If you need to catch up, see Santa Paula – Part 1.
I spotted Vince’s Coffee Shop from the balcony of the Santa Paula Inn soon after I arrived and decided to check it out for breakfast the next morning.
I sat by the window and studied the menu while the three blokes sitting at a table in the corner watched – in a curious, not unfriendly way – if this was a Western movie, I was the stranger who just rode into town.
Vince’s serves “American and Mexican food”. I ordered chili verde (US$8.95) with home fries. Complimentary (and extremely addictive) corn chips with salsa were brought to my table right away. The rest of my food didn’t take long to arrive, and I noticed that the conversation in the corner slowed down while I took photographs of my food – not just a stranger, but a strange stranger! I grinned to myself and kept snapping away.
It was my first chili verde and I enjoyed the spicy start to my day – a homestyle dish with chunks of pork and green chilli in a tasty sauce that would’ve unblocked a stuffy nose, with more salsa and cheese melted on a soft tortilla AND a basket with more warm soft tortillas. I really appreciated the free drink refills.
When I was done, I paid the check, left a tip and gave a nod and smile to the blokes in the corner on my way out.
During my pre-trip research into Santa Paula, I found out about the Santa Paula Murals Project and the town’s 9 murals which capture and celebrate stories from Santa Paula’s history. Over the next two days when I wasn’t at the hot air balloon festival, I walked around town guided by Google Maps on my phone and a mural map printout. My timing wasn’t always great – bright sun and shadows made it difficult to take decent shots of the murals. Still, it was a fun way to explore the town and learn a little about its history.
After walking off my chili verde, I was ready for lunch. I headed back to Main Street to Rabalais’ where I ordered a catfish po boy, which was served with more of those homemade potato chips and a crunchy sour pickle. My waiter suggested adding strips of bacon to my sandwich – music to my ears – I didn’t need to be persuaded. The fried catfish and bacon were popping hot, the bread roll filled with lettuce and sliced tomatoes and spread with remoulade. It was a tasty and substantial sandwich, great fuel before the hot air balloon festival.
Before I left Rabalais’, I bought a bacon scone from the bakery for a snack later. As it turned out, I was too busy taking photos at the balloon festival that evening to stop for dinner, so I was glad I had that scone to munch on before I fell asleep that night.
The next day, after my early start to chasing balloons and then walking around the balloon festival, I was weary (and possibly a little sun-blushed). If there had been room service at the Santa Paula Inn, I’d have ordered in and eaten my dinner in bed. Since that wasn’t an option, I put my shoes back on and went for a walk.
I ventured beyond Main Street this time and went to Enzo’s Italian Restaurant at the Glen Tavern Inn. Herb bread, Caesar salad and spaghetti and meatballs – just what I felt like.
It was on this trip I discovered something I didn’t know before: Americans don’t put bacon in their Caesar salads. In Australia, a Caesar salad without bacon is not just incomplete, it’s a disgrace!
On my final morning in Santa Paula, I couldn’t resist eating at Rabalais’ one last time. More unsweetened iced tea, of course, and I ordered chicken fried steak off the brunch menu. It came smothered in sausage gravy, served with a buttery biscuit and two eggs over easy. This would not be my last chicken fried steak, and in Denver I discovered chicken fried chicken, which I like even more.
Chicken fried steak
A chicken fried steak is a piece of steak that is battered and fried, like a piece of fried chicken, usually served with a ‘ white’ gravy – sausage gravy or country gravy.
Chicken fried chicken is usually a boneless piece of chicken, such as breast fillet, battered and fried like chicken fried steak – except that it’s chicken. If the chicken’s on the bone, it’s not chicken fried chicken, it’s just fried chicken. Plain old fried chicken isn’t usually served with the white gravy.
You can find lots of recipes for chicken fried steak and chicken fried chicken via Google.
I love exploring a new town and had a great time in Santa Paula, brief as it was. I don’t know if I’ll ever return, but I certainly won’t forget it.
Next stop, San Francisco!
Quick facts about Santa Paula
- Santa Paula is located in Ventura County, Southern California, approximately 104 km (65 miles) north of Los Angeles.
- The population of Santa Paula was 30,091 in 2013 (US Census Bureau).
- The town became the early capital for the motion picture industry in the (pre-Hollywood) 1900s and continues to be a filming location for television programs and movies. I didn’t know this at the time, but I saw the The Santa Paula Train Depot many years ago, when it appeared as an Australian outback train station in the mini series The Thorn Birds.
- Santa Paula was the birthplace of the Union Oil Company and an early centre for California’s petroleum industry. The ground floor of Union Oil Company’s original headquarters on Main Street in downtown Santa Paula is now the home of the California Oil Museum. The building has been declared a California Historical Landmark.
- Santa Paula’s economy is based largely in agriculture – it is a major distribution point for the citrus industry in the United States. The Limoneira Company, one of California’s oldest citrus growers and one of the largest lemon producers (as well as the largest grower of avocados) in the United States, is based in Santa Paula.
Find out more at the Discover Santa Paula website.
Vince’s Coffee Shop
827 E. Main Street
Santa Paula, CA 93060
Telephone: +1 805 525 0314
Rabalais’ Bistro & Bakery
861 E. Main Street
Santa Paula, CA 93060
Telephone: +1 805 525 2109
Enzo’s Italian Restaurant
134 N. Mill Street
Santa Paula, CA 93060
Telephone: +1 805 933 3444
My solo USA trip (2014) – about this series
I travelled alone to the United States from late July to mid-August. This trip covered California, Wyoming and Colorado. The primary reason for the trip was to attend a couple of workshops, one on hot air balloon photography and the other on photographing wild horses and cowboys. I also caught up with an old school friend.
- Santa Paula, California, USA – Part 1
- Chasing Balloons, Part 1 – Citrus Classic Balloon Festival
- Chasing Balloons, Part 2
- Santa Paula, California, USA – Part 2 – this post
- San Francisco, Part 1 – Golden Gate Hotel (checking in), North Beach by Night walking tour, Sam’s (burger)
- San Francisco, Part 2 – Golden Gate Hotel (breakfast), Hop-on hop-off bus tour. Golden Gate Bridge, Haight-Ashbury, The Pork Store, Painted Ladies, Hearts in San Francisco project, Jardiniere
- San Francisco, Part 3 – breakfast in Chinatown, Ferry Building, sea lions of Pier 39, In-N-Out Burger, Fisherman’s Wharf and dinner with strangers at House of Nanking
- San Francisco, Part 4 – walking around Chinatown, Bacon Bacon truck, Mission District murals, Bi-Rite Creamery and Katana-Ya ramen.
- Wyoming cowboys and staying at K Bar Z ranch
- Wild horses and dining out in Cody, Wyoming
- My first day in Cody, Wyoming
- Denver, Colorado – Part 1 – Mizuna, Cherry Creek North Food & Wine festival, Chihuly exhibition at Denver Botanic Gardens, Argyll Whisky Beer, Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
- Denver, Colorado – Part 2 – The Curtis, Sam’s No.3, Etai’s, Bistro Vendome, Civic Center Eats, The Buckhorn Exchange, Syrup, Denver public art