Oxnard, a seaside town about 70 miles from Los Angeles and on the way to Ventura and Santa Barbara, has historically struggled a bit as a poor relation. While Ventura and Santa Barbara remain very fashionable, this gap is closing and a recent, albeit brief, early New Year visit confirmed this.
The foodie scene is on the rise in Oxnard and we can start with the Tierra Sur Kosher restaurant situated in Herzog Wine Cellars in its industrial section. This is a fine dining establishment, lauded by Zagat as one of the best restaurants in Oxnard and features some outstanding sea bass and lamb on the menu. Head winemaker at the Herzog Winery is Joe Hurliman and the legacy of wine making in the family goes back nine generations and the winery tasting room is adjacent to the restaurant.
Moqueca is the only South American restaurant in town and since Brazil is the hot destination this year, with the World Cup and the summer and the Olympics in 2016, business is good. This contemporary restaurant specializes in Mocqeca, a South American version of gumbo served for two people along with rice in a clay pot. The seafood and vegetables are cooked without water, and include onions, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, olive oil and urucum—a Brazilian prickly red fruit whose seeds are used to make powder that is used for cooling and seasoning. It also gives this particular dish its bright orange color and rich taste. The addition of live music and a great atmosphere make this a place to visit when in Oxnard.
Also keep an eye out for the Salsa Festival that takes place every July, as well as the Tamale Festival every December. Speaking of tamales, we discovered this long-standing and really old fashioned Mexican restaurant named Parels—located adjacent to Heritage Square. In the square you will also find a well established farm-to-table Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita in a two story Victorian mansion and a wine tasting room for La Venta Winery. Additionally, the annual Strawberry Festival always takes place the third weekend in May, and has now been running for thirty years.
Interestingly, Oxnard is also becoming the place to be for world class boxers and houses the training camp for world middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and unbeaten featherweight champ Mikey Garcia (the star of the future in the humble opinion of this ex-boxing writer).
It is also home to the training camp for the Dallas Cowboys in July and August at the River Ridge Playing Fields, and frankly, considering how ideal the conditions are, it is surprising that the team is not doing better—maybe Oxnard treats them a bit too well.
The place to stay is certainly the Embassy Suites in Mandalay Bay, where the beach is just a stroll away. We are not talking about crowded beaches either, but if you prefer the pool or the hot tub, then you will be well served as the pool here is one of the biggest around. There are two whirlpools that are open until late night, as well as a spa, exercise facilities and bike rentals. Advance bookings are strongly advised especially during the summer months.
The hotel is close to Marine Emporium Landing where you can participate in harbor cruises, sport fishing, whale watching and kayaking. For those of you into movies and nostalgia, long before Malibu became the place to be, Hollywood Beach in Oxnard was the place. Clark Gable used to live here as well as many other Hollywood stars, and Rudolph Valentino even filmed “The Sheik” right here on the beach. Recent films where segments have been shot include “Sideways” and “Bridesmaids.”
This is truly an up and comer and most definitely worth a visit.
Embassy Suites www.embassysuitesmandalay.com 805-984-2500
Moqueca www.moquecarestaurant.com 805-204-0970
Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars www.tierrasuratherzog.com 805-983-1560
Maritime Museum-3900 Bluefin Circle 805-984-6260 www.CIMMvc.org