In the lobby of the big Doubletree Resort on East Beach, Café los Arcos has one major claim to fame: Channel Island fish chowder for $5.95 a bowl. Loaded with salmon, shrimp and scallops, this stuff is so thick a spoon could stand up in it. A bowl is a meal in itself.
1218 State St.; (805) 899-3100.
This restaurant on State Street exudes a down-home feeling and offers food to match, including mac 'n' cheese made with cheddar and gouda ($13) and such trappings as sweet and tangy fried pickles, sweet potato fries and cheddar jalapeño grits. I settled on the fried chicken salad ($14), the "salad" part assuaging the guilt for the fried part. Toss in some corn bread, cranberries and pumpkin seeds, top with an herb buttermilk dressing, and it's a happy collision of tastes in one bowl. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Dinner entrees $13 to $32.
-- Catharine Hamm
LA SUPER RICA TAQUERIA
622 N. Milpas St.; (805) 963-4940
There's always a line here and a wait. Oh, and the décor is definitely backyard patio. The portions? On the small side. The clientele? Definitely some odd ducks. All of which makes La Super Rica Taqueria a blast and a half. My dining companion, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and claims to know Mexican food like the back of his mano, swears his tacosde bistec ($3.10) were among the best he'd ever eaten. It was tough not to scarf down my enchiladas de plaza. With two soft drinks, our bill was $11.21. Worth every penny and then some.