There are a bunch of reasons to spend a weekend in Ojai, and many of them have nothing to do with yoga retreats, babymoons, or oh, I should use this gift card I got three years ago for the Ojai Valley Inn. This small town just east of Ventura is only an hour and a half from LA (with no traffic), and is home to hikes, cute rental cottages, and plenty of places to eat produce grown down the street. Having said that, this isn’t a Napa Valley-like destination with too many fancy restaurants to count. Ojai is more laid-back, with spots better suited for daytime eating and drinking that won’t leave you recovering for days. These are our 11 favorite places in town.
Knead is a local institution you’ll want to pick up and carry back to LA with you. The pastries at this little bakery are great (get a sticky bun), and the very simple bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich is even better. You can get it all to go, but why sit at the awkward wobbly table in the place you’re renting when you can sit inside and watch all the locals coming in to pick up a loaf of bread and gossip with the owner. Although you should get a loaf of your own too.
There are a couple of coffee options in Ojai, but Beacon is by far the best. It’s in a big open space with whitewashed walls, plenty of big tables, and a very local crowd. They serve a few daily pastries at the counter, plus a bigger menu that’s better than regular coffee shop stuff - there’s a jicama salad, a masa flatbread, and if you’re lucky, a fantastic milk bread french toast at brunch. It’s the kind of place you’ll stop into on your first day, and then return every morning after that.
Ojai is a town full of places that will happily accommodate your gluten allergy and your vegan boyfriend and also serve you some oat milk tea. Bonnie Lu’s, though, is not one of those spots. This is where you come for a big, diner-style breakfast in a space that will make you feel like you’re on the set of a Disney Channel show. The food is just what you’d expect - bacon and eggs, big stacks of pancakes, and even bigger plates of biscuits and gravy.
The Nest is our favorite spot for a sort-of healthy lunch in Ojai. It’s an order-at-the-counter setup on the main strip, with lots of outdoor seating and a menu that ranges from fish and chips and Chinese bao to Brussels sprout tacos. Those tacos are particularly good, but you’re really here to settle in on the patio and figure out how many years of work it’s going to take until you can afford to buy a house in Ojai.
Just west of town in Meiners Oaks is this health food store and cafe that is about as Ojai as it gets. The menu has a chai of the day and raw tacos, and we’ve seen people clearing chakras and inviting the mother spirit into their energy at the table next to us. But aside from all of that, the vegetarian Mexican food is great, and there’s also a market attached where you can buy chia seeds in bulk and loaves of bread made down the street.
If you live in LA, you probably stand in enough lines for tacos, but you should sacrifice a little of your vacation time to stand in this one anyway. Just off the main street, this tiny shop serves a small menu of tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that you can take with you to the park just down the street. Get here early - they close at 3pm, but they’ll shut down before that if they run out of ingredients. Cash only.
To be clear, this is not a restaurant. This is a place to buy bread from a lady who bakes out of a space in her parents’ house. But unlike most of our bread-making experiments, Kate’s is actually good. She supplies a few local spots, pops up at markets in the area, and opens up to the public after 12pm on Thursdays and Sundays. To be safe, you should plan ahead and pre-order online. Because if you just show up, there’s a strong chance you’ll miss out on the garlic and parmesan sourdough, and we really don’t want that for you.
This wine bar just off Ojai Ave. feels less like a bar and more like that friend’s house you end up at every weekend. The whole place is extremely relaxed - there’s a small inside bar where you can order a glass of prosecco and a cheese and charcuterie plate before grabbing one of patio tables outside. Come here for a pre-dinner drink/hang - they’re only open until 8pm.
The food at Boccali’s is fine, in a classic Italian red sauce kind of way, but you’re here to sit at a table on the back lawn, drink the wine you bought earlier that day, and then buy string lights on Amazon to replicate the whole setup once you get home. There are, however, two exceptional dishes: the excellent, only-served-in-the-summer tomato salad, and the enormous strawberry shortcake for dessert (swap the ice cream in for whipped cream).
From the front, Ojai Beverage Company looks like a regular liquor store. But just like the mullet your brother insisted on at age 14, this place is business in the front and party in the back. The back bar area has 50 taps of regularly rotating beers and a simple food menu of burgers, wings, and surprisingly great mini lobster rolls. It’s a good spot for a casual lunch, or a relaxed dinner of burgers and beers.
The menu at Azu has everything from patatas bravas to chicken souvlaki to a burger. It’s a good place for a laid-back dinner, as long as you get a seat in the more informal space up front, rather than the slightly stuffy dining room behind it. That front space is shared with Ojai Brewing, so you can start with some paella for dinner and then see how many beers you can work through at the bar.