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Nestled between the busier coastal cities of Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, Ventura, Calif., is probably not the first place that comes to mind when travelers think of a beach vacation. However, boutique shops and waterfront dining at Ventura Harbor Village make the town an ideal location for a short weekend excursion.
In search of an escape from the blazing summer heat, I ended up at Ventura Harbor Village with a small group of friends with a diverse range of interests. Our first stop — the Lost in Socks store — was a must for Jason, a pop-culture junkie with a love for one-of-a-kind attire. And indeed, Jason was fully satisfied with the vast assortment of long socks, which feature themes ranging from “The Avengers” and “Star Wars” to more classic designs, such as Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” painting. Meanwhile, Mermaid Gallery was a highlight for Amy, a talented artist and painter. Inside, we browsed beautiful oil paintings and sketches of Ventura beaches (and mermaids, of course) from local artist Tina O’Brien.
But, in my opinion, Ventura Harbor Village truly shines as a dining destination. Options range from American, Cuban and Greek cuisine in high-end and casual dining venues, many of which sit along the harbor’s edge. My group settled on 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese, a laid-back eatery that shares its waterfront space with Copa Cubana restaurant. And I must admit that Amy’s selection, which arrived first, was simply mouthwatering: The French Connection was made with pan-grilled cinnamon-swirl brioche and filled with applewood-smoked bacon, Brie cheese, platanos maduros (fried plantains) and house-made guava syrup.
As Amy’s plate arrived, Jason and I looked longingly at the kitchen doors, awaiting our meals. But, at the very least, we were able to watch boats going in and out of the harbor as local musician Kenny Devoe played classic tunes on an acoustic guitar — and added a little flair to his songs with a harmonica. Finally, Jason’s What Are You Smoking sandwich (rosemary bread stuffed with macaroni and cheese, capicola ham, applewood-smoked bacon and smoked Gouda cheese) was brought out, and my Triple Pork Vendetta (grilled sourdough bread with barbecue pulled pork, sliced ham, applewood-smoked bacon and cheddar cheese) followed close behind.
I can only describe what followed as a frenzy, as we stuffed our bellies with deliciously cooked meats and freshly toasted breads. And, of course, we washed it down with a couple of craft beers. Looking back on the experience, I can definitely say that the price was right, the food was fantastic, and the location was perfect for a seasonal outing.
The Details805 Bar & Grilled Cheesewww.805barandgrilledcheese.com Ventura Harbor Villagewww.venturaharborvillage.com