PICTURED: Barbecue chicken sandwich from Pacific Cafe; onion rings on the side. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
1661 Pacific Ave., #11, Oxnard
It never ceases to amaze me when a gem of a restaurant can be found in the most unlikely of places — in this instance, an industrial park off of Rose Avenue in Oxnard.
Pacific Cafe (named for the street on which it resides) is easy to miss. It’s buried amidst a maze of identical industrial parks, far from the madding crowd and not likely to be stumbled upon by the casual diner. Perhaps that’s the secret to its success: The breakfast and lunch spot probably sees plenty of traffic from all those office and warehouse employees who don’t have a lot of options in close proximity. (Fun fact: It’s next door to the administrative offices of the California Strawberry Festival, and across the street from the Mullin Automotive Museum.)
Well, they’re in luck: Pacific Cafe offers a decent-sized menu and, more importantly, serves up some pretty great grub.
Arriving on a weekend afternoon, it was quiet and sparsely populated, with just a few groups seated on the parking lot-turned-dining-patio. We walked inside to receive menus and place our order at the counter before finding a seat outside. The menu is made up of breakfast and lunch basics: omelets and other egg dishes, breakfast burritos, waffles and pancakes, burgers, sandwiches and salads. Mexican specialties include tacos, chilaquiles and huevos rancheros.
With two orders of tacos (al pastor and grilled fish) and two sandwiches (barbecue chicken and California burger) I feel like we got a decent sampling of the lunch options. For dessert (and because I was delighted to see them on the menu): an order of strawberry crepes.
I appreciated the al pastor, with marinated and grilled pork, bits of diced pineapple, a rich red color and slightly crispy texture. But I found the flavor lacking; it really needed more seasoning and heat. Not bad…but not the best. Ditto with the rice that came on the side — although I was pleased that the side salad was more than just some shredded iceberg. A decent helping of greens, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers went nicely with the richer tacos.
The fish tacos were much better and universally loved. The freshly grilled fish had a bit of smoke flavor, offset by crunchy cabbage, zingy pico de gallo and a spicy crema on top. A great mix of flavor and texture, as one would expect from a good fish taco.
Both the burger and sandwich were delicious. The California burger included grilled onions, avocado, tomato, jalapeno and jack cheese on a toasted brioche bun. Juicy and flavorful; a very respectable burger. The barbecue chicken sandwich was even better. Tender chicken breast slathered with a tangy barbecue sauce came topped with bacon, grilled onions, bell pepper, avocado, alfalfa sprouts and lettuce on grilled sourdough. No one is reinventing the sandwich here, but I’d order that again in a heartbeat (and take those super crispy onion rings over fries any day).
Our dessert crepes were equally good: thin, tender pancakes wrapped around heaps of fresh sliced strawberries and topped with cream. So sweet, so simple, so delicious. A fitting end to a tasty and indulgent lunch. Once strawberry season is over, I’ll have to try the tres leches crepes for comparison.
Pacific Cafe doesn’t deliver to my area, and it’s far enough from the beaten path that I’m not likely to have occasion to revisit. But that wonderful chicken sandwich, those melt-in-your-mouth crepes and the chilaquiles (highly recommended by staff, although I did not order them) do call to me. Next time I’m up for a drive, I might head out to Oxnard and find my way to Pacific Cafe. Just because I work from home doesn’t mean I can’t join in the fun.