Just as geese fly south for the winter, we Bakersfielders go west during the summer.

Coastal is the way to go when trying to find some relief from Bakersfield’s blazing temps, so west I went, and a little south, right into Ventura Harbor Village.

In my LA days, Ventura was the city I drove past to get to Santa Barbara. I never stopped in Ventura unless it for a Chevron break. Being a Bako newbie, I didn’t know that Ventura is a known hot spot for Bakersfielders and is also a city where many Bakersfield transplants grew up.

I decided to spend the day there to see what all the fuss was about.

Walking into the village was a “you had me at hello” moment. The combination of swaying palm trees, sun-glistening waters, the view of the marina and the sound of a folk singer with her guitar all topped with magical little bubbles flying through the air made me wonder if I was in a dream.

It was 9 a.m. and the calming effect of the marina was overwhelming and begged for a cup of coffee as the cherry on top.

You can’t go wrong with picking a spot to dine in the Village, as almost every restaurant faces the water. However, The Greek’s ivy-covered exterior spoke to me and in I went.

Mediterranean cuisine isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind at 9 a.m., but after looking over the menu, I was pleasantly surprised. The Greek has some traditional Greek-flavored items, along with some California breakfast classics.

I ordered their BLTA breakfast sandwich along with the Monterrey omelet and, boy, they did not disappoint. Their big portions also pack big flavors and these guys don’t skimp on the avocado. With bottomless mimosas on the menu and with their incredible patio view, I could hang out at The Greek all day.

However, I wanted to see all that the Village had to offer, so I took one last bite of my sandwich, one last sip of coffee and off I went.

I perused some of the shops and I also stopped to listen to the live duo for a while, and before I knew it, it was lunchtime. I strolled by The Copa Cubana’s lively patio and noticed that everyone was drinking mojitos, enjoying live music, breaking bread – or in this case, empanadas – together and having a great time! I decided right then and there that this was my lunch spot.

I was lucky enough to be waited on by the chef/owner Andres Fernandez, who gave me a full history of not only his restaurant but of Cuban cuisine and the Chinese influence based on years past. Not being an expert on Cuban cuisine, he walked me through the menu and brought out what he felt I would enjoy most. My top two items I tried were the Cuban Chinese fried rice and the empanadas.

The empanadas were a great starter. Beautiful little pastries filled with seasoned ground beef and melted cheese. Yum! Not to mention the crust is to die for. It is flaky yet moist and holds the contents completely. Being very familiar with Latin cuisine, I’ve tried almost every variation of an empanada and The Copa Cubana’s take the trophy. THE BEST EVER. I loved chef Andres’ take on the fried rice. The fusion of Cuban and Chinese spices was a home run. I definitely need to come back here.

After enjoying my lunch, I spotted Zoltar through the window of the Village’s arcade. I had to go in. Skee ball, air hockey and pinball machines occupied me for a couple hours. I felt like a kid again!

Though I was still completely stuffed from lunch, I couldn’t leave the Village without a stop at the famous Brophy Bros. for their happy hour.

They boast fresh local seafood fare with a happy hour menu that’ll knock your socks off. The snapper ceviche did just that. The ceviche was a generous helping of bright flavors. Fresh red snapper, citrus, scallions, cilantro and tomatoes complemented my powerful bloody mary perfectly. I also tried their creamy clam chowder and crab cakes that were equally as bright and merry as the ceviche. Their menu is spot on and has a marina view to match.

My time at the village was coming to an end but there’s always room for dessert! Throughout my time at the Village, I walked by Coastal Cone quite a few times and noticed a large unicorn in the window with a sign advertising “magical unicorn poop.” Though the name is unappealing, my inner tomboy was begging me to try it. Who knew unicorn poop came in a variety of flavors, such as pineapple, dragon fruit, sweet potato and vanilla. It is also vegan, nondairy and gluten-free; comes with a little Hawaiian cocktail umbrella; and, to top it all off, it’s delicious. It’s like sorbet on a cone but more fun.

Little did I know what I was missing out on all these years driving past Ventura. Ventura Harbor Village is now one of my must-go places this summer. It’s a beautiful spot filled with fun and sun, whether it’s for family time or a romantic date. Its countless restaurants have a flavor for every palate and scenic view from every direction.

Start your summer here, Bakersfield! I’ll see you there! 

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