Archive for the ‘Foodie Fridays’ Category

Being one of the newer places in Thousand Oaks, CA, I am not surprised to almost always encounter a wait coming here. This is a great place to come before or after watching a movie at the adjacent Muvico movie theater. As you walk in the large front door, you have to grapple with 1) the sheer weight of the door and 2) the fact that it opens on a hinge near the center of the door, making it somewhat awkward to fit many people through the doorway.

The atmosphere is quite casual- kind of a Carrow’s/Chili’s feel to it, though the acoustics here make the noise level far more tolerable. They have a large bar area that is mostly seat-yourself, but it can be a bit difficult to tell sometimes which tables you have to wait for. If unclear, just ask any of the friendly and attentive staff there.

The food is very good. Some of the sandwiches are almost certain to leave you with leftovers. I have yet to order an entree I did not like. The tomato bisque is amazingly flavorful and their pizzas are all pretty good. The only item that might be improved would be the fries. They are nothing impressive, if those are an important part of your meal.

This is a great place to meet friends for a drink or a good meal. Happy hour is really good and includes a wide variety of choices. I am so glad T.O. finally has a cool casual place to just relax and rest assured you will be taken care of.

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Fox Sports (USA)

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I have only been to FOX a couple of times, but so far it has been just satisfactory. This location is not all too easy to find without either knowing where it is already (it’s next to a cemetery) or using GPS. Parking can be a disaster, as they share a small parking lot with another restaurant, a hotel and an office complex nearby. It’s not exactly what I would call your neighborhood “Cheers”-type of place either. Walking in, I got the feeling of a place that was taking itself too seriously for a sports bar: nice wood-like laminate floor, granite bar top, leather seats everywhere… These are just my first impressions.

The food itself, however slow it comes out of the kitchen, is pretty tasty nonetheless. I really dig their mahi burger and the wrap/sandwich selection. Also, I could swear I saw a $30 burger on the menu…no thanks on that. The beer selection is pretty much what you might expect for a typical, larger sports bar in and around the Westlake, California area- not exactly a connoisseur’s dream, but it’ll do and the glasses are always frosty and kept full by a fairly attentive waitstaff.

While I appreciate the availability of a quasi-upscale bar in the area, this is not what I would call a particularly comfortable place to just sit and have a few drinks. It’s loud, hard to move around in during televised sporting events and has a slightly contrived feel. I’ll give it another go if I have a hankering for a little over-priced, not over-the-top food and drinks.

Just one among many pizzerias in Ventura County, this quaint little place is much like the rest: cavernous interior, counter-service style (but they’ll bring whatever you need to your table, including your pizza), with high-top tables and bench-style seating and small low tables throughout. All the staff are very young and friendly.

The pizza is quite tasty. I wanted to try their pesto chicken pizza, but also saw a topping choice of basil and olive oil. Curious, I inquired why they would offer the latter as a separate selection, when pesto is made with both ingredients. Interestingly enough, their pesto is made with spinach, instead of basil, so I asked for that and the soup (chicken tortilla, I think). Well, they were out of the soup, as it was a rainy day, which was understandable. It was not until we got to our table that the cashier came out and told us they were also out of the pesto. Given the similarity, I opted for the basil and olive oil. As it turned out, this was delicious.

I will have to give it another go to have a definitive opinion about Pizza Mizza, but my first visit was pretty good.

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Buca di Beppo is pretty good, if you are with at least two other people. The Thousand Oaks location is huge compared to the fairly small strip mall in which it sits. I always thought the lobby was a bit small compared to the size of the rest of it. The walls are absolutely covered with old photographs and paintings and the tables and chairs are mismatched- all to give the illusion that you are a guest in an Italian person’s home. The bar area is also a bit small, but certainly functional.

The food is tasty, even by a large restaurant chain standard. The marinara and meat sauces are good, if not a little on the sweet side. I prefer the dishes either made without sauce, or with some kind of olive oil base, as they tend to make me feel only slightly less like a gluttonous pig after I have finished gorging myself on all they have to offer. The cheese-garlic bread is, well, amazing. I rarely have room left for dessert, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on those.

The service is hit or miss. With mostly young people working there, this shouldn’t be a tremendous surprise. That being said, the last time I was in there our server was very friendly, attentive and hospitable, especially since it was pretty late on a weeknight. He even comped our birthday cake dessert after it was discovered the frosted name on top was misspelled. Very nice to see they still care about giving every guest a pleasant experience.

Ok, not the best “Mexican” food around, but definitely a staple for a town (in which I grew up, by the way) that can hardly be considered a cultural oasis of dining out options. The Ventura location is prime- right on Main Street, but not so close to the heart of it that getting to it is a hassle. Parking, on the other hand, would be a lot easier if they didn’t have to share a parking lot with at least a dozen neighboring businesses. The decor is…tropical, I suppose? Not sure, but as I’ve said in the past, you can’t eat decor and rarely do I go out to eat because of the way a place is decorated.

Service is ok, though seems to suffer a bit when it gets busy. The place is generally clean enough, but at times could be cleaned a little more often (basic sweeping-type stuff, nothing major or unhealthful). Everything on the menu, from tacos to cheeseburgers- that’s right- are pretty good. Chips and salsa are a slam dunk; albondigas is quite flavorful; salads look as though they came out of a bag from Smart & Final, which appropriately enough is right next door; all of their enchiladas and burritos are good, though the plain cheese is a little bland; tamales: F-; they taste like plastic.

While it could be improved in some areas, I will continue to go back. Call it nostalgic stubbornness, but there is something very comforting about Yolanda’s, despite its shortcomings.

I have been coming to Victoria Pub & Grill for almost as many years as I’ve been able to purchase alcohol for myself. The location is great, in that it is not in a heavily trafficked area and thus avoids getting overrun on a daily basis. Parking is a bit tough sometimes, but not bad. The owner, Mike, is/was in a yacht club, so as part of the decor, you will see trophies and flags on the walls that do little to give the impression you are in an actual pub. Everything else- from the woodwork, to the little alcoves downstairs in which you can sit down to eat- takes care of that.

They have a great beer selection and almost any type of liquor you could want. Prices, while they have increased a bit over the years, are quite reasonable. Both the Union Jack and Pub Burgers are fantastic. The Fish ‘n’ Chips can get a little soggy, but are still an absolute must. The Cottage Pie and Chicken Wellington are also must-tries. The staff is also pretty knowledgeable about the menu and super helpful, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Victoria is a great place just to relax on a Monday evening with a great meal and a cold beer. Everyone there is only too happy to greet you (many times by name) and make you feel right at home. It’s just great to have a place, to borrow a phrase, “where everybody knows your name.”

Happy Friday everyone,

Today’s ‘Foodie’ comes from a small, nondescript Italian restaurant in Ventura, CA.

While I will concede Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant has nothing on traditional, authentic Italian food, it is pretty good. Parking is a little awkward, as they share a lot with about a dozen other businesses, so get a spot on the curb in front if you can. Very small and hole-in-the-wall-like, the ambiance in here is Spaghetti Co. (another hometown Italian dining staple) meets Sizzler. Dimly lit inside, when the front door opens, light floods in and kind of ruins whatever atmosphere is there. That being said, I don’t go out to eat for the way a place looks (who is with me?) The food is plentiful and quite tasty. Salads are crisp and fresh and their Italian dressing is among the best. Of course, let’s not forget the garlic bread- it’s tremendous.

Although they do not carry the largest drink selection, I noticed on their menu last time I was there that under the ‘Beer’ section, the following was offered: “Domestic:…[immediately followed by]- MicroBrew/Import: Bud, Miller, Peroni, etc…” This prompted me to ask our server what microbrews were available. To this our server scratched her head and told us that in 28 years, she never new they offered a microbrew. She then proceeded to ask me to describe what a microbrew is. I gladly obliged, but was a little confused at why something would be on the menu that isn’t offered. C’est la vie…

I am happy to report that they are more than happy to accommodate any changes you want to make to any item on the menu. I ordered the Chicken Francais, which normally includes lightly battered chicken. I asked if I could get it without batter, to which our server happily agreed. She then asked if I wanted capers, essentially making my dish chicken picatta, which is not included on the menu. While a little salty, it was very good.

Despite little hiccups here and there, this is a great little out-of-the-way Americanized Italian spot. Prices are fair, food is good and I will be back.