Restaurants & Bars




Restaurants & Bars


Sliding Sideways | Jan 3, 2005 05:43 PM

Wish I'd written this post sooner because now I'm in a post New Year's haze so I'm afraid I won't recall all, but here goes.

Landed at the ol' John Wayne Airport in Orange County mid-day and decided to get the hell out of Dodge ASAP anticipating ungodly late in da day traffic. Truly wending my way, took Route 126 west, ending up having sumptuous repast of Mex food at the Familia Diaz restaurant in Santa Paula, a great chowhound spot and, we learned, a Ventura County landmark for providing such comida deliciosa for the past 50 years or so. Huge plates of piping hot homemade food with fresh, fresh imgredients and plenty of avocado, salsa, tostadas, shrimp, queso fresco and other delightful accompaniments. Very reasonably priced dishes, and the homey decor, replete with bizarre leather and patterned cloth booths, was very welcoming after our joyful journey over, above and around L.A.

From Santa Paula, we treked through the Ojai Valley, through the flower fields of Carpinteria, and up route 154 to enjoy a very wonderful sunset over Lake Cachuma. From there we sped deep into Sideways country, passing the iconic Hitching Post as we headed to our hotel. We ended the night relaxing with a bottle of wine (no, it wasn't merlot). The next morning we navigated our hotel's passable breakfast buffet, decided Solvang wasn't our style, and set out for Morro Bay.

In between salt water taffy, chocolate and bakery noshings, ended up dining at a few chowhound style spots in the SLO/Morro Bay area during our stay: Taco Temple (all that chowhounds have written about previously and more - thoroughly enjoyed my huge grilled salmon taco); 3 Dog Coffeehouse (little Internet cafe in Morro Bay with big, big, organic coffee - I'd give it 3 Dogs); Giovanni's (on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay) - disappointing - soggy fish, dry sourdough, mushy chips, and a new license to serve liquor posting on its door, so perhaps a change in ownership? I would not recommend. Bright breakfast spot - Breakfast Buzz in SLO. Getcher eggs any way you want 'em (they use organic SLO eggs so your migas will come in dayglo orange) plus bountiful bouncin' blissful pancakes/french toast/biscuits and more. Basic formica and squeeze 'em in atmosphere in what looks to be a remodeled gas station, but BIG breakfasts, strong coffee, and service with a smile.

In Newport Beach we barely had time to catch our breaths. Did lunch at Jimmy XXXX? (my mind is drawing a blank), a chowhound recommendation, located on Campus Drive. Thought the Middle Eastern food wasn't much better than your average Mom and Pop falafel bar, it was just served in gussied up surroundings. After shuffling through the dramatic black and red interior. we wined and dined out on the patio, as it was a nice day. The owner's wife served us and was a very nice lady serving us so-so food at very nice prices. I would not recommend a return as I would prefer less atmosphere and more quality food. Reminded me of Pennsylvania diners, grown to the point of "success," which brought "improvements": plaster Parthenons, plastic hanging grapes, red velvet drapes, and higher prices for patrons to receive their souvlaki in "style."

At one point, we also snatched a fish taco or two at Wahoo Taco whilst being taken for a tour of the "Fashion Island" mall extravaganza. For fast food, a much happier choice then the other food court choices abounding. Other Newport Beach meals were enjoyed at private homes, but we did go back to the same Jimmy/Campus Drive strip center, when tooling about, searching for an early morning, pre-flight breakfast stop. We zeroed in on the Cafe de France. Seemingly one of those Vietnamese run, French bakery cafes. Enjoy the psuedo-Thonet and the cafe au lait, but stick to the croissants and baked goods, rather than challenging the chef with an ordinary omlette request. Not only were the eggs cold, but so was the side of ham I ordered. "Side of ham" is a generous term, indeed, for the paper thin slices of lunch meat I received, D.O.A.

Santa Clara's wunderfind was a stop on a main drag at "Sushi O Sushi." Korean run and mightily busy for even a Tuesday night, I was told it was a good economic indicator of the state of the Silicon Valley because as beehives "Sushi O Sushi," so hums the Valley. Wotever. Excellent sushi. We were also taken to a hole in the wall Indian lunch buffet in Santa Clara, but did not catch the name. It was also packed with worker bees that were buzzing over the excellent korma, tandori, saag paneer, etc., etc. A splendid time had by all.

Thanks again to all who came to the aid of the party.

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