My first visit to California was waaaaay back in 1989 when I came out to visit my high-school friend Joe who had moved out to Carlsbad about a year earlier. On the first afternoon he took me to my first real Mexican restaurant. That place was (and still is) called Pollos Maria and it's in Carlsbad just a few blocks from the beach.
Pollos means "chicken" in Spanish and Maria, well Maria means "Maria" in Spanish... So, it's Maria's Chicken restaurant if it were in English. As you can sort of see in the photo above, it's located in an old converted house and has fire pits out front on the patio. Maria's specializes in flame-broiled chicken and other healthy Mexican food items.
I've always had a warm place in my heart for Pollos Maria since it was my "first". When I moved to Carlsbad a couple of years ago I would stop by at least once or twice a week on my way home to pick up a chicken combo that comes with rice, beans, and tortillas. I'd load up on the free chili-verde salsa and some of the fresh jalapeno-and-carrot mix.
It made for a great after-gym stop because I could sit outside by the fires in my sweaty clothes and no one'd mind. Like the Kebab Shop, Pollos Maria is a spot where everyone I've taken there has really enjoyed it. It doesn't have the addictive quality the Kebab Shop does but it's still super good. If you'd like to go, let me know and, if I'm in town, I'll go with you!