How can you not love a restaurant called Cha Cha Chicken (1906 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, 310/581-1684, www.chachachicken.com, Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., $10)? It looks just like it sounds—a slightly decrepit but brightly painted shack only a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier and the Third Street Promenade. You can’t miss it even if you’re driving quickly down Ocean Avenue.
The best place to get a table is definitely the palm tree–strewn patio area outdoors. It’s the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the wonderful and inexpensive Caribbean dishes that come from the fragrant kitchen. The jerk dishes bring a tangy sweetness to the table, while the ropa vieja heats up the plate, and the funky enchiladas put a whole new spin on a Mexican classic.
Salads, sandwiches, and wraps are popular with lighter eaters and the lunch crowd. Quaff an imported Jamaican soda or a seasonal agua fresca with your meal, since Cha Cha Chicken doesn’t have a liquor license.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition