The Other Sister
Ventura Mixes Quaint and Culture to Provide the Ideal Daytrip
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
The Two Sisters: Ventura and Santa Barbara are like twin sisters who grew up to be very different.
On the Beat
They share a similar stretch of Southern California coast, a Mediterranean climate, and boast missions founded by Fr. Junipero Serra. But though they seemed to have gone their separate ways - Santa Barbara went lace, Ventura blue collar - times have changed.
As I learned last weekend, while Santa Barbara’s downtown has devoted itself to bland chains and forgettable franchises, Ventura’s downtown is a charming mix of mom-and-pop shops, antique stores, thrifts, coffee dens, and new restaurants offering innovative dishes.
In short, the seven walk-able blocks dubbed the Historic Downtown District are fun. And, I might add, real. Ventura renovates rather than razes, proving once again that old is good.
By Sue De Lapa
San Buenaventura Mission
In comparison, one Santa Barbaran claimed to me, “Our downtown doesn’t have a soul. It’s turned its back on the people who live here.” Not one thrift shop remains among the tourist-luring glitz, she pointed out.
When Susan and Winston Sullivan were forced to close Tutti’s restaurant on Santa Barbara’s Coast Village Road due to a lease problem, they found a spot just off Main Street on Palm Avenue. It was once a stable, then a city motor pool. It took the Sullivans two years to clean it up and rebuild.
Now Tutti’s Off Main is a delight to behold, with quality food served indoors and out on the patio, live music, and take-out pastries in showcases from the old Tutti’s. My chicken vincenza panini was as tasty a sandwich as I’ve ever had. (The Sullivans still operate Tuttini’s bakery and coffee shop in downtown Santa Barbara on East Carrillo Street.)
More and more Santa Barbarans are driving to Ventura for weekend diversion. One friend says she often takes in a matinee movie at the art deco-style Century Downtown multiplex, then an early dinner, and is back home before dark.
By Sue De Lapa
Downtown Century Multiplex