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Restaurants & Bars 2

A week in Ojai and Santa Barbara - long report, part 1

dickson d | Apr 9, 200412:19 PM

spent a week up in the hills at Ojai with the family on spring break, escaping from the Chicago spring. while I did not post anything on the board asking for recs, I did search and rely heavily on postings, with mixed results. Thanks to all who posted, and here is my report, in 2 parts. The first is on simple joints, and the second will be in more detail on fancy meals.

I will also post on 2 meals I had in LA on the LA board.

The first night we started with a couple of pizzas from Bocalli's, the newer one in Oak View. We had an Onion/Pepperoni/Sausage pizza and a basil/tomato/garlic. The first was awful, the sauce having a taste that reminded me of barbecue sauce, strangely, and which dominated the pizza, surprisingly. The tomato/basil/garlic pizza was better, but the garlic dominated everything else. The crust seemed mostly bready and also without much flavor. On the other hand, the strawberry shortcake was great, rich, bready with excellent ripe and flavorful berries. Don't know if we caught them on a bad night.

Lunched at the Ojai Cafe and Emporium - quite enjoyed the Topa Topa and Ojai salads. The latter basically a well done Cobb. My Bride returned a few days later for a carry out pasta - Penne with grilled chicken and pesto, and was quite happy. A keeper.

Perhaps I am spoiled when it comes to Mexican food, as we can explore so many rich and varied regional cuisines in Chicago - take the following in that context. Ate at Las Caporales in Ojai, and was quite unimpressed. Bland salsa with no flavor was replaced by mild salsa with little flavor, and finally on the third try with a warm salsa with some heat, but little other flavor. Bean soup was reminiscent of refried beans with a little stock and cream added. Son's steak tacos went mostly uneaten, again little flavor. The Carnitas were better with some heat and flavor, but not really as crispy and deep as they should be. Not a very interesting menu, and spotty execution. Do you think they have removed all spices to attract gringos?

Ruben's Burritos, also in Ojai, was much better. Some spice in the burritos and tacos, decent salsa. Not a lot of depth to the menu, but good flavor and value.

Down in SB, we tried to go to Super Rica, but it was closed. So we went to Taqueria Bajio down the street (which based on what I had read and heard suited me just fine). Not sure what the others had, but my Torta al Pastor was quite generous, overflowing with crispy and tangy meat. I am more a fan of the Mexican style without the large amounts of lettuce and tomatos, but I could work around that and would order it again gladly with the request that they go easy on the greenery. The place seemed a little pricey by my standards, but I know that is SB.

Burger quest - we tried the Hi Burger at the O-Hi Freeze one evening. It was fine. Not great or memorable. Decent fries. Good quick snack. My kids insisted on visiting In 'N Out, which I had never been to. Went down to Ventura and got some cheeseburgers and fried well fries, as I had been advised. I found this surprisingly good. Loved the crispy little patties, and fried well fries may be the best fries I have had without lard or goose fat - crispy, salty, with good potato flavor. I would definitely go back.

Part 2 to come.


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