From exclusive restaurants to artisanal bakeries with international flare, Simi Valley has some of the most if-you-know-you-know dining experiences around. Start your food adventure with this list:
Launched as a pop-up in the chef’s parents’ garage at the start of the pandemic, Zef BBQ has been praised by Eater LA and the Los Angeles Times for its red oak-smoked brisket and pork belly burnt ends. But despite the accolades – and a move to a shared restaurant kitchen – the business run by Logan Sandoval and wife Anna Lindsey retains its IYKYK vibe. A new menu is announced every Tuesday on the Zef BBQ Instagram feed, with pre-paid orders accepted from 10 a.m. Wednesday for pick up the following weekend. Aside from the ’cue (sold by the half pound), don’t miss the team’s riffs on ramen and sandwiches, its fūku pickles and Carolina-style 24 Gold BBQ sauce, or its habit-forming Anna Banana’s Nanner Pudding. (Pick-up time and location given with paid orders; zefbbq.com)
The award for hardest-to-get dinner reservation goes to Sushi Tanaka, where Chef Sei serves an omakase menu of more than a dozen courses to just six guests at a time. Don’t bother calling the phone number floating around on the Internet under the restaurant’s name: Required reservations (about $150 per person) are made by sending a DM with the number of people in your party directly to the chef via Instagram. He’ll get back to you with the next available date, usually about three months out. (3977 Cochran St., Suite D)
Can’t wait for an exclusive sushi experience? Head to Go Fish Sushi Bar in the Simi Valley Town Center and ask about the “hidden menu.” The unwritten list features dishes that are in the restaurant’s point-of-sale system as specials made for longtime customers. Examples include the Ceviche Roll, a combination of spicy tuna, chopped mixed fish, cucumber, onions, avocado and tempura shrimp that’s as colorful as it is piquant. (1555 Simi Town Center Way, Suite 400; 805-581-0101; www.gofishsushibar.com)
The Rise of Artisanal Bakeries
Is it something in the air? The water? Whatever the reason, bakers skilled at making everything from rustic sourdoughs to picture-perfect pastries are flocking to Simi Valley – and we’re here for it.
Mauricio Salinas trained in his native Peru before launching Farina Bread from the kitchen at Conscious Nutrition, where his baked goods (think apple tarts, choco-almond croissants and walnut-studded ciabatta) are sold from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Follow Farina Bread on Instagram and TikTok for updates on the takeout-only selection. (4210 E. Los Angeles Ave., Suite C2; 818-437-5885; www.farinabread.org)
At the French-Japanese café Le Hérisson, owner and executive pastry chef Mineko Ito creates treats that are sweet (espresso croissants), savory (the Popeye Danish, filled with spinach, bacon and egg) and traditional (anpan, a Japanese sweet roll filled with sweet red-bean paste). Hérisson is French for hedgehog, celebrated in the powdered-sugar silhouette atop each signature brioche filled with chocolate-chip pastry cream. FYI: Le Hérisson is cash free, so bring an alternate form of payment. (660 E. Los Angeles Ave., Suite K; 805-864-9045; herissoncafe.com)
Opened in December 2022, The Baker’s Daughters might still not have a sign by the time you read this. Just look for its neighbor, Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsi, operated by Rio de Janeiro-born Black Belt André Almeida, whose wife, Yasmin Almeida, is one of the daughters referenced in the bakery-café’s name. Sourdough loaves and 72-hour fermentation baguettes share the display case with Brazilian specialties like cheese-bread buns called pão de queijo. Other options include shakshuka skillets, pizzas and sandwiches. (Try the Porkalicious, made with slow-cooked pulled pork, guava chutney and house-pickled vegetables on light-as-air rosemary focaccia.) Two communal tables inside and a handful of patio tables outside are available for on-site enjoyment of food and drinks, which range from refreshing switchels and teas to a soothing olive oil vanilla latte. (131 Cochran St., Suite B; 805-791-3156; instagram.com/thebakersdaughters)
Lisa McKinnon is a freelance writer who has lived in Ventura County for more than 30 years. She posts about the regional food scene as 805foodie on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.