Brian Seelos, owner of the Italian Cafe in downtown Ventura, appreciates the high volume of tourists his 3-month-old restaurant attracts. He'd just like to see a few more locals drop by.
That's why Seelos has been heavily involved with the rebirth of the Thursday night Downtown Market Place on East Main Street. The outdoor event is aimed at attracting Ventura residents to the downtown area with a farmers' market, family entertainment and barbecued food prepared by area restaurants.
The Downtown Market Place had a summer stint five years ago and returned last week.
"We've been getting a lot of tourist traffic, especially foreigners," said Seelos, whose restaurant is at 394 E. Main St., in the heart of the Market Place.
"On the weekends we have been real busy. But during the weekdays and weekday evenings we're not as busy as we'd like to be. People from the other side of town aren't familiar with downtown."
Seelos and others involved with the Market Place hope that those who wander in for the barbecue and the other activities will return to patronize the local businesses and restaurants.
If nothing else, visitors should certainly get a good idea of what food is like downtown.
At last week's Market Place, the Italian Cafe served barbecued sausage sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza; Franky's prepared fish tacos and barbecued chicken kebobs and sausages; and Sandy Smith, co-owner of Ventura's Busy Bee Cafe, Joe-Daddy's and Rosarito Beach Cafe cooked up barbecued beef ribs and tri-tip. Look for Smith to add fresh tortillas and grilled seafood to the menu tonight or next Thursday.
Les Bles D'or bakery from Ojai was also on hand as was the Bagel Guy, a traveling bagel wagon from Woodland Hills.
The Market Place runs Thursdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m., along Main Street between Palm and California streets.
One more note on Sandy Smith. His Rosarito Beach Cafe, which has been open for lunch, closed for lunch and reopened for lunch again, is--yes--closed for lunch once more. Smith said lunchtime business wasn't sufficient to justify the time and work it takes to prepare the kitchen.
"It's my job to keep people guessing," said Smith of his now-you-see-it-now-you-don't lunchtime service. The restaurant is at 692 E. Main St.
It's tough to go wrong with food, wine and wandering minstrels.
And there will be an abundance of all three at "An Evening of Wine and Roses," a benefit for the Ojai Shakespeare Festival on Saturday at the Old Creek Ranch Winery in Oak View.
The winery will provide some of its Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Johannisberg Riesling, Chenin Blanc and a red blend known as Maelstrom. The menu will consist of barbecued chicken and an assortment of hors d'oeuvres, salads and desserts.
As for entertainment--in addition to the wandering vocalists --there will be Celtic music presented by the Renaissance madrigal group Measure for Measure. The production is part of the festival's summer season, which runs Aug. 2-18.
Adult admission to "An Evening of Wine and Roses" is $25 per person and $40 per couple. Those under 21 pay by age ($20 for 20-year-olds, $19 for 19-year-olds, etc.) Call 646-WILL for reservations. The winery is at 10024 Old Creek Road.