Posts Tagged ‘camarillo’
Zzyzx sits just beyond the underpass for Highway 101 on Lewis Road in Camarillo. Coming south, it’s especially easy to reach by taking the Lewis Road offramp, then making right turns at Ventura Boulevard, Arneill Road, Daily Drive and Lewis. If you pass it, just head up Ventura Boulevard and do the whole thing over again.
Fry was front and center on a Sunday morning when we dropped in for breakfast. Open just a few weeks then, and about to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 17, Zzyzx was buzzing with business. In between touting the Florentine Benedict-style egg dish, he told us he was originally from Connecticut and had gone to culinary school and worked at a number of restaurants, always with the hope of opening his own place. So he and executive chef Jason Corona are really into making Zzyzx fly. From our experience, the young and cheerful staff also has caught the earnestness bug.
My friend saluted the morning with a glass of grapefruit juice and we both began to sip coffee as we checked out the menu. It was impossible to try everything that sounded good, but we did the best we could. A bowl of Irish oatmeal ($4) arrived steaming and topped with cranberry-raisins and a dose a brown sugar. Our request for extra milk to pour over it all was quickly met. It was a promising start, and things continued on an upward trend for the rest of our visit.
The Florentine ($10) differs from Eggs Benedict in that it’s topped with a garlic cream sauce instead of Hollandaise, but it’s at least a close relation to the latter and equally as rich and fit for the task. Florentine, of course, means spinach, which was part of the mix with poached eggs and good bacon, all layered over mini croissants. A traditional English muffin is an optional bread choice. From the list of accompaniments I chose fresh tomato slices, which were a good balance to the creaminess of the dish. Other options are breakfast potatoes, hash browns, cottage cheese or a fruit kebab.
My friend ordered two eggs over medium with a four-ounce slice of tri-tip ($11), along with the kabob of melon and pineapple. We asked first about how the tri-tip was prepared and Fry assured us it was grilled, so it seemed a safe choice. However they do it — perhaps slicing it off the uncooked tri-tip and then quickly grilling — it turns out to be tender, juicy and tasting like tri-tip you might grill at home, which is the way we like it best.
We couldn’t leave without at least trying the piña colada pancakes ($8), which Fry described as sweet enough to be dessert. They were exceptionally light with fine pineapple-coconut flavor and a coating of vanilla cream rum sauce. The cafe also serves omelets, waffles and French toast, and pancake variations include bacon-and-Fruit Loops cakes for the adventurous.
Lunch sounds like fun, too. There are crab cakes and spinach and artichoke dip for starters, a soup of the day, soup, salad or sandwich combos and burgers including pinot noir and margarita (as in pizza) versions. There are lots of fresh and tasty-sounding sandwiches and a chicken Caesar or tofu wrap. Pastas include a spicy shrimp Diablo version and a veggie primavera. And there are tacos, too, a tiki taco with teriyaki chicken, pineapple salsa and cilantro aioli, and fish tacos with Napa cabbage and pineapple salsa, both with choice of tortilla.
By Rita Moran
During his dozen years in the restaurant business, the 35-year-old Camarillo resident had spent many nights turning out the lights and locking the doors long after most folks had tucked themselves into bed.
“I was missing out on a lot. . . . I wasn’t seeing my wife,” Fry said of the last-call hours he put in as a manager at a number of big chain restaurants, including Mimi’s Cafe and BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.
So Fry decided to go to work for himself and open a breakfast and lunch restaurant. The hours may be just as long, Fry said, but he gets to hang up his apron by dinnertime.
His new restaurant, Zzyzx— pronounced zy-zix —Cafe, opened its doors at Lewis Road and Ventura Boulevard recently.
“It was a little slow at the beginning, but people really enjoy it,” said Fry, an East Coast transplant who graduated from Santa Barbara City College’s culinary school.
“The response to the food has been phenomenal.”
The restaurant is named after the former Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa, a speck in the Mojave Desert just off Interstate 15 that’s known for its odd spelling and remote location on the way to Las Vegas.
“I wanted a business name that would be fun,” Fry said with a laugh. “I actually registered the domain name for the website before I started the business.”
The cafe’s menu offers the usual fare—omelets, pancakes and egg dishes for breakfast and sandwiches, salads and burgers for lunch—but Fry has made it a point to bring a little something different to his dishes.
“I like having fun with food,” Fry said.
And what’s not fun about ciabatta French toast dipped in Captain Crunch cereal or pina colada pancakes served with pineapple, coconut and rum cream?
“I love breakfast,” Fry said. “Everything is made to order.”
Fry likes breakfast so much, in fact, that he and executive chef Jason Corona decided to offer seven different types of eggs benedict including a steak benedict, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
Corona was the executive chef at Black Angus Steakhouse in Ventura before heading the kitchen at Zzyzx. He said he has more opportunities to be creative at the locally owned cafe than when he worked for a corporate chain restaurant.
Corona, an Oxnard resident, said he likes Camarillo’s “smalltown feel.”
“When you’re in a big restaurant and putting out 500 dinners a night, you have no clue who you’re cooking for,” Corona said. “Here, I can see who I’m cooking for and like the fact that I can get to know the customers.”
On the lunch menu, Fry said the house specials include a pinot noir burger—an angus patty mixed with pinot noir wine and balsamic vinegar served with all the fixings and goat cheese. The other big seller is the seared Ahi tuna salad.
Fry said he also offers a good old-fashioned hamburger and doesn’t want his menu to be considered “pretentious.”
