A welcome court gesture

Fish & Chix brings the real deal to the Chico Mall food court

Manager Jonathan Jehle stands with his wife, Katie, in front of Fish & Chix.

Manager Jonathan Jehle stands with his wife, Katie, in front of Fish & Chix.

Photo By matt siracusa

Fish & Chix
Chico Mall, 343-7084, Open daily 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Fish & Chix

1950 E 20th St.
Chico, CA 95928
# B209

Henri was depressed. He’d been unable to find the Burberry brushed-cotton blazer he’d seen advertised in GQ, at least in his size, and he feared that he’d have to brave the fall season with last year’s jacket (an otherwise perfectly charming Gucci two-button).

We were out at what passes for a mall here in Chico (I never in a million years thought I’d be missing Gottschalks!), and it was bleak. Not only were my shopping exploits proving fruitless, but there was just a general sense of despair. The stores were empty, clerks and salespeople looked bored, and a few small groups of kids idled away the last days of their summer vacations.

I found a bench and sat down. “I could use a drink.”

Colette sat down beside me. “I think there’s an Orange Julius in the food court.”

“Oh, perfect,” I said. “Did you bring the vodka?”

“It’s 11:30,” she said.

“And your point is …?”

She shrugged. “Maybe that it’s a bit early. How ’bout some lunch?”

“At the new little French bistro next to Orange Julius? I wouldn’t know whether to order the bouillabaisse or the fresh fig salad.”

“Oh, don’t be that way. Come on.” She took my hand and pulled me up, and I followed her down to the food court, where, surprisingly, we had a very good lunch at a little fish-and-chips-and-chicken place called Fish & Chix, tucked in among the standard Asian-pizza-frozen-yogurt franchises.

Fish & Chix is independently owned and operated, the manager, Jonathan Jehle, having graduated from the Kitchen Academy (now Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) in Sacramento. The menu is limited but the food fresh and good. Fish, shrimp, chicken and burgers ($6-$7) come with fries (chips), although you can order à la carte. Side dishes ($3-$4) include clam chowder, turkey chili, cole slaw and spinach salad. Substitute one of the sides for fries and it’s only another 50 cents or so. Condiments, including Newman’s Own salad dressings, and plasticware are on the counter.

Fresh, hand beer-battered fish and chips.

Photo By matt siracusa

Hesitant at first (it was a food court, after all), I ordered the fish and chips ($5.95/$4.45 without fries) and was quite taken aback. While I expected frozen, pre-battered fish pulled from a waxed-cardboard box and tossed into a microwave, Jonathan instead took four large pieces of Icelandic cod out of the refrigerator and then dipped them one by one into his homemade beer batter before deep frying. And it was very good, as was Colette’s fish sandwich ($5.95/$4.45). I also ordered a cup of clam chowder ($1.75), which was quite tasty, although Jonathan apologized for having just made it. “Soup’s always better the next day,” he said, shrugging. “What can I say?”

In fact, we liked Fish and Chix so much that we’ve been back several times. Colette’s pesto chicken sandwich, the pesto made with walnuts instead of the customary pine nuts, was good, and I was impressed with the spinach salad, which came with chopped tomatoes, sliced red onions and cucumbers and a sprinkling of fresh mozzarella, over which I poured a packet of Newman’s Own balsamic vinaigrette. I also tried the grilled tiger shrimp (eight small shrimp on two skewers), which were delicious, although for mon appétit would serve better as hors d’oeuvres.

The only disappointment so far has been the battered shrimp, which were so small that they kind of got lost in the batter, which in turn absorbed more of the oil than when covering the larger pieces of fish. “You should probably be eating more salad anyway,” Colette said.