At 451 East Main Street, a tiny paseo can be easily missed as you walk by, looking into the windows of the shops and galleries. But if you find it, it will quickly become your favorite place.
El Jardin has only a few businesses in it, a boutique or two, an art gallery, a vintage clothing store, and a bistro. There are a couple of businesses in the hidden upstairs offices, but the patio is so lush with foliage and flowers that it's not easy to tell. On warm days you may spot an opened upstairs window that's nearly concealed by the jasmine and ivy, and regardless of the weather, some of the bricks on the ground are mossy and damp.
Sitting at an outside table, you are protected from the ocean breezes by the Spanish Colonial buildings with their red tiled roofs, wrought iron balconies, mosaics, little chimneys, hidden stairwells, and shuttered windows.
El Jardin was designed as one of the earliest outdoor malls in Southern California. It was very popular in the 1920s, and remains basically unchanged from its original design. Pacific Coast Architect Magazine (July, 1928) stated...
"Entering the court, the shopper feels that he is in another world. Here is a fountain, trees, flowering shrubs, and pleasant nooks in which it rests... Where shopping becomes a pleasure."
Stairway to Zoey's.
I've spent many afternoons lingering at a table in El Jardin while enjoying glasses of wine, and conversations with friends. And at night, there's live acoustic music. If there's any one place in Ventura that I miss most, it's El Jardin. If you ever came visit to me, this is most likely where I took you for lunch.