Although he’s a culinary school graduate, Fry said his talents lie more in management than at the grill and that his time spent in large restaurants gave him the experience he needed to run his own 45-seat cafe.
“Culinary school is nice, but it really doesn’t prepare you for the real world,” Fry said. “They don’t teach you what to do when the ice machine breaks on a holiday weekend.”
Despite the fact that the restaurant business is considered competitive and stressful, especially in a down economy, Fry said he would never have been able to open his cafe if it weren’t for the recession.
“I couldn’t have bought this restaurant without this economy,” he said. “I never could have afforded it.”
He credited his wife of eight years, Mei-Ling, with helping him get through the mounds of paperwork needed to open a new business.
Fry said he knows a restaurant’s reputation lives and dies on its food and service, which is why he’s brought the two front and center at Zzyzx.
A customer walked in late in the lunch hour last Friday and asked for the same special he’d had the day before. It didn’t matter to Fry that the item wasn’t on the menu. He had the kitchen working on the dish two minutes later, and the customer had a smile on his face.
“If it’s under this roof, I’ll cook it for you,” he said.
Zzyzx Cafe at 33 Lewis Road is open  a.m. to [2:30] p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to [2:30] p.m. weekends.
By Daniel Wolowicz
Excerpt from The Camarillo Acorn. Published 9/18/2009. Original Story Here.
There is nothing visually appealing about Zzyzx (pronounced “ziz-six” like the road) Café’s location. Perched right beneath the Lewis Road exit and across from the Amtrak station, cars whizzed by and trains clacked down the track as we approached the entrance.
Once inside, I noted that only one table was open. The hostess who greeted us was delightful, and the waitress approached within a couple of minutes to suggest an iced tea or lemonade. Brilliant recommendation on a 90-degree day! We were given large menus with breakfast on one side and lunch on the other. Both are served all day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The interior is like a diner, with booths on the sides and tables in the center. Eighties pop songs and soft rock lightly droned through the speakers. On the walls were abstract art (for sale) that looked like it had been made by the love child of Jackson Pollock and George Michael — splattered, textured paint in ’80s retro colors.
At first sight, the menu intrigued us. It had six varieties of eggs benedict and one house benedict featuring bacon, spinach and a garlic cream sauce. And there were clever burgers, one imbued with pinot noir and a margherita — similar to the pizza — that had a garlic cheese bun, Roma tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil.
As we kept reading, our intrigue turned into smiles. Did you see the bacon pancakes? Then wait. Are you kidding me? Fruit Loop pancakes? Finally, when our eyes focused on the Captain Crunch French toast, we had fully stepped from the very real ruckus of the freeway outside into some sort of Willie Wonka-esque fantasy breakfast land. A flowing river of chocolate mightn’t have surprised me.
It was hard to choose what to order! But we decided to attempt a small sampling of the menu by picking one benedict, one burger and yes, the Captain Crunch French toast.
As we waited, I walked down the back hallway to peruse the art and saw other diners’ dishes. Both the waitress and hostess had raved about the beer-battered tilapia tacos with pineapple salsa and when I saw the golden filets with zigzags of sour cream sauce being served, I started to wish I had two stomachs. As a matter of fact, everything I saw on the tables looked appealing.
Our dishes arrived and each had its own fun feature. The large golden wedges of ciabatta French toast had whole pieces of Captain Crunch clinging to its edges. The Santa Barbara benedict comprised of English muffins, poached eggs, spinach, artichokes and a side of hash browns (one of several choices) and had hollandaise drizzled on top in a crosshatched basket pattern. And any burger can be served as a single or made into three sliders. Our petite trio of burgers arrived accompanied by a springy paper cone full of sweet potato fries ($1 extra to substitute for regular fries).
The flavors were unique. “This tastes like nothing I’ve ever tasted before,” said my companion. When pressed, he went on to describe the essence of the spinach, marinated artichoke hearts and the hollandaise mixing together to create a whole other flavor he’d never experienced. While he was enjoying that discovery, my taste buds were taking me back to my childhood.
I had forgotten how sticky Captain Crunch is. Not pull-your-fillings-out sticky, but it does leave a residue on your teeth. And the flavor? Dynamic! Imagine that chemically created peanut-butter flavor from your youth, then think of it crushed, coating battered bread and browned in butter till it turns a golden saffron hue. I did not need, nor want any of the semi-maple syrup it came with. I felt wrong for eating it — like I’d gone to the fair and ordered the deep-fried Snickers — but I treasured it, these forgotten forkfuls of my youth.
The three sliders held their own. The buns were toasted on the flat sides and their crunch contrasted beautifully with the juicy, moist ground chuck. We were having the Ka’anapali burger with a teriyaki glaze, grilled pineapple, caramelized onion, lettuce and pepper jack cheese. The sweet pineapple and onion were delicious next to the saline teriyaki. “I could see this burger being served anywhere north of Lahaina,” said my companion, who’s traveled regularly to Hawaii. “It’s very authentic flavors.”
So in the end, we were really full. The food at Zzyzx could be called upscale diner food or wacky brunch. I would certainly try other selections, and my first instinct would be to bring a child with me. But hey, there’s something completely freeing about being an adult and stating, “I’d like to order the Fruit Loop pancakes with a side of buffalo fries.”
**They also offer sugar-free pancakes and sugar-free syrup.
Excerpt from VC Reporter. Published 10/15/2009. Original Story Here.