The Annex at The Collection RiverPark
2761 Park View Court, Oxnard
http://thecollectionrp.com/the_annex
$7.50-10 


When The Collection at RiverPark’s Los Angeles-style food hall The Annex opened its doors last year, the first thing I did was salivate. The thought of driving for over an hour for lunch is not a thought I’d need to have any longer; the food gods would provide here in our own backyard.

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As a vegetarian, my food options have always been somewhat limited, and that’s understandable. With the opening of The Annex, my expectations were raised, but humble. Would the purveyors soon to occupy the enormous space care to cater to their veggie-loving friends? Turns out that my fears were unwarranted, and even the meat-centric counters have something quite delicious to offer.

Lunchtime on a Saturday afternoon proved rather busy for The Annex, a good sign. Seating being somewhat limited, however, meant that my partner and I would need to be strategic in our selections if we were to hit several restaurants. So I went to Seoul Sausage and she, a vegan, went to Love Pho, and we returned with our first course.

Seoul Sausage is an L.A.-based restaurant of which I have been a big fan for some time at their location in Little Tokyo. That was a different time, however, for my personal dietary choices. I ordered from the “sausage in a bun” category and chose the “kalbi” style ($8), choosing to substitute the in-house-made veggie sausage ($1 extra) for the Korean barbecue pork sausage. Typically, toppings include kimchi relish and garlic jalapeño aioli, but knowing my kimchi, I had to skip out on the relish, as a key ingredient for the traditional Korean pickled cabbage is fish sauce, and this was no exception at Seoul Sausage.

I returned to our table and found that my partner had returned with a feast in a bowl. The pho with tofu and vegetable ($8.75), ordered to-go, came loaded with veggies atop thin noodles in a murky broth, replete with a side of crisp, fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil, mint and lime. There were even small packets of Sriracha hot sauce and duck sauce.

If I had a do-over, I’d have placed a different order at Seoul Sausage. Without the kimchi relish, the dog was rather dry, the quantity of aioli being rather lacking. The pho, however, was meal enough for two. With a pop from the lime, the pho opened up our sinuses with the inclusion of raw jalapeño and proved to be a flavor powerhouse. This was truly a trip to Flavortown.

Still craving something loaded with carbs, I visited Scratch Sandwich Bar. Because we couldn’t share the veggie dog due to the aioli, I chose to compromise by ordering the sabbich ($7.50), an Israeli-inspired sandwich filled to the brim with roasted eggplant, black-bean hummus, cucumber salad, pickles, tahini dressing and a mango relish. Usually the sandwich comes topped with a fried egg, but we asked that it be given to the next egg enthusiast in line.

This is one hearty lunch; don’t let the veggie-ness fool you. The soft pita is a treat and refused to get soggy under the weight of the toppings, our favorite being the roasted eggplant itself. Slightly smoky and savory, the eggplant paired well with the hummus and mango relish.

We’d eaten like royalty for less than $30 thus far, though it would have been a bit more had Ragamuffin Coffee Roasters not run out of their vegan muffin for the day. Another trip, we promised.

Instead, we hit up The Blend Superfood Bar for an açai bowl and smoothie. We chose The Champion bowl ($9.95-11.95), a base of acai, banana, strawberries and cashew milk topped with granola, banana slices, goji berries, cacao nibs, bee pollen and a choice of peanut or almond butter; we chose the latter and nixed the bee pollen to make the bowl vegan-friendly.

To indulge further, we chose the mint chip smoothie ($8.95), a blend of banana, kale, mint, dates, cacao nibs, vanilla extract, almond butter and cashew milk.

To say we went overboard is an understatement. The regular-sized açai bowl was enough for one person’s large lunch, so we split it and enjoyed every bite of the crunchy, sweet, purple “health” food. The smoothie we ended up walking out with and enjoying in sips during the car ride home. It was as close as one would expect to being a chocolate mint milkshake sans any dairy, and is on my to-drink list when looking for a quick pick-me-up.

We left The Annex filled to the brim with all manner of food, having visited the culinary worlds plucked from several continents for under $50, and there was still much left to be had — including a pancake from the aptly named Pancake from Gasolina Tapas. The Annex has proven a wonderful addition to Oxnard, and a place for vegetarians/vegans to call their own.