Kid Hit Menu Items: In business in Ojai for almost 20 years, Suzanne’s has a family-friendly vibe one would expect from a restaurant tucked into a former house. Menu items such as Uncle Angelo’s meatballs with marinara sauce and over fusili ($19 — hardly a bargain!) roast chicken, lunch omelettes, mashed potatoes, and simple veggies should help skirt some controversy. Much of the produce is excellent, as one would hope, since Ojai has an amazing farmers’ market downtown on Sundays.
Adult Perks: Suzanne’s is on the main drag in Ojai on the way into the heart of town and near the big fancy historic Ojai Valley Inn. It’s ideal biking distance, although with kids that would be tough. The wine list is heavy on the California producers, as it should be at this type of local restaurant, and there’s a cocktail list, too.
Pros: Friendly, small-town comfortable feeling with soft cushions, a big covered heated patio area, and some tables set on the exterior porches. Combine a laid back attitude with accommodating service and you’ve got an exceedingly pleasant, unpretentious restaurant.
Cons: Not many.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Easy on-site parking lot.
Other Tidbits: Not as famous or accomplished as Chez Panisse, nor crunchy as Moosewood, Suzanne’s reflects a brand of California cuisine that incorporates these strands of American cooking. It’s a fitting place venue adapted for the vibe of this small, mostly progressive town with some terrific citrus farms located about 80 miles north of Los Angeles. I’d spent some time in Ojai growing up in SoCal, mostly eating hippie food during school retreats and at Boccali’s (oh, and even visiting the legendary Beatrice Wood in her studio!), and I’ve kind of got a soft spot for the place. Suzanne’s feels in and of Ojai, not stuffy or too fancy, even if the prices are surprisingly high. Maybe it’s because of the beige tones and floral prints that keep it charmingly cheesy around the edges. At lunch the kitchen serves a solid list of sandwiches and salads and miscellaneous items, while at dinner hearty proteins are available in generous portions, alongside grilled veggies, rice pilafs, tapenades and pates. (Almost everyone seems to walk out with a take-out container.) The small garden in the back is lovely and perfect for a stroll with antsy kids. Our boy and a little girl had fun chasing each other around the meandering path, safely away from tables and plates and other adults.
502 West Ojai Avenue, Ojai
Hours: Wednesday–Monday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 5:30 (call ahead for closing time)