Ventura County's Support-Local Program

Winchester’s: More Than A Great Steakhouse – A Slice Of Ventura History

A long-abandoned building turned into a much-loved staple in the heart of downtown Ventura. Here’s the story of how Winchester’s Grill & Saloon came to be.

Winchesters-outside Over the past two 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.

It started with an abandoned building

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.” Winchesters-inside

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.” Winchesters-barKnown 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 ( Mindful of giving back to the community that they’ve thrived in, Winchester’s has started a “Fundraiser Tuesdays” which will take place the last Tuesday of every month. The restaurant will donate 20% of their net food proceeds from an evening to local charities. For information about working with Winchester’s for your charity, contact JR at (805) 653-7446. For a taste of Winchester’s at home, below are two great recipes to enjoy!

Winchester's Grilled Asparagus

Winchester's Grilled Asparagus

Winchester's Grilled Asparagus


  • 9 spears of jumbo asparagus
  • 1 oz. garlic butter
  • 1oz. balsamic vinegar
  • garlic salt and lemon pepper to taste


  1. Place asparagus spears in a large boiling pot in a ½ inch of boiling water.
  2. Cook for 2 ½ minutes tumbling frequently.
  3. Remove spears from boiling pot and place on flat in a 12" skillet with 1 oz. of garlic butter.
  4. Add garlic salt, lemon pepper, and 1/2 oz. of balsamic vinegar.
  5. Toss to coat.
  6. Cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add 1 oz. of Parmesan cheese and toss again.
  8. Cook for 1 minute, tossing continuously.
  9. Remove spears from skillet and stack high on a medium sized salad plate.
  10. Garnish with kale and a lemon wedge.
Winchester's Seared Ahi Tuna

Winchester's Seared Ahi Tuna

Winchester's Seared Ahi Tuna


    Seared Ahi Tuna:
  • Sushi grade Ahi tuna loins, cut into 5oz. rectangles
  • Asian spice mix (available at your grocers)
  • Ahi Soy-Mustard Glaze:
  • 1 c. honey mustard sauce
  • ½ c. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasonings
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • Broccoli Slaw Dressing:
  • 1 c. chopped garlic
  • 2 c. seasoned rice vinegar
  • ½ c. balsamic vinegar
  • ½ c. white vinegar
  • ¾ c. sesame oil
  • ½ c. salad oil
  • 3 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt


    Seared Ahi Tuna:
  1. Coat each tuna loin in Asian spice mix.
  2. On a grill, sear on all sides for about 20 seconds per side.
  3. Let air cool, then wrap each piece individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to plate.
  4. When you’re ready to plate, slice ahi in 1/8” slices and place over broccoli slaw (available at your grocer’s) mixed with the Broccoli slaw dressing (below).
  5. Drizzle the Ahi Soy-Mustard Glaze over the tuna.
  6. Ahi Soy-Mustard Glaze:
  7. In a large bowl, place all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  8. Pour over Ahi Tuna loins.
  9. Broccoli Slaw Dressing:
  10. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly.
Winchester’s Grill & Saloon / 632 E Main Street Ventura, CA 93001 / (805) 653-7446/ / Winchester’s is open 7 days a week: Monday – Thursday: 4:00pm-12:30 am / Friday – Saturday: 11:30 am-1:00 am/ Sunday: 11:30 am-12:30 am
For information about working with Winchester’s for your charity, contact JR at (805) 653-7446.
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Learn more about author Maryann Ridini Spencer

Maryann Ridini Spencer

About the author

Maryann Ridini Spencer is an award-winning TV/Film producer, writer, host, journalist and President of Ridini Entertainment. She writes and produces print and video stories about environmentally friendly and healthy living in Ventura County for and hosts the TV series, “Simply Delicious Living with Maryann” and “Sustainable Ventura.”


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  1. Now if the City of Ventura could only deal with the growing number of aggresive homeless people hassling customers downtown!

  2. That's the truth! My in laws have a store on Main Street… They're just a few store down from the Hamilton hotel entrance… They always have problems…

  3. This article celebrating a long time staple in downtown doesn't seem like the right place to address the homeless issue. I recommend supporting some of the local organizations like Project Understanding and Turning Point Foundation as they work tirelessly alongside the Downtown Ventura Organization to effect real change downtown.

  4. I feel like Winchester's has been the backdrop to so many memories I've had growing up and now it is where we go hang as a family. Hats off to JR and Sam for their longevity in downtown and best wishes for continued success!

  5. Did he really say “eateries”?

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