An unexpected catch
Henri gets a line on The Tackle Box Bar & Deli
Chico, CA 95928
No doubt Henri’s legions of readers are well aware of a recent trend in the restaurant industry: Young chefs giving their high-end restaurants unusual names, often with no connection whatsoever to their menu or even to food.
New York’s August serves gnocchi with sea-urchin brodo and grilled lamb belly with tzatziki, and One if by Land, Two if By Sea features wild-mushroom risotto and duck terrine with fennel vinaigrette. Of course, there’s the French Laundry, in Yountville, but also San Francisco’s Foreign Cinema, specializing in innovatively prepared seafood. And in Oakland: Boot and Shoe Service, which offers inventive thin-crust pizzas and Alice Watersy salads (and which, despite its name, serves neither sole nor tongue but where, presumably, one could go for a last supper).
So naturellement, Henri was thrilled to learn of a new restaurant in Chico, the Tackle Box Bar & Deli. California cuisine, perhaps? Asian fusion? Designer pizza?
We headed over, and Colette pulled Pierre into a parking space between two pick-up trucks the size of Notre Dame—which should have tipped us off.
Turns out the Tackle Box restaurant is actually an expansion of the adjacent Tackle Box sporting-goods store, which itself, apparently, takes its name from the luggage that fisherpeople carry. The store sells all manner of shooting and fishing things: bullets and bait and plastic ducks, presumably to entice real ducks to fly down out of the sky so you can kill them. It also sells “camo” and Girls With Guns designer-label clothing—wearers of which are offered discounts at the bar.
And instead of fava-bean salad with kiwi-infused olive-oil dressing, the Tackle Box serves alligator and frogs’ legs (Francophobe and appendage jokes entirely unwelcome, s’il vous plaît), as well as burgers ($6.99-$10.99), sandwiches ($4.99-$6.99), fish and chips ($6.99-$14.99), clam chowder ($5.99), several salads ($3.99-$7.99), and rib-eye and New York steaks (market value). There’s also a full breakfast menu with omelets, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and burritos ($3.99-$7.99).
The “dining room” consists of two picnic tables, watched over by a mounted deer head and a stuffed bear, standing upright beside the soda dispenser and half-dozen beer kegs. In the adjacent (full) bar are a dozen or so more tables, as well a stage for live music (Thursday-Saturday—karaoke on Sunday), with an adjoining smaller room with two pool tables.
Colette looked at me and shrugged. “Might as well eat, since we’re here.”
“And famished,” I added.
Colette took a deep breath and ordered the Cajun-seasoned barbecued alligator and fries ($10.99—it also comes deep fried), and while I was tempted to try the frogs’ legs ($8.99, deep fried), I went with the special, a barbecue tri-tip sandwich on a French roll.
As we waited for our food, we munched on peanuts—there’s a bucketful on each table—tossing our shells onto the sawdust- and shell-covered concrete floor. We didn’t wait long.
Colette had never had alligator before. It was in bite-sized pieces on top of a bed of large french fries. She poked at it for a moment, then took a nibble. “Not bad,” she said, offering me a bite. “Tastes like …”
“Chicken,” we said together.
She was right, though. It was pretty tasty, if a bit chewy. I liked my sandwich, too, stuffed with meat and dripping barbecue sauce.
A man at a table next to ours was raving, for all to hear, about his frogs’ legs. “They just make me feel so hoppy,” he said, laughing loudly.
“I’m glad I didn’t get these deep fried,” she said. “This is rich enough. Want my fries?”
We left, totally stuffed, and located Pierre, which she carefully backed out of the abyss.
We returned several days later for breakfast. I had a burrito with sausage, tomatoes, salsa, cheese, potatoes and scrambled eggs—the best thing I’ve tasted there so far—and Colette just had a “specialty coffee,” simply pushing the button on the machine, which, amazingly, knew exactly when her Styrofoam cup was full.