Café du Suro
375 E. Main St.
It’s a fair point that several food trends may well have reached saturation levels across the U.S. and certainly here in Southern California. Breweries, pop-ups, food trucks and coffee houses to name a few. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth trying. After all, choice is the ultimate American virtue.
Take Cafe du Suro on Main Street in Ventura. All the requisite clichés are there: rustic interior? Check. Large tables for spreading out for work or play? Check. Couch and comfy seating areas? Check. Local? Double check. To the extent that this is not a typical national chain, Café du Suro feels like Ventura. Sitting, as it does, close to the Mission and near the thrum and vibrant center of Main Street, a Saturday visit was replete with a couple sitting street-side with their well-mannered, happy and faithful dog in tow.
All the baked goods, French and rustic by name and appearance, are made in-house at the cafe. Pastries positively ooze with butter. The apple almond pastry was of particular joy, and it was not lost on me that several hours later I wasn’t hungry. Calorie-counting not advised, but we sallied on with more anyway.
The lunch items, however, go far beyond what’s normally expected from a Main Street cafe. Our small cadre raved about the home-baked bread for sandwiches, reminiscent of fresh daily breads in Europe, which are so inviting. The quiche also, layered with cheese, fresh tomatoes and a side salad of fresh greens, could have come from my wife’s own kitchen, a specialty in which she excels. Pastrami, made at the cafe, is the focal point of the Reuben sandwich on house-made rye topped with sauerkraut. It’s more than lunch; it’s a truly elegant sandwich as good as any you’ll find on the West Coast.
The Monte Cristo sandwich, normally a kind of brunch item with French toast bookending ham and cheese, fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar, was a revelation in sandwich making. Brie cheese joins in with the ubiquitous Swiss, and it’s melted atop and in the homemade bread, while ham and brie cheese come together inside — and this sandwich never saw a deep-fat fryer. Astoundingly good.
Cost is yet another coffee house factor and it’s a good one in this case. The lunch menu is not expensive, and for such artisanal goodness it’s something of a surprise. The Reuben and the Monte Cristo were $8 each, for example, and that’s a price you’ll pay for a burger in some places, and not a great burger. The fact is, Café du Suro is much more than a coffee house. It’s a genuine competitor in the independent and local food movement and a welcome one at that.
What ultimately stands out at the cafe, though, is the genuine sense of local and welcome, features that really do set eating establishments apart. The food surpasses “good” and goes to “great,” especially the quiche and sandwiches, but the local here is really in the vibe, the street, the staff and the guests. Café Du Suro belongs on Main Street, willing itself into the city’s veins with hours open seven days a week. Can you ask much more from a coffee houseon Main Street?