Vintage Grocers Open in Westlake Promenade

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Last weekend the new Vintage Grocers market opened at Westlake Promenade where Bristol Farms used to be. The Grand Opening featured a live band, tastings, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and gift bags for the store’s first 500 shoppers.

vintage grocers ribbon cutting

Owner Paige Laurie and market director Eric Fuchser cutting the ribbon at Vintage Grocers Westlake Village

(Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)

This is the latest local new business I’ve gotten to check out and share with you. Market director Eric Fuchser led a group of local media around the store about an hour before it officially opened, and we could tell that there was buzz building because would-be shoppers were trying to enter early!

Vintage Grocers crowd

(Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)

This is only the second location of Vintage Grocers, the first being at the old Trancas Market site in Malibu. It’s what I like to call “last chance groceries” before heading up to camping at Leo Carillo or Sycamore Canyon, or when we used to accompany my husband when he surfed at County Line. (It’s been a while!) Recently on the way to a camping trip I had to stop at the Malibu store to get peanut butter. And jelly. And bread! What is normally a frugal meal cost way more there, so I was curious to see what prices are like at this new store.

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At first I wasn’t even looking at prices, because the Westlake Vintage Grocers is impressive in its size, spanking brand new-ness, and pretty things to look at every way you turn. There are several fresh food counters including a juice bar, a sushi bar, a hot meal deli and burrito bar, a fresh poke bar, a butcher counter with an impressive spread, an olive bar, a private wine tasting room, and more!

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Private wine-tasting room, with giant TV for watching the game (not shown)

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The market is proud to source their produce, meat, and seafood as locally as possible. In fact, they source many other products from local makers as well, including Malibu honey, bloody mary mix, and even tequila, samples of which were in the most impressive media gift bag I’ve ever received.

vintage grocers gift bag

Unbagging this was fun!

But after the sparkles in my eyes wore off, I did peek at some prices to see how they would compare to my normal grocery store visits. A large tub of greek yogurt: $4.79 (at my usual store, $4.99). A 6-pack of Mike’s hard lemonade: $9.99 (at my usual store, same). There are plenty of things that are much more expensive, but I can survive on those two things, at least if I’m stopping in to get some items on my way out of the Promenade after a movie or a browsing session at the book store.

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The addition of Vintage Grocers to the Westlake Promenade seems like a good one for our community. Not only do they provide a great place to stop in and get anything under the sun, but they also employ about 85 people from the surrounding area. The store carries some unique items, and I look forward to going back for lunch or dinner to try their fresh foods.

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Vintage Grocers is celebrating its grand opening all week long with activities that are open to anyone each day:

Tuesday, October 4 – Mommy & Me (11am – 1pm)
Bring your kids for a complimentary Mommy & Me experience.

Wednesday, October 5 – Farmer’s Market (5pm – 7pm)
Meet our local artisans and enjoy demos and tastings around the store.

Thursday, October 6 – Sports Night (5pm – 7pm)
Enjoy craft beer tasting and our Build Your Own Burrito Bar before the big game. Show your team spirit for a discount.

Friday, October 7 – Date Night (5pm – 7pm)
Bring your significant other to the Wine Room to enjoy the oyster bar, desserts, etc.

Saturday, October 8 – Kids’ Carnival (1pm – 4pm)
Bring the little ones for an all-day event featuring face painting, music and prizes.

Vintage Grocers
7:00 AM – 9:00 PM daily
100 Promenade Way
Thousand Oaks CA 91362

Have you been into the new store? What do you think?

Burgers in the Bubble: Stacked and The Melt

Last month was National Burger Month, and if I hadn’t been busy helping run a PFA, parenting some children, hosting family in town for a First Communion, working at a freelance gig, and oh, being a wife and the CEO of our house, I would have posted these stories then. But, this is how it goes.

stacked and the melt burgersBurgers at Stacked and The Melt

Even though it’s no longer the official time of the burger, you can still enjoy one or three at one of these places near you.

New: The Melt at Westlake Promenade

This new burger joint just opened a few weeks ago in the Westlake Promenade on the far side toward the movie theater. They cleverly invited locals to come in and sample the food for free, and everyone knows the deep pockets in this town love freebies, so the line was out the door and down the patio, undoubtedly creating some buzz for the opening.

exterior of The Melt Westlake Village

The Melt is the latest in a healthy-leaning fast casual trend. A rep from the restaurant told us that all ingredients are natural – they don’t even serve diet soda because that shizz is bad for you, yo. Cane cola, root beer, lemon-lime, and brewed iced tea and water are your choices. Here’s the company line:

THE MELT is committed to bringing fresh, 100% all-natural, real ingredients to everyday American classics.  Their made-to-order menu of ‘real happy food’ includes hot-n-crispy grilled cheese melts, juicy burger melts, fresh chicken melts, fries, salads, hand crafted soups, mac & cheese and deliciously refreshing soft serve ice cream.

