N is for : Natural Cafe

Where: 508 State St., 962-9494; 361 Hitchcock Way, 563-1163;

5892 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 692-2363; thenaturalcafe.com.

What: Tasty, convenient health food since 1993.

How much: $5-$9 total (sometimes more for dinner specials).

The dish: The first Natural Cafe opened downtown 15 years ago and became an instant hit with Santa Barbara’s hungry and health-conscious. Now, with nine locations between SLO and Moorpark, it hasn’t lost its original flavor: Good, back-to-basics health food, tasty but not too exotic or spicy, with daily soup, pasta, and seafood specials. Favorites include the Natural Caesar (with avocado!), a vegetarian chili Zog Dog, and a full range of brown-rice, whole-wheat, steamed veggie cuisine. The menu includes poultry and fish as well. The smoothies alone are worth the trip, and they have some darn good desserts. The ambience is order-at-the-counter casual, well-lit, and clean, comfortably balanced between hip and hippy.

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