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, can I still 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 14 favorite places in town.
Ojai Rotie is a fantastic place to eat outside in downtown Ojai. Everyone is eating the Lebanese rotisserie chicken platters - which are very good, but they’re not the only things here you’ll like. They also have a bunch of choices for sides to go with your chicken, and you should focus on the tabbouleh salad and the rotisserie potatoes, which are like whole fingerling French fries. And if you’re not interested in tearing apart a roast chicken at dinner, the sandwiches are great, too, especially the grilled eggplant with cabrillo cheese. Grab a glass of wine from the bar, soak in the views of the mountains, and brainstorm ways to convince your boss to let you work part-time from Ojai.
Most restaurants that look like hunting lodges have some giveaway that they’re not actually hunting lodges - like a veggie burger, or the fact that they’re located in the middle of a large metropolitan area. But Ojai Deer Lodge is the real deal. It’s up the hill in Meiners Oaks, just outside of Ojai proper, and is the most fun place in Ojai to drink a bit too much after a hike. There’s a fantastic beer selection, solid cocktails, and live music most nights. The food is good enough to serve its purpose - get the tri-tip nachos - but the best time to come is on the weekends, when there’s a smoker out front, and they’re serving pulled pork, ribs, and tri-tip sandwiches.
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.
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.
Right on the main stretch of Ojai Ave. is Osteria Monte Grappa, an Italian spot with great homemade pastas and extremely well-made martinis. Their menu changes based on the season - there’s a wood-burning oven in the kitchen that they use a lot in the winter, but shut off in the summer. Our favorite pastas are the beef and prosciutto agnolotti, or the spinach cappuccetti, which are both excellent, and very simple. You should also go for the daily fish special - it’s extremely fresh, cooked in a white wine sauce, and great if you want something lighter than a plate of pasta.
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.
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 our bread-making endeavors, Kate’s are 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 the patio tables outside. Come here for a pre-dinner drink/hang - just be aware that they’re closed Monday-Tuesday, and 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.
Papa Lennon’s sounds like the pizza place by your high school, and like most small town pizza shops, there are some hits and misses on the menu. The pizzas are generally pretty solid - especially the Thai Chicken, which comes with carrots and peanut sauce - but the non-pizza items are the real highlights. They have a great beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts, and the chicken parm sandwich is heavy, very flavorful, and exactly what you want after a day pretending you’re a person who hikes.