Rustic Canyon frequenters rejoice. Not only do you have a reason to visit Ojai, you have a great new restaurant waiting for you when you arrive.
Now open, The Dutchess is the amalgamation of Ojai’s farmers, small business owners, artisans and free spirit. It operates as a Burmese-Californian restaurant by night and, starting later in January, a bakery and café by day. After moving to the Ventura County town a couple of years ago, Restaurant Canyon Family’s Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb were so invigorated by local talent that they knew a new eatery was a must.
Some of that local talent included longtime friend Kate Pepper who will set a high new standard with Kelsey Brito at The Dutchess’ all-day bakery. Special items include fresh breads, pain au chocolate and savory croissants, samosa hand pies and olive oil and pistachio teacake. When morning service becomes available, guests can round out their mornings with a beverage by choosing from the selection of locally-roasted Bonito Coffee, Magic Hour teas, locally-sourced hot herbal infusions and dairy alternatives.
The Dutchess, designed by Sylvia Friedel and Wells Butler of female-owned Hunter & Davis, is all about supporting the local community. Housed in a 1926-era building on the site of Ojai’s first bakery, it’s committed to enriching the Central Coast town in soul and purpose. A majority of ingredients come from less than 50 miles away, including herbs and vegetables from Ojai Roots Farm and pasture-fed beef from Watkins Cattle Company.
“We’ve farmed and we’ve been in that world, so we understand the labor and planning that farmers go through. Our goal is to celebrate and show what small communities are capable of, and that our farmers are valued and cared for,” Nathan said, in consideration of her own family’s Ojai farm.
“We also see an opportunity for a closed-loop, no-waste system where the customers support The Dutchess,” Zoe added. “The Dutchess supports local farmers and their employees, local farmers support their land, animals and employees and round and round it goes. The system doesn’t work and the magic doesn’t happen if we don’t all buy in.”
Come evening, The Dutchess transforms into a lively dining destination. Chef Saw Naing’s Burmese cuisine draws from culinary rules he learned from his grandmother while growing up in Rangoon, Burma: be committed to local, fresh, in-season ingredients. A menu of classics and innovative dishes, highlights include stewed curries, tea leaf salad, tandoori chicken, fried fish and Dan Bauk, a fragrant rice dish made with yogurt-marinated lamb shoulders. Seal the meal with a passion fruit lassi pie or local craft beer from Ojai Valley Brewery.
The Dutchess is operating under soft opening hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 4:30- 9:30 p.m. The bakery and café will open Jan. 19 at 7 a.m., with daily service to come soon. It is located at 457 E. Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023.
Photography by: Mariana Schulze; Elise Freimuth