PICTURED: Avocado toast with gluten-free bread from Food Harmonics.

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

With rising COVID-19 cases on our mind and a specific focus on health in this issue, we take a break from our typical restaurant reviews to offer up a handful of eateries that offer more than just great flavor. If you’re looking to nourish something beyond the basic appetite, look to these restaurants serving fresh, locally sourced and healthful meals.

Food Harmonics
254 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai
Takeout available

Food Harmonics is all about the balance. The downtown Ojai restaurant looks to create harmony in the “body, gut, pH, mind and heart” for a “deeply felt soul satisfaction.” That’s a tall order for a culinary establishment, but one it achieves through organic ingredients that are free of gluten and refined sugar. They also happen to be delicious, with options like avocado or almond butter toast (both served on their own gluten-free sourdough bread), sweet potato brownies, flavorful salads and even a raw vegan pizza. Whether the diet you follow is vegetarian, vegan, probiotic or paleo, Food Harmonics will have your stomach saying “om” in no time.

Caffrodite Community Collective
1987 E. Main St., Suite B, Ventura
Outdoor dining and takeout available

Apricot pecan scones from Caffrodite in Ventura.

Formerly Ambrosia by Caffrodite, the coffee shop/community collective has pared down its menu, but the locally roasted coffee and plant-based baked goods continue to be heavenly delights. Not everything is gluten-free or vegan, but you’ll find plenty of both on the menu — and it’s all so good, you’ll never miss the meat or dairy.



Harvest Cafe
175 S. Ventura Ave., Ventura
Takeout available

Harvest Cafe’s Mexi-Cali Bowl. Photo by Chris O’Neal

Located on the same block as Working Artists Ventura (The WAV), this has become a Westside favorite for smoothies, waffles, savory breakfast toasts, meal bowls and more, with emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and lots and lots of grains, greens, fruits and nuts. It’s not *quite* vegan — some dishes have cheese or eggs — but it’s close, and the menu is full of interesting combinations where fresh produce usually plays a starring role. 

Nature’s Grill
566 E. Main St., Ventura
Outdoor dining and takeout available

Nature’s Grill soft tacos.

Juice bar? Check. Smoothies? Check. Veggie burgers? Check. But of course, this long standing health-food institution — which predates everything else on this list — has so much more! The menu travels the globe, with everything from stir fries to burritos to lasagna, and nearly every protein is available: tofu, tempeh, beans, cheese, eggs and (yes) fish and poultry. Its soups and baked goods (like the amazing carrot cake) are legendary, and the salads are enormous. For classic, all-natural, stick-to-your-ribs fare, this is the place.


The Saloon
456 E. Main St., Ventura
Takeout available

Buffalo cauliflower, a specialty at The Saloon in Ventura.

With a name like “The Saloon,” one would expect something straight out of the Old West: meat (and plenty of it), beer and whiskey. Well, there was a time when the menu leaned more that way — in its first incarnation, it featured a lot of barbecue — but The Saloon in Downtown Ventura has recreated itself a few different times, finally settling on a vegetarian menu that seems to be serving it (and its customers) well. The stir fry and buffalo cauliflower are especially good, but vegans have given high praise to the fried “chicken” sandwich, updated with a surprisingly good meat substitute. Now, admittedly, wine and cocktails may not be part of a health-conscious menu…but if you feel you can afford to indulge, you’ll find both worth the calories.