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Mai's Vietnamese and Antojo Report - Ventura (the city)

Snackish | Feb 22, 200608:22 PM

I have two places to recommend in Ventura (the city not the Boulevard, as others have assumed in the past). Both are new to me.

Antojo is on Ventura Avenue maybe 10 blocks up from Main on the right. Look for the cute papel picado brightly colored flags out front. It is an order at the counter Mexican place that specializes in snacky kinds of foods ("Antojo" means "snack) like tacos, huaraches, tortas, etc.

I got a plate of chilaquiles, which in this version were tortilla chips cooked with a spicy green tomatillo salsa and topped with stripes of sour cream and bits of cotija cheese. About $5.

I also had Cafe de Olla (coffee with spices and brown sugar), which is a rarity and was a pleasant surprise. They have a beer and wine license, I believe, and a little patio out front for sunny days.

The decor is simple but cozy, kind of like a lot of places in Mexico - big wood tables, Mexican art.

The other place was a lifesaver for me when I was in the depths of a cold. I went to Mai's Vietnamese for a big bowl of Pho and was delighted.

Mai's is on Main Street near Borchard. Kind of stuck in the middle of one of those faceless strips along there on the hospital side. The interior of the place is obviously an old boring office building or something, but they have done their best to spruce it up. The menu is two-thirds Vietnamese and one-third Hawaiian, so the place has a kind of cross-Pacific tropical theme.

They have all kinds of pho, bun and banh mi, including, bless them, vegetarian versions. My vegetarian pho ($6) was huuuuuge and delicious with lots of different kinds of vegetables, fake meat tofu substances, and topped with caramelized onion bits. You could tell that a lot of time and care went into it, and it was delicious.

Service was really nice too. They saw I was alone and had a book and made sure to show me to a table with good light (some corners are quite dim). Tea cups are rinsed with boiling water as they are brought to the table so they are nice and hot. Little touches that show they are paying attention.

They have a big bar that was absolutely completely empty when I was there. It looks like it would be a fun place to hang out. They serve beer and wine and had Mai Tais on the specials menu.

Two to check out. Enjoy.

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