Big Buddha Lounge Oasis
By Sally Rice
Counterintuitive though it might seem, I was delighted to be stuck in gridlock traffic while heading back to Ojai after spending the day in Los Angeles – grateful for the long car ride home – anything to escape this oppressive, dreadful heat.
Now imagine, growing up in California, one would think tolerance to the summer sun would be a cultural byproduct. But as a true native by birthright, I implore, get this monster sun off my back for heaven’s sake, this desert climate is just too damn hot!
After two plus hours on the 405, (when are they going to finish road construction on that stretch of highway anyway, it’s been ten years) I was finally heading round the bend into Oak View, stringently aware of my speed as the drop from 65 mph to 30 mph is always an adjustment, when I spotted the Buddha Lounge, smack at three o’clock on the right. Humm, in the last week, at least three people have mentioned this joint, which, by the way, looks like a flagship dive bar with all the low rent trimmings. I’m drawn in, by curiosity and the need to finally exit this vehicle after so many hours on the highway.
There is a big mass of black asphalt that surrounds the structure, and that alone is cause for despair. I slip out of my car, and leap across the scalding pavement towards the single panel open door leading to what looked from the outside under a glaring sun, like a dark cave.
Once inside, lush oversized lounge chairs beckon “come hither”, Zen fountains gurgle, and cool breezes from fans emit a low humming noise that is somewhat haunting and calming simultaneously. These sensations filter through your senses as you cross the threshold into this Caribbean slash Balinese environment that, for this tired wanderer, was a welcome release from all of the havoc of the afternoon traffic and chaos of our modern world.
Not a soul was to be seen in this idyllic surrounding, where, Latin jazz bass and percussion was the soundtrack. Then, a young woman with curly brown hair emerged from the back room. “It’s so hot, you should try our coconut drink, it’s so refreshing.” Seconds later, she delivered it. That is, the real deal, as in a coconut, cut open, straw inserted and voila: coconut drink!
The late afternoon sun hit the horizon and shot long sharp beams of light onto a vegetable garden in the adjacent yard on the east side of the black asphalt driveway outside the window of the Buddha Lounge, where I sat, observing. Tall stalks of corn, and squash growing thick, surrounded by planted bouquets of flowers.
After recovering from the heat, and feeling fully satisfied in this tropical, Balinese-style hideaway, I glanced at the menu. It was happy hour, and on the menu, a chicken satay skewer cost a dollar. Beer was three dollars. The coconut drink, which I ordered, was five bucks.
It was marvelous. I had three.
As someone who doesn’t appreciate big plates, the choices were perfect: small bites, salads, and healthy beverages. There is a decent wine list too, and one could confidently say the Buddha Lounge qualifies as wine bar, but the real flavor of this place is refuge, and relaxation, with delights for all the senses.
In addition to the menu items, the Big Buddha Lounge doubles as a furniture store. That’s right, every piece of furniture is for sale, most of it imported from Bali. The lounge is open seven days a week, from 4 – 11 p.m. on weekdays, and 2-11 p.m. on weekends. Live music is performed most nights, which adds to the lure of this sanctuary.
The atmosphere is super cool, and low key, a diamond in the rough, waiting to be discovered. Come check it out, but keep it on the down low, because right now, it’s perfect, exactly as it is.