No worries about chains - there really aren't any in Big Sur :)
We like to take a picnic when we go to Big Sur and then stop and eat whenever we find a good spot.
PGdenizen has given you a few choices in the Big Sur area, but keep in mind that this area is just an hour south of Carmel/Monterey. If you're hoping to get further south, your options become even more limited. Lucia is about halfway between Monterey and Cambria and, while there is a restaurant there, I would hardly call it "interesting". You'll find another eatery in Gorda and one at Ragged Point just before you descend from the higher elevations of Highway 1. Bot don't expect exciting food or expect to find it cheap. The remoteness and tourist aspects of the area demand higher prices.
If you can wait for Cambria, you'll find good options there. Robin's on Burton Drive has VERY interesting food choices. They serve international cuisine including Asian, Italian and Latin inspired food.
I agree with everyone's comments here: there are ZERO chains between Monterey and Morro Bay on Highway 1, and the food in Big Sur tends to be expensive because it's costly to deliver supplies. I just ate at Robin's in Cambria on Sunday and it's still as good as I remember. The fish tacos are especially recommended. This goList might give you more ideas of things to do.
I agree, the fish tacos at Robin's are wonderful, Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill also does some great ones and the views at "the rail" are amazing there! :)
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