A surge of shops and restaurants has earned the southern California city of Ventura a new nickname: Little Santa Barbara. Old standards like Nicholby's (404 E. Main St.; 805/653-2320)—equal parts vintage-clothing store and nightclub—and the recently renovated Majestic Ventura Theater have survived the ruthless gentrification, but many of Main Street's antiques outlets have been replaced by modern, surprisingly edgy boutiques. • Fusion Home (No. 379; 805/652-7017) offers an alternative to 19th-century collectibles: Jamie Young lamps, cashmere throws, Herman Miller-inspired furniture. • Tiki Lounge (No. 442; 805/641-0515), which has lime green walls, stocks Franki B. jeans, Palmarosa bathing suits, and Tokyo Bay watches. • On the former site of Wild Planet, an infamous record store and head shop, Shu Ju Ku (No. 576; 805/643-5238) has traded the roach clips and CD bins for Fornarina pumps and Gola trainers. • At Deco (No. 394; 805/667-2120), restaurateur Norbert Furnee has created his own cuisine, a marriage of French and SoCal styles that he calls California Progressive. Soon he'll have company: a half-dozen new restaurants are slated for 2005. How long before Little Santa Barbara surpasses her big sister?
—Amy Westervelt