The hipsters’ favorite getaway is a haven of farm-to-table dining, handcrafted wares and more
Words by KATHRYN ROMEYN
There’s a reason Southern Californians decamp to Ojai for weekend getaways (and even second homes). Several reasons, actually: The bucolic mountain valley inland from Ventura offers a contrast to Los Angeles’ sprawling metropolis, relief from traffic jams and franchises, and a respite from keeping up with the Joneses. In Ojai, there’s simply far more green and far less stress. Nothing moves fast, so while there may not be a new eatery, bar or gallery opening every single week (tried-and-true classics never really go out of style, right?), the locals like it that way. Which is not the same as saying there aren’t updates worth getting excited about.
Longtime favorite restaurant AZU has revamped its menu to Mexican-Californian cuisine to better pair with its Ojai Valley Brewery beers, not to mention the craft cocktails that harness just-squeezed citrus from resplendent local orchards. (Visit Friend’s Ranch for a firsthand experience and taste of the famous Ojai Pixie tangerines.) In a place where farm-driven cuisine leans heavily on the most local produce possible, vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options abound throughout town.
Sage Mindful Meals & Elixirs, one of the buzziest recent openings, offers global paleo fusion — think bone marrow, kimchi rice bowls and mushroom toast — in a relaxed setting under sycamores and kaleidoscopic lanterns. There, substitutions and modifications aren’t forbidden, they’re encouraged, with every effort made to prepare meals as guests desire. Ojai Rotie began making waves once the mouthwatering aromas of its housemade sourdough and delectable French-Lebanese-style rotisserie chickens began wafting down East Ojai Avenue. If you’re planning a picnic, be sure to stop by at 5 p.m., when they open, since they’re known for selling out. (And don’t miss Tipple & Ramble to gather more provisions.)
Favorite shops like In the Field and the iconic, maze-like Bart’s Books are now accompanied by Bungalow Ojai, the just-debuted sister shop to 7-year-old Fig. In a 1930s abode downtown, complete with a charming front porch, owner Victoria Johansen curates consciously made goods, from dinnerware by local potter Jeff May and California’s Double M Pottery to Milkbarn organic baby clothing, L.A.-made environmentally conscious womenswear, Moroccan pillows, recycled glassware and Mexican huaraches. And Ojai Lingerie, which possesses a body-positive mission, opened this summer with a selection of ethically made luxury loungewear, sharing space with Tala Design’s array of home goods (from fair trade ceramics to Turkish towels, potted plants and art).
The homegrown arts scene is also quite robust, with nonprofit interactive arts community space Greater Goods and multiuse studio Ojai Underground Exchange showcasing local singer-songwriters, classes and creative workshops. The nonprofit gallery and art space Canvas and Paper, which opened last fall and shows primarily 20th century art, recently unveiled an exhibit of works on paper by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
The iconic garden-studded resort Ojai Valley Inn — a go-to of Audrey Hepburn’s back in the day — encompasses all the best of what the town is about. Its fresh culinary-inspired event venue The Farmhouse is home to the Ojai Heritage Gathering (three days of classes in spoon carving, open-fire cooking and herbal home remedies) and hosts cooking classes in everything from pasta-making to the art of macarons, as well as special meals with the likes of California chefs Nancy Silverton, Walter Manzke and Neal Fraser.
In 2020, James Beard Award winner and Ojai Valley Inn culinary ambassador Silverton will host thrilling culinary events such as a Taste of Baja Dinner in February, a sophisticated pizza party in August, guest chef dinners and so many more throughout the year.
There’s no denying that an Ojai sojourn requires a trek, but once you arrive it’s plain to see that the town is still an epicenter for some of the best things in life.
Feature image: OJAI VALLEY INN is surrounded by the picturesque Topatopa Mountains.
Jan. 14, 2020
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