IMG_9501The Melt SignageSounds great, but what’s it like? Well, from the moment you enter, you can grab a menu at the door and decide while you’re waiting. You order at the counter and wait for your initials to be called. What’s different here is that there is a real-time message board on the wall that shows you where your order is in the lineup so you know how close yours is to being ready. Pretty cool.

The Melt Food

The food itself was delicious and tasted fresh. In my party we sampled a burger, a chicken sandwich, the truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, a field greens salad that is served with goat cheese, green apple, toasted sunflowers seeds, and white balsamic dressing, and of course, sweet potato fries. We also tried the two soups that are always on the menu: tomato basil and sweet corn tortilla.

Everything was delicious and for me the standouts were the soups, probably because it was a drizzly day. The sandwiches were smaller than I’ve seen in other burger places lately, but I didn’t mind that. I finished the whole thing and enjoyed every bite, but I didn’t feel overly full at the end, which was nice.

Children’s meals include burgers, grilled cheese, mac ‘n’ cheese (but for kids it’s not as fancy – I brought home a sample for my boys and they fought over it, which is a good seal of approval), and Caesar salad. Desserts include soft serve ice cream and a variety of tasty-sounding shakes.

The prices here are reasonable – a combo meal of burger, fries, and drink is $8.95. Knowing that the founders of the restaurant created it because they wanted a healthy alternative to crappy fast food, the price seems worth it. NB for PFA/PFC’ers in town: they give 25% to your school on Restaurant Night.

Tech-Savvy: Stacked at The Oaks Mall

Stacked is a robot-serviced restaurant in The Oaks Mall across from The Cheesecake Factory where Buddha’s Belly used to be.

stacked at the oaks mall thousand oaks

This place has been here for a while now but on this occasion I got the pleasure of watching my kids, my dad, and my husband all try to figure out how to order. Okay, it’s not robots, it’s iPads. And human people bring out your food and drinks. But it sounds cool to say it’s robots, who I’m sure can’t be far behind.

The gimmick here is that there’s an iPad at every table at Stacked and you can flip through the menu and add anything you want. You can build your own burger or mac ‘n’ cheese or even cocktail, or you can choose from one of Stacked’s many pre-designed dishes and drinks. Then you press “send” and your order is in. Once you get the hang of it, the process is pretty easy, and can be faster than having to catch the eye of your server as he or she flies by on the way to someone else’s table. Of course my children caught on much more quickly than the adults did, and once I convinced my son that he couldn’t build a burger with 100 slices of tomato, our order was in.

stacked food

My dad ordered the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese and he was pretty pleased with it. In fact, he’s had mac ‘n’ cheese all over America and he said this was a favorite. My husband had the jalapeno bacon burger which was impressive and tasty but a little clumsy to eat since it was so…stacked. The kids ate plain cheeseburgers (boring) but they loved them. We sampled a serving of plain mac ‘n’ cheese, because we are on a search for the perfect one, but this one has pepperjack cheese in the sauce. While I like that favor, the kids do not. They are cheese purists. (The kids’ menu mac ‘n’ cheese is Kraft, which I find curious. I mean, why do restaurants do this? I can make this for them at home for less than a dollar.) That said, everyone loved the fries. We sort of fought over them.

I had the Cow in the Garden salad topped with flat iron steak, which I devoured. The star of my meal was the strawberry basil cocktail – shaken up with gin it was a nice refreshing counterpoint to the rich beef on my salad.

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Nobody really had room for dessert, but a meal just isn’t complete without some chocolate in the mix, right? My older son ordered a build-your-own ice cream sandwich that he designed on the iPad: chocolate cookies, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate and peanut butter sauces on the side. The younger one designed his own milkshake: some chocolate and some more chocolate in a glass. All were delicious. Just look at my son’s expression:

stacked ice cream sandwichTo end your meal at Stacked you just tell the iPad you want to pay, swipe your card on the side, add a tip to the total, and you’re done. Your receipt will be emailed to you. Pretty cool, huh? Aside from the novelty of the iPad ordering, the food at Stacked does measure up, so it’s worth it to visit for the food, too.

Just for kicks, since I knew I was doing this post last month, or eventually, I tasted my pal’s veggie burger at Veggie Grill in Westlake Village.

veggie grill burger

It tasted burgerish. I mean it gives you the experience of eating a burger without actually having the meat. But as a meat lover, I prefer…meat. Better option is the carrot cake that comes with the kid’s meal pictured above.

