I recently spent a couple of weeks in Pismo Beach and decided to sample the clam chowder in a bread bowl at three of the popular restaurants in the pier area. Food is always "subjective," so this is simply a recounting of my experience (yours may vary):
Splash Cafe - Very rich with a generous portion of clams. And the bread was super fresh. This was definitely the winner! Indeed, I went back a second time to confirm my findings. (This is a "counter service/seat yourself" style restaurant.)
Brad's Restaurant - This was a very good offering, although it was more seasoned than the others. Indeed, they sprinkled additional seasonings/herbs over the top of the serving. Were I to order it again, I would ask to omit that additional seasoning. Second place.
Chele's Food & Spirits - If Brad's was over-seasoned, this was slightly bland. And it sort of tasted like filler. That said, it was still pretty darn good. I wouldn't hesitate to order it again, but I probably wouldn't come here JUST for the chowder. Third place.
So there you have it. Can't wait to return and try it all again! :-)