It started with an abandoned building
Over the past decades, the face of Main Street in Ventura has changed dramatically. Many of the businesses that now occupy quaint, historic and restored storefronts along the bustling boulevard were once vacant buildings with facades that weren’t very enticing or inviting.
In 1996, one of those abandoned buildings was an old print shop that sat empty for many years until a few restaurant entrepreneurs, ascertaining the future potential in the area, jumped out of their saddles, laid down their hats, and purchased the building that now houses the what has become the much-loved staple in the heart of downtown Ventura, Winchester’s Grill & Saloon. “People thought we were a little crazy to come in and purchase the building for a restaurant,” said JR Ford, one of Winchester’s owners. “In fact, when we opened our doors nearly 16 years ago on May 21, 1997, there were only a handful of other eateries in the area.”
One of the primary reasons the owners of Winchester’s put their roots down on Main Street had to do with the commitment the City of Ventura made to a downtown beautification project in 1996. “The city replanted trees and fixed the sidewalks,” said JR. “Then when the deal was signed with Century Theatres, we knew downtown Ventura was going to be the start of something really wonderful.”
An immediate hit with the locals
Almost immediately upon opening, Winchester’s became a favorite haunt for locals and visitors alike. Known for their sumptuous Certified Angus Beef ™ steaks, delicious chicken and seafood as well as their exotic meats such as buffalo, elk, lamb and venison, Winchester’s boasts an Old West ambiance. The walls are decorated with paintings and photographs of well-loved Hollywood cowboys and the real deals amongst western paraphernalia and antiques.
In 2004, in order to expand their dining venue, owners JR and Sam Book, purchased a section of the parking area land adjacent to the venue and built a patio area that now seats approximately 60 patrons. “We tell our customers, to come on in and unleash their inner cowboy and cowgirl,” continued JR. “Walk in, sit down and we’ll take care of the rest.” Known primarily as a steak house, Winchester’s always has great fresh fish selections from Cedar Planked Salmon to Ahi Tuna. At the impressive mahogany bar, over 40 draft beers are available to quench any thirst.
Little folks can also enjoy a delicious, healthy menu as Winchester’s is involved with Ventura County’s Good For Kids Campaign, a partnership with local restaurants to make healthy options available to kids in restaurants throughout the county (First5Ventura.org).
Winchester’s continues to give back to our community. For example, through their partnership with Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project, they played a critical role in the distribution of food to the local community.