A bistro in Chico

Henri muses on fairies and magical potions at Oberon’s

FIT FOR A KING Tom Rider, owner of Oberon’s prepares to make a sandwich.

FIT FOR A KING Tom Rider, owner of Oberon’s prepares to make a sandwich.

Photo By Tom Angel

All about Oberon’s:
Oberon’s Bistro is located at 243 West 9th St. (corner of Salem) and is open Tues. through Thurs. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Fri. and Sat. until 9 p.m. Phone 892-9800.

“Tarry, rash fairy, am not I thy lord? Why does Titania cross her Oberon? Give me your little changeling boy to be my page.”

—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I was 12 the first time I saw a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My mother and I were visiting her sister in Chicago, and one cold Sunday afternoon in March, wind whipping off the lake and blustering up those broad avenues, we ducked down a side street and into a small theater—whose name escapes me—and then afterward went to dinner at my aunt’s favorite Polish restaurant.

I barely slept that night, and although it might have been the sausages, more likely it was my infatuation with the visions that had appeared before me inside the theater: a warm and mystical far-away Athens, drops of magical love potions, fairies that pranced through forests, and people who slept and dreamt and wed with flowers in their hair and had names like Hermia, Puck and Bottom.

Of course I loved Oberon, the king of the fairies, most of all—Oberon, who feuds with his wife, Titania, over a young boy whom she has taken from an Indian king and whom Oberon wants as his personal henchman. In fact, for my birthday one year, L. gave me a cute little West Highland terrier puppy that I named, quelle surprise, Oberon.

After a couple of days, we found its real owners—actually, they found us—and I had to give him back. L. felt bad and bought me an Oberon brand fishing pole, which I’ll never use but looks impressively masculine leaning up in the corner of my bedroom, and a framed poster of Uranus and its second-largest moon, Oberon. Turns out L. had found the puppy in the Village, wandering all alone and looking lost. Also turns out his real name was Spike.

So I was delighted to discover recently that right here in Chico is a wonderful little restaurant called Oberon’s Bistro. I headed over for lunch as soon as I heard. Since then I’ve been back several times for lunch and once for dinner. Each time the service was excellent and the food exquisite.

With just seven tables in a cozy little dining room, Oberon’s reminds me of some of my favorite neighborhood bistros in Paris. One chef, preparing meals, slowly and with obvious passion for food and his work, just across the glass-and-stainless-steel counter a few feet from the tables. One waiter, who clearly loves food and his work as much as the chef does and who recognizes you on your second visit. Wine displayed in racks next to the cash register. Appetizers and entràes that make use of as many local and organic ingredients as possible. And just the overall relaxing feel that you’re more a guest than a customer.

Oberon’s menu includes a range of excellent meat and vegetarian sandwiches ($4.50-$6.50). The fresh vegetable sandwich includes herbed cream cheese, carrots, onion, spinach, mushrooms, and cilantro; the turkey, ham, and roast beef are roasted in house. My favorite is the turkey and marinated artichoke hearts on croissant, although the bratwurst on sourdough was also très bien.

Entràes ($8.50-$15) include pesto salmon, tossed mostaccioli with sautàed green beans, shiitake-encrusted halibut with Dijon, steak and shrimp served with homemade corn tortillas, New York steak with bleu cheese, Thai eggplant with tomato salad, and apricot chicken breast. One of the specialties is the Plato del Sol—corn tortillas with shrimp, tomatoes, avocado, rice, cheese and onions ($11).

I’ll be back to Oberon’s again soon. It’s a great place to cozy up in on these blustery winter evenings—families will find it quite kid friendly, and there’s a children’s menu. I’m also looking forward to the warmer weather when Oberon’s will re-open its back patio—maybe the best place in town for a midsummer night’s dream.