Cha Cha Chicken: A taste of the Caribbean in Santa Monica

by Kelsey
Cha Cha Chicken, Santa Monica Caribbean food: Jerk chicken enchiladas

I can’t think of many better ways to end a beach run than with some jerk chicken enchiladas and plantains. My meal at at Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica may have been my first real taste of Caribbean food but it most certainly won’t be my last — the enchiladas ($9.50) were topped with spicy-sweet mango pineapple jerk sauce and are served with red cabbage slaw, fried plantains and rice & black beans, which are similar to Cuban food’s moros y cristianos (black beans and rice). And both nations revere the crisply sweet plantains.

Also, don’t miss Cha Cha Chicken’s fresh agauas frescas ($3) — the mango-guava was a winner, though they also have watermelon and cantaloupe.

The restaurant (which can hardly be called that — “beach shack eatery” is more like it) makes up for its lack of sophistication with enthusiasm: a sunny yellow exterior and brightly-colored tropical tablecloths (albeit, plastic, sticky ones) are cheery and forgiving for beach-goers in casual wear.There are only four parking spots at the north end of the restaurant and street parking is mostly metered, so plan accordingly — we lucked out and got a spot in the lot.

The prices are a bit steep for a casual lunch and the almost too-lengthy wait made our hungry stomachs grumble a little, but the flavors are immensely satisfying, the frescas cool and fresh and, let’s be fair, you can show up to dinner here wearing running shorts and flip flops without so much as a “cha cha” from anyone. I’ll take it.

Cha Cha Chicken
1906 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405-1044
(310) 581-1684

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