PICTURED: Vegetable sandwich from Sandbox Coffeehouse, with seasoned raw carrot “chips.”

Sandbox Coffeehouse
204 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura

Despite the name, Sandbox Coffeehouse is not on the beach — although the ocean is not far off. Sitting on the corner of Thompson and Figueroa in Downtown Ventura, the eatery is steps away from the famed Tortilla Flats murals on the walls of the 101 underpass on Figueroa Street and just a few more to Promenade Park and Surfers Point. It’s become a popular watering hole for surfers looking for a caffeine jolt before or after catching a few waves, and bicyclists heading up the Ventura River Trail. A nice, large patio with several picnic tables, a bike rack and even a spot for surfboards makes it easy to combine refreshment with these outdoor adventures.

And while Sandbox does indeed offer an extensive coffee menu, complete with drip, espresso and even French press options (plus chai tea, steamers and apple cider), there’s more than just coffee here.

The Sandbox Coffeehouse patio.

I wandered in on a sunny, breezy afternoon looking for a quiet spot for lunch. Thegroovy tunes, ample seating (tables, couches, reading chairs and a long counter facing the window) and unpretentious atmosphere all appealed to me, and I found myself taking a seat at the counter. The wall underneath is lined with outlets, perfect for charging your device of choice. With free WiFi to boot, I suspect this is a popular telecommuting location. There’s also a wall dedicated to toys and children’s books, making for a family-friendly destination.

The Sandbox menu is basic but filled with the freshest bounty from the county: numerous salads, sandwiches, breakfast bagels and granola bowls, all made with locally sourced produce. The usual cafe pastries include vegan and gluten-free options. If you’re craving pancakes or a burger, you should look elsewhere. But for a nutritious and delicious breakfast or lunch? Sandbox is a fantastic choice.

Sandwiches run the usual gamut — turkey, salmon, ham, tuna and even peanut butter and jelly. For this visit, I ordered a vegetable sandwich, with lettuce, tomato, avocado, cucumber, sprouts, red onion and Muenster cheese. The vegetables were sliced thin and piled just high enough to make a nice, filling sandwich that was still manageable to handle and eat. I appreciated the whole-grain, seeded bread, too. On the side: sliced raw carrots dusted with a little seasoning. I might have preferred potato chips, but carrots were definitely a healthier choice. All in all, it made for a tasty combination that was good for me, too — so much so that I felt I had “earned” a brownie from the bakery case for dessert.

The Sandbox Bowl, filled with everything good: frozen acai berries, vanilla hemp granola, fresh blueberries, sliced bananas, shaved coconut, macadamia nuts, peaches and Goji berries.

A friend mentioned how much he liked the granola bowls, so I returned to Sandbox for breakfast the following week. To drink: a vanilla latte with oat milk (cow, almond and coconut milk are also available) which was, like my sandwich, basic but well done. For sustenance, I went with the Sandbox Bowl, which proved to be a true standout. Frozen açaí berries were blended with just a little iced coffee to make a thick, fruity, frosty slurry. This was topped with everything but the kitchen sink: a wonderful vanilla hemp granola, fresh blueberries, sliced bananas, shaved coconut, macadamia nuts, peaches and even Goji berries. A touch of maple syrup added just a bit of sweetness. Beautiful to look at, delicious to eat and packed with fiber and nutrients. A minor quibble: the açaí blend was so icy that it made my teeth ache. Nevertheless, I left Sandbox Coffeehouse well caffeinated and pleasantly full, ready to take on the day. 

With tasty food, a comfortable and accommodating atmosphere and even live music on the weekends (plus a pizza oven on the way in 2020!), this local cafe clearly has more to offer than just coffee. I’ll happily dig around in this Sandbox again — and know, as I do so, that I’m feeding both body and soul something genuinely healthy.