PICTURED: Huevos Divorciados (two eggs topped with green and red salsa and served with rice, beans and tortilla) from Taqueria Cuernavaca in Ventura. Photo by Warren Barrett

By Warren Barrett, Barbara Kroon, Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer and Kimberly Rivers

Warren Barrett, Sales Director

Lovewell Tea & Coffee
2271 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura

In May 2020, Lovewell Tea and Coffee took over the spot where Django’s Coffee used to be. It’s an Ireland-inspired spot, and my dad is from Ireland, so it’s fun to see images of Dublin on the walls. I enjoy the dark roast coffee and my kids love the hot chocolate with sprinkles. The bagels are really good, too; you can even choose from a few types of cream cheese.   

Taqueria Cuernavaca
1117 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura, 805-653-8052
1801 Ventura Blvd., Suite A, Oxnard, 805-981-4111

Michelada from Taqueria Tepatitlan. Photo by Kendra Gonzalez

I come for here for the carne asada burrito and the horchata. We even like to go to the Oxnard location to get the tacos al pastor. Their veggie tacos are great too. And I really, really love the breakfast here, too — the huevos divorciados, with green and red salsa, is so good.

Taqueria Tepatitlan
362 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura

My favorite local watering hole. When friends and family come to town, I love to visit Taqueria Tepatitlan. Their Micheldas are the best in town, the fish tacos will impress a fisherman and the service can’t be beat!

Barbara Kroon, Sales Associate

Capriccio Inc.
298 E. Main St., Ventura

Pizza from Capriccio.

From the moment you arrive, the servers are very pleasant and attentive and bring you water and warm rosemary bread right away. Wine or beer is not far behind. The pasta is always fresh and delicious, but I find it hard to go without ordering a pizza. It is the best I’ve ever had. The dough is just the right chewy-but-delicately-crunchy consistency and the sauce and toppings are very flavorful. In 2019 my husband and I traveled to three different regions of Italy, partially on a quest for the perfect pizza. Darned if we don’t both agree that we found none better than at Capriccio!

Hozy’s Grill
1760 Lemonwood Dr., Santa Paula

Tucked in an industrial park at the east end of town is this gem of a restaurant. Originally the lunch counter for the people working at Automotive Racing Products, the place was renovated a few years ago and it is a cozy spot with earth-toned decor and an impressive wine list. We have been going there since we moved to Santa Paula in 2003 and it is consistently delicious.  Breakfast items include an omelette made with their signature chili verde. Lunch and dinner is always delicious, whether you choose one of the burgers or sandwiches or a salad.  My personal favorites are the Hozy’s chicken salad and especially the taco salad, which is heaped high inside a crunchy tostada shell with loads of beans, cheese, chicken and locally grown avocados and tomatoes. For dinner, the pastas are great, and where else can you get chicken-fried steak made with filet mignon?

Boccali’s Pizza and Pasta
3277 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, 805-646-6116
840 Ventura Ave., Oak View, 805-649-1057

Just 14 scenic miles up Highway 150 separate our Santa Paula home from the Ojai staple Boccali’s. Family owned and operated since 1986, Boccali’s ambiance is casual and friendly.  They know and value fresh produce and the menu features ingredients from their nearby farm. This is what makes their bruschetta and strawberry shortcake so stellar. Whether you choose to enjoy pizza or pasta as your entree, I highly recommend you start and finish with these items!  Their well-balanced wine list includes several of their own wines from Boccali Vineyards. There is plenty of seating to sit outside and enjoy the magic of Ojai.

Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer, Editor

VenTiki Lounge and Lanai
701 E. Main St., Ventura

My husband is a lover of tiki culture (at one time we even had a dedicated tiki room in our home) so coming here for the first time years ago was a no brainer. What we discovered immediately: This bar was no gimmick. Plenty of places could have gotten by on the vintage Polynesian vibe and overpriced drinks consisting of fruit punch and cheap rum. But these folks really know their stuff, and have a genuine passion for the flavors of the tropics and a well-crafted cocktail. I’m a bourbon lover at heart, and my go-to will always be the whiskey-laced Shrunken Head, but thanks to the barkeep’s exceptional skills, I’ve sampled liquors, juices and mixers from across the globe with great enjoyment.

The Saloon Ventura
456 E. Main St., Ventura

Old Fashioned from The Saloon. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

The entire family was a fan of this place back when it served more traditional barbecue and had a pool table at the back. My kids dug the tatertots, hot dogs and billiards; my husband and I enjoyed the beer and burgers. But when The Saloon underwent a revamp, replacing the pool tables with lounge seating and converting the menu to strictly vegetarian fare, I became an even bigger fan. The cocktails moved up several notches in quality — the Saloon old fashioned might be the best in town — and the new dining options far surpassed what came before. I’m a carnivore, but I’d happily take the buffalo cauliflower, avocado toast and amazing hummus over a burger any day. And when my foodie sister (dairy allergy) and niece (vegetarian) come to town, this place is one of the few spots where we can all eat with gusto . . . and without compromise.

Boar’s Breath Grill
719 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Port Hueneme

I had never even heard of this Port Hueneme burger joint before the pandemic. But one day, scouring Grubhub for something new, it popped up on my radar. And we’ve been regulars ever since. There’s nothing earth-shattering on the menu, but it’s all perfectly prepared and delicious. My older son loves the Strandwich (chicken, ranch and barbecue sauce) and spicy Kick Burger; my younger son and I fight over the gyro. Nothing wrong with the fries, but the onion rings are great and the homemade garlic chips are even better. This has become our go-to burger spot.

Kimberly Rivers, Staff Reporter

Papa Lennon’s Pizzeria
515 W. El Roblar, Ojai

Cookies and cream gelato.

It started with a standard takeout order for our favorite Margherita pizza and Caesar salad from the beloved Papa Lennon’s in Meiners Oaks. I was running out the door when my 15-year-old son called from his room, “Get a large gelato.” I said “No, honey, we have ice cream in the freezer.” And it left my mind. 

I’m in line to pay when the freezer next to the register caught my eye. The glistening gelato flavors beckoned. And so, I made my son smile with a large cookies and cream that was devoured by the three of us that night. (For a different type of indulgence, Mom also really likes the Caprese salad.)