Bel Air Café
1024 W. Ventura St.
The foodies of Fillmore are surely rejoicing now that they have the Bel Air Café in their neighborhood. Located in the William L. Morris car dealership along highway 126, this diner-style breakfast and lunch spot takes Americana food up a notch. Yes, you read that right: The cafe is located inside the building of a car dealership. And if you take your car to the dealership for repairs, you’ll get a 10 percent discount on your meal. The understated dining room is comfy, cozy, and you can chat with the chef if you like. I found the service to be prompt and pleasant. I appreciated the constant refills of my Arnold Palmer on the hot day I was there for lunch.
Bel Air Café interior
Now let’s talk food. I made it there just under the wire for lunch, but they were happy to see me, even if it meant they might not close on time. The salads tempted me — the Meyer lemon salad and the Bel Air Wedgie — but the burgers won me over. Choosing was tough. Do I go with the Basic Burger or the Hot Mama with smoked Gouda and sautéed jalapeños? I opted for the Bel Air Burger, an Angus patty (cooked correctly to my medium-rare specifications), juicy, tangy bacon, crisp lettuce, savory sweet onion maple jam, fresh tomato, Swiss cheese (perfectly melted by the way) and some kind of tasty “fancy” sauce, on a fluffy and light brioche bun. But wait, I can add white truffle garlic Parmesan? Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore, and we aren’t in the world of boring burgers either. There are plenty of places to get good, and even great hamburgers in Ventura County, but finding one that is a bit different — not just for the sake of being different but because it just tastes good — is a rare treat, and the Bel Air Café gets the checkered flag for its signature burger. The flavors of this burger each have their place in the lineup, all adding a certain flare to the overall ride. I chuckled audibly a little with each bite as my mouth delighted in the sauce, then the bacon, then the bun, then the hint of garlic truffle Parmesan. Oh, and did I mention the onion rings? The crispy, batter-coated, thick, juicy slices of onion. This meal got my motor humming.
I knew I had to come back for breakfast. Even as I ordered my burger I was eyeing the caramel pecan French toast — vroom vroom.
When I make it back for breakfast I’m only a bit disappointed they are out of pecans, so the French toast will have to wait for a future visit, but there is plenty to choose from. Biscuits and gravy or a chorizo scramble; the German chocolate pancakes are a real possibility, but I opt for the breakfast quesadilla. And let’s put the pedal to the metal with some chorizo.
The simple presentation might fool you into thinking this dish is just another mundane quesadilla in a sea of quesadillas. Tasty for breakfast or lunch, this is a high-octane combo between two tortillas. Thick with a cheese mix of pepper jack and cheddar, sautéed peppers, onions, jalapeños, scrambled eggs and choice of meat (I opted for the chorizo), along with the horsepower of Sriracha aioli, a spicy sauce with a bit of tang to kick it into high gear. All the veggies were crisp and not overcooked, a pet peeve of mine; flat veggies never get you very far. And let’s not forget about the potatoes on the side. When they are cooked correctly this root food can move up front from the backseat. Some custom mixture of red spices coated the squares of crispy potatoes (or you can take the hash browns for a spin instead) to bring them up from the backseat. Topped off with a bit of classically made pico de gallo to grease up each bite, you really can’t go wrong.
Keep an eye out for the special dinners, held inside next to the car showroom for a cool excuse to cruise the strip at night.