PICTURED: Alaskan fishburger from The Parlor. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

The Parlor
1583 Spinnaker Drive, #104, Ventura
$15 and under

I love an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and have a deep appreciation for Coastal Cone at Ventura Harbor. No trip there is complete without popping in for a scoop and wandering the waterside with a cone in hand. 

It was only recently, however, that I realized the Cone has even more to recommend it: an affiliation with the property next door: The Parlor, a no-frills, easy-to-miss burger joint. I’m not quite sure how it escaped my notice — there are tables and umbrellas out front (or were, prior to the most recent public health orders). But I like a good burger as much as I like an ice cream cone, so on a whim I decided to check it out.

While I’ve described the Parlor as no-frills, I should clarify that it doesn’t mean no-options. In addition to the usual mix of burgers (including veggie and fish varieties), there’s also a decent selection of hot dogs, a corn dog (a personal favorite), and, for those looking for something a little healthier, chicken and turkey sandwiches and salads. Buns are made of soft brioche or fresh ciabatta bread — a gourmet touch that definitely adds to the appeal of these American standards.

Aiming for a wide swath, I placed a to-go order which included the Alaskan fishburger, a classic hot dog (with a beef frank), a corn dog (with a chicken frank), a turkey ciabatta and a side of onion rings. And because of easy access to Coastal Cone next door . . . a couple of chocolate milkshakes, too.

The milkshakes suffered a bit on the drive home, so they’d lost their good looks. The taste, however, was great and definitely had the homemade touch: vanilla ice cream was blended with lots of chocolate syrup for a deep chocolatey flavor. Be warned: These are big, rich, thick shakes — our kids ended up putting half in the freezer (which made for a nice treat the following day). 

The corn dog was exactly as expected — and that means crispy and meaty in equal measure and a big hit. The fries were nice and crispy, and there were a lot to enjoy.

The classic hot dog…was burnt. And so was the bun. It was fine with a little scraping and some mustard (and ditching the blackened bread), but not a highlight of the meal.

Turkey ciabatta sandwich from The Parlor. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

That distinction would probably go to the turkey ciabatta sandwich. It doesn’t seem like much, but with sweet tomatoes, fresh lettuce, creamy avocado and tangy cheddar cheese, it was simple but satisfying. The bread it was on was really good, too.

I liked the fish sandwich, which was enormous. The battered fish filet didn’t really fit inside the brioche bun. I ended up deconstructing the thing, eating the fillet and fries with my fingers — fish and chips, essentially. The fish was light and flaky, but I wished it had been crispier and better seasoned; definitely needed some malt vinegar with this one. The onion rings, on the other hand, were plenty crispy and enjoyed by all.

It’s hard to get too excited about such basic fare, and the Parlor is not trying to sell itself as an elevated culinary experience. But classics done well are worth praising, and the Parlor is mostly on its game there — although a sharper eye on the hot dogs is in order. If you find yourself doing some holiday shopping and enjoying the pretty lights at Ventura Harbor Village, you might consider it for an effortless dinner. Good flavor, decent prices, easy takeout: a winning combination.