What’s YOUR favorite burger in town? Now that I’m on this kick, I’d like to try it. Please let me know in the comments and if we’re not already following each other on instagram, ping me at @agourahillsmom. Thanks!

My companions and I dined as guests of The Melt and Stacked. All opinions in this article are my own.

New Dishes and Old Favorites This Year at the Grill on the Alley

The Grill on the Alley, with a location in the Westlake Promenade – you know, the restaurant with the wall of fire out front – is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The original location opened in 1984 in Beverly Hills, and now there are Grill restaurants here in Westlake Village, Hollywood, San Jose, Florida, Chicago, and Dallas. To celebrate this milestone, the chefs added some dishes to the time-honored menu of grilled meats, fish, and sides, and on a recent date night my husband and I headed there to try them out.

grill on the alley exterior westlake village

I always like to taste what the restaurant is famous for, so of course we started with server-recommended drinks – nutty brown Atticus IPA on tap for the husband and a cucumber gimlet for me. It was the perfect refreshing start to the meal, and even though I’ve been eating a mostly gluten-free diet for several months (a totally different story), I had to try the giant slab of sourdough bread the menu so descriptively boasted as a signature of the restaurant. It was served with a trio of spreads: The Grill’s classic sweet butter, fresh sundried tomato tapenade and extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper and thyme. This came with a colorful partner – enormous shrimp arranged in a cocktail dish. There were no leftovers.

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I am a big filet mignon fan, so when it was time for the entrees this is what I chose without hesitation. All of the grilled entrees are cooked on the restaurant’s white oak-fired grill. You can even see the stacks of wood just waiting to flavor your meat or fish.

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Our server explained that on the new menu you can choose from seven different sauces for your cuts of steak: Boef Onions with Bordelaise, Béarnaise Sauce, Green Peppercorn Sauce, Truffle Butter, Bleu Cheese Herb Crust, Oscar Style, and Pepper, Bacon, & Onions. I’m afraid I can’t tell you what “Oscar Style” means because the server had me at “truffle butter” and I was done. Toast.

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I was happy to end the meal right then and there but they also brought a trio of sides. There are five sides served for sharing. We chose the Braised Brussels Sprouts, Lobster Mashed Potatoes, and Chipotle Cheddar Cream Corn, because it would just have been gluttony if we had also ordered the Cauliflower Gratin and the Wild Mushroom Risotto. (But we wanted to.)

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Plus the entrees were served with braised broccolini and creamed spinach. Everything was mouth-watering and each bite demanded a pause for savoring. I joked that there’s no need to ever make Thanksgiving dinner again because The Grill is right down the street and I’ll never match or exceed their Brussels sprouts, which are prepared with carrot, onion and bacon hash, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and tossed with roasted pecans.

Are you hungry yet?

Let’s talk about the Center Cut Blackened Ahi Tuna Steak entree, which my husband chose. I was having a food moment of my own, but he actually stopped eating for a second to muse about all the places he’s eaten ahi in his life. It’s his favorite thing to eat. He’s very critical of seafood dishes, because they do not often measure up to the times when he’s gone fishing and basically plucked a fish out of the ocean, cleaned it, and grilled it over a campfire.

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But this dish, he said, was the best ahi he’s ever eaten. I’m not making this up, people. Even though I think of The Grill as a steak place, my husband’s reaction to their epic tuna makes me say that if you’re going to dine here, order the ahi.

I’d hate to disappoint this post by skipping dessert, so we didn’t. We ordered hazelnut creme brûlée, again at the server’s suggestion, and man, am I glad I listened to that guy.

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If your summer is already packed with plans taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and the many outdoor events we can attend in and around our beautiful town, you can multitask by ordering a picnic dinner or lunch from The Grill. You just need to order it 24 hours in advance, and each meal is packed in a reusable insulated tote bag and includes two 30th anniversary plastic commemorative wine glasses, wine opener, mixed nuts, signature sourdough bread and butter, table cloth, napkins, plates and cutlery. The prices are very reasonable starting at $32.95 for a basket of shrimp and crab louie and key lime pie for 2. (Wine is extra.) Here is the full picnic menu.

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Epic tuna, mouth-watering food and cocktails, and an elegant picnic menu just in time for summer. All served up in an elegantly decorated location right around the corner, with cozy booths perfect for date night. We all win!

The Grill on the Alley
Westlake Promenade
120 E. Promenade Way
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
(805) 418-1760
Website

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My husband and I received complimentary meals to facilitate this feature.