Not too far away from MOCA, where we’d spent part of the afternoon, is Cole’s. Primarily a sandwich restaurant, known for its French Dip, the backroom is a speakeasy with the look and feel of an elusive lounge that many seek but few find.
We found it, but could not find a drink for some time – the place was too full. The bar was not designed for standing around with cocktails either, and we hassled the bartender from his work until we snagged some seats.
It did feel like a proper cocktail lounge, being very dark and mysterious, and the bartenders took their work seriously with housemade juice and syrup infusions, and chipped their ice from a large block.
Aside from ordering the standard cocktails, there is an option to order from a specials cocktail menu, or to let the bartender decide. All cocktails from the specials list or bartender selection were $10. Most people selected an item from the menu, and I let the bartender choose.
On the left is Ted’s cocktail, now of an unknown concoction except that it contained a beverage called Herring that he seemed to enjoy a lot.
Note: some photos by Ted Mills.
I’d only been here for a lunch plate before. This was my first time for dinner. Plus, I ate here in May and writing this post in August. I don’t remember much.
It had the feeling of a locals drinking hole, with more people huddled around the bar than sitting at the tables. Most of the patrons were also wearing lumberjack-style shirts, jeans, and cowboy boots. I was with someone wearing jeans and maybe cowboy boots, so we kind of fit in. Maybe.
But we weren’t starving. Rather than a whole dinner, we merely ordered an assortment of appetizers. It’s not hard to commit to, after all, and I like choices.
The meal seemed to come with garlic bread, regardless of our order. What we did order was a simple side salad, grilled artichokes, sautéed mushrooms, and a meaty combo platter made of “steak bites, chicken chunks, sausages & 3 tasty sauces.” Those three tasty sauces would be dijon, honey mustard and bernnaise.
It was enough for the two of us, and we did have cheese and honey tasting to attend to later in the evening. We enjoyed the mushrooms the best, with flavors of white wine and garlic. My least favorite was the artichoke, it required a lot of navigation of the mouth, and I wasn’t crazy about breadcrumbs being stuffed between the petal pieces, when the petal pieces couldn’t be eaten themselves. It was just so complicated.
Let’s look at the ambiance, shall we?
Getcher meathooks offa my coat!
The bar has $1 slot machines embedded into the tabletop, I thought that was funny and deeply ironic.
Afterall, you can walk out to a nickel slot machine about 15 feet away and play it and get free drinks. Sit at the bar, buy a drink and feed dollar bills into the machine, or spend nickels and get free drinks. Your choice!
I ate a cobb salad with grilled chicken and thousand island dressing on the side. Meanwhile, the chicken caesar salad looked pretty nice, and I liked the large flat piece baked parmesan that came with the salad. My companion said it tasted good too.
This restaurant was definitely better than some other places I ate at in the Rio, and this one gets props for being conveniently located to the tower my room was in, and for being open 24 hours.
Most of the basic dishes, like burgers, salads and sandwiches were in the $10-12 range.
But, it was nothing culinarily amazing. Service was adequate. Diners at the nearby table were friendly too. But maybe that was because I was eating with cute companions.
All-American Bar & Grille – at the Rio
I was underwhelmed.
I’ve been there three times now. Once was a weekend lunch, once was a weekday work group lunch and recently was after work drinks with a couple people.
Burgers are above average, salads are generous. The onion rings, which were rumored to be good, were good, but pricey at $5.95.
The hummus is also pricey at $5.95, but plated nicely.
The macaroni and cheese, though, bleah. Another $5.95 item, and as the ultimate comfort food, it’s not unreasonable to expect comfort food. What we got was discomfort food. Actually, the worst I think I’ve ever had. Worse than boxed mac and cheese. Everyone in the group tried it and said, “wow. that’s seriously bad.”
The pasta was undercooked, like crunchy. The sauce tasted just like Taco Bell nacho cheese sauce mixed 1:1 with water. More like crunchy pasta cheese-flavored soup. There must have been some bad mojo going on in the kitchen to produce a dish like this.
Thank goodness we had the onion rings to tide us over.
Downtown Brew Co.
There aren’t too many choices for good food in Old Town Camarillo (if there are, please send me a PM and let me know), JJ Brewsky’s was recommended as one of the few.
What I like about the place is the big open space, it’s a welcoming sight in this part of town that’s been forsaken for the giant outlet mall down the road. For whatever reason, this is the rendezvous point between the Santa Barbaran and Ventura county peeps in the “posse” (i.e. a group of people who used to work together). The calamari appetizer is great to share with 3-4 people, the burgers are generous, and they have seasoned curly fries! Hello, flashback to the ’90s.
Eating here a couple months ago, we also tried a spicy corn chowder was pretty darn good, almost chili-like.
And they serve Telegraph beer! Two kinds right now: the Winter Ale and the California Ale, my personal favorite.
A few criticisms would be the burger buns. Soft, whimpy, they fall apart easily and do not complement the half pound ball of meat between them. I also wish they served some dishes that weren’t enormous portions. I ordered the kobe beef burger and shared it with one other and it was still a lot of food.
And the bartender kept calling me sweetie. Can’t I be savory for once?
Finally, what was UP with that crazy middle aged woman who slurred her order of a margarita and two shots, got escorted out, came back, complained bitterly about how her new sandwich combinations single-handedly turned the deli she worked at into a success but then someone else took the credit for it and how she got NO RESPECT and where are her goddamn drinks and her mom never loved her.
A London-style pub in downtown Santa Barbara. One day, please oh please serve my favorite drink from the UK - gin and bitter lemon.
But more importantly: