The drive along the 101 freeway from downtown Los Angeles to Ventura can take 90 minutes at best, and longer in the city’s unpredictable traffic. Whether you're making the drive for business or pleasure, the route offers numerous dining options when you need to take a break. Instead of settling for a fast-food restaurant by the freeway exit, consider the following more satisfying Southern California choices:
101 Coffee Shop
Named after the freeway, the 101 Coffee Shop goes beyond perking you up in the morning and offers a cozy respite from driving after a day of sightseeing or business in Tinseltown. The extensive menu includes comfort foods, from silver dollar pancakes to po' boys and meatloaf.
Relax in a padded booth or eat at one of the retro tables. The old-school décor is straight out of a 1960's TV show, and the fast and friendly service keeps your coffee cup full. You might even spot a celebrity eating alongside the locals, and you’ll probably recognize the interior from the movie Swingers and the TV shows Entourage and Gilmore Girls.
Joan’s on Third
As you leave the 101 Coffee Shop and take the on-ramp onto the real 101 highway, you’ll enter the valley, passing Universal City – home to Universal Studios and Universal CityWalk, and then entering Studio City. In the heart of Studio City, you’ll find Joan’s on Third, a family owned and operated marketplace, gift shop, and café.
Described as a must-stop L.A. culinary emporium and destination, Joan’s on Third has been a favorite of L.A. locals since the mid-90s. The Studio City location is the second outpost of the popular marketplace. Whether stopping in for a cup of Stumptown coffee, to peruse the case of 100 different domestic and imported cheeses, to order a fluffy, French omelet, or to pick up a gift from the selection of handcrafted products, everyone can find something to enjoy at Joan’s on Third.
Public School 818
As you continue your journey, you can stay on Ventura Boulevard which runs parallel to the 101, or you can hop back on the highway. A drive north on Ventura Boulevard through Studio City offers unique boutiques, secondhand stores, and some celebrity spotting if you’re lucky. Just a few miles away, you’ll enter the Sherman Oaks neighborhood.
For lunch, dinner, or a beer with friends, Public School 818 is one of L.A.’s most well-known gastropubs with three locations around the city. The school-themed restaurant offers eclectic American fare in a casual setting. With hand-tossed pizzas (try the Eggs Benedict Pizza), sandwiches, burgers, and entrees like Fried Chicken and Green Chili Cornbread Waffles, Public School 818 provides a unique, SoCal experience.
Hop back on the 101 and continue west for 10 miles, and you’ll hit Woodland Hills, home to Brandywine, a classic French restaurant with a vintage feel. The elegant, family-run restaurant serves continental cuisine, similar to what you would find in an out-of-the-way European eatery.
Regulars love the Australian lobster tail, escargot, foie gras with fig jam, and frog legs. The small dining room has an old-world ambience, complete with a chandelier, and the highly attentive hosts, Peggy and Chris, can tell you anything you need to know about the classic dishes. You’ll want to make a reservation here to ensure you get a table at this fine-dining establishment.
Traveling another 24 miles west on the 101 will lead you to Thousand Oaks, and a little past the halfway point to Ventura. If you’re in the mood for a decadent steak dinner, make a reservation at Mastro’s Steakhouse – a high-end steakhouse chain that started in Scottsdale, Arizona, and has since become an L.A. mainstay with locations in Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Thousand Oaks.
Mastro's Steakhouse doesn't disappoint with its full menu of old-fashioned chops and steaks, including a double-cut porterhouse and a bone-in ribeye. The upscale Thousand Oaks location features extensive sushi, seafood, and appetizer offerings and more than 20 side dishes. The dining room has a wine collection and a fireplace in full view of every white-linen covered table.
Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar
ontinue northwest on the 101 for 50 miles, and you’ll enter Ventura County. The area is famous for its seafood, and Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar has one of the most-lauded menus of fresh fish and clams in the area. Kick back at the end of your road trip with an ocean view at the casual, waterfront restaurant.
Choose from mahi mahi, scampi, sea bass, ahi tuna, salmon, and various other fresh fish. All entrees include coleslaw and a choice of two sides. Enjoy peel and eat shrimp, little neck clams, or oysters Rockefeller with a cold libation at the bar if you don't feel like having a full sit-down meal.
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