PICTURED: Ceviche with halibut, chiles, mango, lime, cilantro and coconut milk. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

The Six Chow House
419 E. Main St., Suite C, Ventura

A large restaurant space near the corner of Main and Oak streets in downtown Ventura has seen occupants come and go the last few years. For a long while, it was Rookees — your basic sports bar with lots of TVs and several pool tables. Sometime in 2018, new owners took over and gave it a facelift. The pool tables were replaced with a stage and dance floor, a handsome new foyer was added, and the interior got a glow up with chic lounges, black bar stools and a refurbished bar. The food went up a notch in quality, too. And <em>then</em> it closed for a while, changed hands again, and reopened in early 2019 with a more diverse menu: “comfort food” standards like fish and chips and burgers, tapas and light bites for a more discerning palate, and a new list of craft cocktails.

The “new” Oak and Main was a hot live music venue, but didn’t seem to make much of an impression otherwise. It closed a little over a year later, and then sat empty for most of the pandemic. It has a new owner once again, and takes its inspiration from a group of prohibition-era California artists — Selden Connor Gile, August Gay, Maurice Logan, Louis Siegriest Bernard von Eichman, and William H. Clapp. known as the Society of Six. Hence, the name: The Six Chow House.

The Six Chow House’s West Side (left) and The 6 Old Fashioned. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

The Six describes itself as a rustic American gastropub, and uses primarily recycled materials in its decor, which includes lots of wood planks, black leather, cast iron and very distinctive chandeliers made out of empty liquor bottles. Not terribly original, but it’s a good look: cozy, comfortable, upscale but unpretentious.

We’d made reservations at 6 p.m. on a Sunday night, and that was a good thing: The place was packed! Local hot jazz outfit the Barrelhouse Wailers were performing — a perfect throwback band for this throwback joint — and the crowd definitely included several fans, many of whom came ready to tear up the dance floor. But the clientele wasn’t all music lovers; some appeared to be folks grabbing a drink at the bar, tourists who wandered in off the street or locals like us, just curious about one of Ventura’s newer restaurants.

We were excited by the cocktail menu, which included a few standards but was mostly made up of intriguing combinations made with fruit-infused liquors and flavorful syrups. Among the food options — pizza, burgers, steak, roast chicken and the like — were two unexpected choices: a Japanese noodle dish made with short rib and yakisoba, and a 32 oz. ribeye for a whopping $98. I suppose you could bring a few friends to help you polish off that two-pound steak.

My husband ordered The 6 Old Fashioned — not very special, but not a thing wrong with it, either, and the enormous ice cube used to chill it was a nice touch. 

I ventured into unknown territory with the West Side: a marvelous little concoction served straight up in a coupe, garnished with a slice of dehydrated apple. It was made with gin infused with both turmeric and grilled apple, lending it a pale yellow hue and a subtle creamy texture. The hint of apple played against the spicy ginger syrup, with a bit of lift from fresh lemon. Simply wonderful and distinctly different from anything else I’ve had. 

Foodwise, we took a tour of the menu: ceviche as an appetizer, a pepperoni and sausage pizza and a salmon salad entree. We found everything to be well prepared and delicioius.

The ceviche was a true starter portion, i.e. not a very big pile; just the right amount to whet the appetite but not satisfy it. Chunks of halibut, mango and Serrano chiles were dressed with fresh lime and coconut milk. A little spicy, a little tart, just a hint of sweet, and a somewhat creamy texture from the coconut milk . . . a nice way to begin a meal for sure!

Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

The salmon salad — actually a pan-seared salmon filet served with a side salad (not a complaint; merely an observation) — was out next. The fish was cooked medium rare and lightly seasoned. The salad was a lovely mix of greens, edamame, apple and mango in a light citrus vinaigrette. What really made it, however, were the curried cashews, which upped the flavor and texture considerably.

Our favorite part of the meal was probably the pizza, with its crisp crust, rich meats and caramelized onions. It wasn’t enormous, but two people could probably split this with another appetizer and be perfectly satisfied. We ended up taking a few slices home (to two grateful teenagers).

There always seems to be room for another gastropub and craft cocktail bar in these parts. Can The Six Chow House succeed where the former occupants failed? Hard to say at this stage of the game, but so far it seems to be playing a solid hand.

— Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer