Dear Food Tours, I just don’t know how to quit you. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of food tours. What better way to get to know a new destination than through food? I’ve lived in Los Angeles my entire life and have recently made it my mission to explore more of my beautiful state over the new few months. Starting next week, I’ll be sharing Part 1 of my new “Staycation” series and I cannot wait! For now, you’ll get just a little taste (food pun) of my first weekend getaway to the charming seaside town of Ventura.
If you’re driving from Los Angeles and avoiding the morning and evening rush, you’ll be in Ventura in under two hours. It might not seem very far but it feels world’s away! Ventura is everything Los Angeles is not: quaint, relaxed, and affordable.
Like always, I wanted to find the best places to eat and turned to Ventura Food Tours. They promised a mix of food tastings, culinary education, and local history, and hit a home run with all three. I should probably stick to food puns instead of baseball, but you get what I’m saying! While I don’t want to spoil every stop, I will share a few of my favorites.
#1 SPENCER MAKENZIE’S
This small seafood and Mexican restaurant is very laid-back, and a popular spot for surfers. We got to try their famous clam chowder, tempura fish, and ceviche. The clam chowder has a special ingredient in it that I won’t reveal, but oh man, it’s delicious. If I lived in Ventura, I would visit Spencer Makenzie’s at least once a week. They’re famous for their fish tacos and I’d highly recommend visiting on a Tuesday for some Taco Tuesday deals!
This tour is very well-paced and takes you through Ventura’s charming downtown. In between stops, we’d walk and learn about Ventura’s history from Amy, our hilarious and informative guide. She’s also a food writer who has an incredible passion and appreciation for good food, so I knew we were in good hands.
Ventiki is a tiki lounge in Ventura that is loved dearly by locals. I’ll be honest, when I think of tiki lounges, good food doesn’t come to mind. But Ventiki is the exception and I was so happy to be proven wrong! Before we get to the food, I have to talk about the incredibly friendly staff who are so passionate about what they do. Our bartender made us the best mai tai I’ve ever tasted, and shared with us the history behind the drink as well.
Before I knew it, the chef brought out giant platters of sushi that couldn’t possibly be for just one person. I was proven wrong, yet again. We tried California rolls, salmon rolls, peppered seared ahi, albacore, tiger shrimp, coconut curry rice, and an array of sauces. I was overwhelmed in the best possible way. Everything was so fresh and flavorful, I was genuinely sad to leave.
#3 PARADISE PANTRY
We continued further down Main Street, towards the notable 18th century San Buenaventura Mission. Paradise Pantry, located right across from the mission, is a wonderful wine and cheese shop with an attached restaurant.
We were greeted with a glass of red wine and another individual platter of food. Luckily, it was on the lighter side. The meats and cheeses we tasted were such high quality, and I give them extra points for their nice display! The restaurant was also packed, and I heard rumors that the most delicious panini in town is served there. Another reason to return!
#4 SUNFLOWERS ON THE SQUARE
No food tour is complete without dessert! This bakery is quite literally a hidden gem, tucked away off of Main Street. When I learned we were going to have cookies and ice cream, I got too excited and forgot to take any photos. I had a lavender limoncello cookie which sounds so confusing, I know. Somehow, the flavors were a perfect combination and the cookie was thick and moist, almost scone-like. I went for their cookies and cream ice-cream which tasted like it was made moments before I arrived. I could not have asked for a better place to end the tour!
The Downtown Ventura Food Tour costs $59 which includes six tastings, two alcoholic drinks, tax, and tip. As you know, I’ve done several food tours before and this is by far, one of the best values! Aside from the food, I learned so much about Ventura in those three and a half hours. I always recommend taking a food tour towards the beginning of your trip so you’ll know the best places to eat for the remainder of your time.
Have you ever visited Ventura before? What are your thoughts on food tours? Let me know in the comments below!
*Note: I did receive 2 complimentary tickets but opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed!