3777


• Custom Melt
Across the street from Moorpark College is this cheese-lovers delight.  The mac & cheese with truffles and sausage is particularly savory, and the homemade potato chips with a special Gruyere-, Havarti-, cheddar dip is unusually addictive.  The portobello grilled cheese will make you want to order another one.  Great attention to detail in all food prep. 6593 Collins Drive, Moorpark, 531-1025, $5-$14

• Redballs Rock and Roll Pizza
Redballs is a living, breathing, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that also happens to serve surprisingly good New York pizza. The flour and yeast are imported from the East Coast and then cooked up in an 850-degree pizza oven. Recommendations include original Manhattan cheese pie and the Brooklyn pie. While you probably shouldn’t expect fine-dining service, you can expect a really good pie and live rock and roll from the stage, including the likes of the Foo Fighters, who have been known to drop in at any time. No, I’m not kidding. 13816 Princeton Ave., Moorpark, 530-7135, $2.50 – $24.99

Newbury Park

• Brats Brothers
Brats Brothers somehow found a way to bring Oktoberfest to Newbury Park. Whether it’s the cold mugs of German beer, traditional homemade German fare or the delightfully authentic atmosphere, it’s doing everything right. The Hungarian brat, Cajun brat, Grandma’s sauerkraut and BEER are all highly recommended. The selection of brats and accompanying sauces makes for one of my favorite restaurant openings of the past year. Prosit!  2160 Newbury Road, Newbury Park, 716-3242, $1.50 – $17.50

• Sossy’s BBQ Grill
Sossy’s BBQ Grill brings quality flavor and a plethora of lip-smacking sauces together in a quick-service fashion. The barbecue is dry-rubbed and slow-cooked for 10-12 hours, and everything from sauces to rubs is made in-house. Sossy’s also has a great design inside and an outdoor patio, so whether you’re dropping in for a quick lunch or having beers and tri-tip with friends, it’s a solid choice that I hear is getting even better with age. The pulled-pork sandwich, baby back ribs, tri-tip salad are highly recommended. 2140 Newbury Road, suite D, Newbury Park, 498-4BBQ, $1-$12


• AJ’s Chinese
New ownership and an ordered, crisp and clean remodel with particular attention to detail (like all fresh ingredients, including lotus root!), no MSG, and many traditional dishes but prepared to order with savory, crisp taste. The freshly brewed tea from individual tea leaves is extraordinary. 842 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, 640-0201, $5.95-$17.50

• Deer Lodge
New owners and a new chef have transformed this 1927 landmark into a definite destination spot for farm-to-table dining featuring Watkins Ranch steaks, quinoa-stuffed mushrooms, local fresh ingredients, chard salads, specialty drink evenings and a full slate of local bands and showcase entertainment. 2261 Maricopa Hwy., Ojai, 646-4256, $6-$24


• Sura Korean Restaurant
At this new Korean restaurant in Oxnard’s Seabridge Shopping Center guests are made to feel like royalty. With sizzling hot dishes like the kimchi pancake and seafood stone bowl, this is a great place for Korean food aficionados and beginners alike. 1213 S. Victoria Avenue, Oxnard, 984-6936, $5.99-$20.99

Simi Valley

• Chop Shop
Although it has the feel of a biker bar, this roadhouse has the usual burgers and fries, but the Blue cheese burger is one of the best in the county. Whiskey and wings live-band country Wednesdays are very popular, as is 4-7 p.m. happy hour. 4351 Valley Fair St., Simi Valley, 581-6021, $4.50-$10.50


• Saloon BBQ
Happy hour is very popular here in downtown Ventura, and with an order of fried pickles and hush puppies or pulled-pork sliders, this Main Street hangout offers many opportunities for socializing and chowing down on old-fashioned barbecue. 456 E. Main St.,Ventura, 667-8550, $5-$26

• Ventiki Lounge and Lanai
A delightful small corner restaurant in downtown Ventura with contemporary well-crafted Polynesian food. Seared tuna, spicy coconut shrimp, Hawaiian pulled pork and many new variations on Trader Vic’s-style themed drinks, this is extremely popular after work and on sunny days, away from the bustle of Main Street. 701 E. Main St., Ventura, 667-8887, $8.95-$18.95

• Midtown Cafe
Fresh, organic, vegan and raw specialties, and also a complete juice bar.  Near both Ventura hospitals, this dining option offers many healthy and delicious selections. Even the fluffy French toast at breakfast does not make one think of the calories, but rather the organic ingredients. Hipster- and foodie-friendly, there is now open mic Fri/Sat evenings. Many gluten-free options! 2991 Loma Visa Road, Ventura, 643-0800, $2-$8.95

• Palermo Pizzeria
In this tiny little pizzeria, diners will find a slice of Italy. Dark and intimate with a no-frills look, this is a great place to grab a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce, ravioli friti or lasagna, a pizza with the kids or a quick lunch in the middle of the work day. Pizzas are fired in a brick oven, and most dishes are family recipes. 1751 E. Main St., Ventura, 641-2300 $7-$17

• Social Tap
One year after opening last winter, Social Tap has shaped up to be a beachside asset. Just steps away from the beach at Pierpont, this spacious gastropub at the bottom of Seaward is a laidback place where you can watch sports or people watch while quaffing craft beer and eating quality food, including 805 crunchy crusted fish and chips, which are cod filets coated with a crunchy rice Chex and 805 beer batter. With the spicy Moscow mule or a pint of some Oskar Blues beer, this hits the spot any time of year. 1105 South Seaward Avenue, Ventura, 667-8485, $3-$16.75

Compiled by Allison Costa, JR Grant, Nicholas Franklin and Ron Russ.