Duke’s Griddle ‘n Grill
1124 S. Seaward Ave.
I heard about Duke’s from my old friend John, a former surfer and Hawaiiophile, who drives from Carpinteria to the Seaward Avenue spot just a block from the beach in Ventura every Friday for a salmon taco with mango salsa for lunch. He arrives at 11:30 a.m. to beat the crowds and avoids waiting in line to order at the counter.
He’d been raving about his discovery and urged me on several occasions to come down and try one. So, on a recent Friday, I met John at Duke’s and followed his lead.
I watched John scope out his regular table (which happened to be occupied) — one of the red padded booths in the room with a long bar, then he grabbed a plastic cup and filled it with water (“and a splash of lemonade for flavor”) from the drink dispenser along with a VCReporter before placing his order and settling in.
Most weeks, John meets his longtime buddy Brian, who makes the trek from Ojai to order the children’s size fish and chips ($5.35) from the Groms menu (if you haven’t guessed by now, the surf theme extends to the menu).
“Is that allowed?” I asked. Brian replied it was his “civic right,” if not his duty.
Piled high with cabbage and topped with shredded cheese on two corn or flour tortillas, the price for one taco is $3.90. But for $10.05 you can get three, which comes out to just $3.35 cents for a few really tasty bites. The salmon (there’s also seared Ahi, shrimp, asada or chicken versions) can be grilled or fried and the menu says it comes with Duke’s crèma (a tasty sauce) or pico de gallo (we didn’t seem to get that). Each taco had a very generous piece of tasty grilled salmon.
John also claimed that Duke’s has the “best fries” he’s ever had.
Considering the atmosphere and their curated choices, I’d say the thrifty duo have found quite the deal. Not everyone gets off for under $5.00 unless it’s a fast food joint.
Another friend of mine, Spencer, who lives much closer in Ventura, also joined us at my invitation. Spencer noted that he’d been to Duke’s one time before. He ordered one of the 10 different half-pound fresh, 100 percent beef hamburgers from the menu that claims to have “the best buns in town.” He was satisfied with the burger, which I noticed had a nice fresh ruffly piece of lettuce and slice of ripe red tomato. The restaurant’s website is bitchinburgers.com and the server at the counter said the burgers were popular.
I decided to splurge on one of the seven “Seaside Salads” — the salmon salad ($16.75) served on a bed of greens (avocado was noted on the menu, but was missing in action). The generous piece of salmon was delicious and nicely flavored, but I didn’t care for the salad dressing — a sharp pink-colored vinaigrette served on the side. I learned, after the fact, that I could have ordered another dressing, but forgot to mention the missing avo. The mixed greens salad came with a few thick cucumber slices, a couple of cherry tomatoes and toasted Parmesan bread.
“House cut gourmet fries” ($2.05) were tasty as John promised — the four of us gobbled up two baskets full — puffy with a crispy exterior that we thought might be thanks to a light batter dusting. I’d like to return and try the house made potato chips.
“Sidekicks” are all under $10 range from fresh ceviche to Kona chili with white rice to mac n cheese ($3.90). There are some great bargains here as well as seafood plates or salads on the higher end ($16). Duke’s has “Wiki Wiki” breakfasts for under $10.00 on the weekends.
The surf theme atmosphere is beachy and fun. There are a number of big screen TVs and some arcade games in the back of the bar rimmed by big comfy booths and a few super long tables. There’s a small outdoor patio as well.
Duke’s Bar & Grill has a happy hour, weekly specials and Taco Tuesdays. The bar menu has locally named alcoholic libations such as the Seaward Skinny Margarita, Rincon Refresher and Pierpont Tea.
So it seems, you don’t have to fly to Hawaii for a little aloha, it’s just down the street and close to an awesome beach. And if you are there on what I’ve deemed “Aloha Fridays” for lunch — say hi to the beach boys!