One of the benefits of being absolutely, certifiably crazy, as The Monster must be for undertaking a fourteen year, near two thousand restaurant odyssey, is that adventure awaits at every turn. Too often in Los Angeles we define ourselves by regimented ideas of who we are based on where we live. We are a populace proud of saying things like “I don’t go west of the 405” or “I’d never live in the Valley.”
Reservations at Houstons on a Friday night make many people happy. The Monster likes Houstons. Once a year it’s a fine place to eat spinach and artichoke dip and a piece of cedar plank salmon. Once a year. The other 364 days are a call to experience something new and exciting, a reason to be in places like Monrovia or City of Industry or this weekend…Ventura. With three Zagat restaurants left in Ventura this was going to be a breakfast, lunch, dinner excursion. First stop, Cafe Nouveau. Zagat restaurant #16!
Ventura (officially San Buenaventura but really, who cares?) is an hour’s ride away from Los Angeles proper on the 101. It’s probably best known to those in LA as being halfway to Santa Barbara or the place where you get off the 101 to get to Ojai. Meaning in most people’s minds there isn’t a good reason to be here. But if you don’t stop you may miss…
One of the largest Moreton Bay fig trees in the country in Plaza Park! The Monster loves trees (weeping willows and Cyprus being the favorites) and this is one incredible specimen. Granted, it’s just a large tree. So if that doesn’t make you want to battle traffic and come to Ventura what will? There’s also Mission San Buenaventura, a beautiful building dating to 1782 (fine, The Monster has never actually gone in but it looks pretty from the street). There’s great surfing (Monster don’t surf), and lots of crappy knick-knack shops, empty storefronts and an inordinate amount of thrift stores. Like, oh, fifty seven million thrift stores. Ventura is apparently the king of thrift stores. And the headquarters for Patagonia is located here. So there isn’t really any reason to come to Ventura but The Monster had to.
Cafe Nouveau is situated in a lovely house on a residential street with inside and outside seating. There was a small wait on Father’s Day Sunday but they have a bowl of key lime pie candies so thirty seven pieces later we were being seated. The outside features a water fountain, a garden of blooming flowers and birds happily chirping. A perfect place to start the day’s orgy of eating.
The restaurant has a huge menu of salads, sandwiches and wraps, lunch specialties, burgers, appetizers, omelets, traditional breakfast, pancakes, waffles, and breakfast specialties.
Mr. and Mrs. Monster decided to do a breakfast/brunch combo. The gourmet malted waffles with homemade vanilla caramel syrup done Southern Pecan style. And the seafood melt with crab, shrimp, fish, celery and green onion in a light cream sauce with Jack cheese on grilled sourdough.
The waffles were decadent and delicious. The Monster hasn’t had waffles in ten years. He looks forward to having them again in his forties.
The yam frites (sweet potato fries to the rest of us) were also great, but messing up sweet potato fries is actually punishable by death (made that up but sounds about right). The seafood melt was too cheesy/creamy for The Monster who only ate half of his half of the sandwich. Actually, the seafood melt was plain gross. If you happen to be in Ventura (unlikely) and stop at this restaurant (even less likely) do not order this filth.
So, Cafe Nouveau is in Ventura which you will never be in and it’s a place you most likely won’t ever visit.
Why go? The stars have weirdly aligned.
Monster rating: 2 ½ Monsters
1497 East Thompson Boulevard
Ventura, CA 93001