Custom House 404 Front St., (805) 595-7555. B-L-D daily; $$$.
This is a new incarnation of the town’s historic 1927 custom house, which also previously served as a restaurant under that name from 1971 to 2002. A gigantic wide-open, high-ceilinged dining room is lined with comfortable oversize black-leather booths, and seating is also available outside on both sheltered and unsheltered patios. Located just across the street from the beach, it has great views of the ocean and people-watching is also primo.
The restaurant is known for big breakfasts and its Bloody Mary, plus great steamers, seafood, prime steaks, and oven-fired flatbreads. Machaca--scrambled eggs mixed with marinated beef, sweet red onions, sliced peppers, corn chips, and salsa, then topped with queso fresco and scallions and served with refried beans and crispy hash browns--is getting popular, and I really liked the double-decker BLT with avocado and what might be the world’s largest onion rings (the waiter told me the onions they are made from are the size of a human head). Olallieberry pie from the Avila Valley Barn is a dessert option.
When you’re not in town, you can keep up with what is happening in real time via a webcam that is posted atop the restaurant.
Mr Rick’s bar (805) 595-7425. is adjacent. The beach-front patio is a great place to watch a sunset, and live music is often scheduled.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers