Beachy keen

Put on your board shorts and flip-flops to visit Chico’s newest sandwich shop

SEAT ON THE BEACH<br> The sand-covered, window-front “beach” at the Beach Hut offers a coastal atmosphere with a view of Second Street passersby.

The sand-covered, window-front “beach” at the Beach Hut offers a coastal atmosphere with a view of Second Street passersby.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Open Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Beach Hut Deli

146 W. Second St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 893-0633

I love the beach. Love it. Sand. Relaxation. Good vibes. And the same can be said for a nice beach restaurant. You can walk in all salty from the sea, sand stuck between your toes, smelling of sunscreen …

Sorry, I was daydreaming a bit there. I almost forgot we’re in Chico. But there is a new little downtown hangout that evokes the seaside spirit, if not in its cuisine definitely in its décor.

The Beach Hut Deli opened in December and, despite my original misgivings about having yet another sandwich shop in Chico, I gave in, took a couple of trips there, and realized I quite liked it. The offerings may not be as health-conscious as Subway’s (they slather mayo on just about everything), and they may not be as cheap as Kona’s (though you can get a decent-sized meal for less than $8). And they certainly don’t have a dancing pickle to tickle your taste buds.

But you know what they do have? That beachy feeling.

My first Beach Hut adventure was a tame one. I was skeptical. And the menu was weird. Who puts cream cheese on a sandwich? So I started out simple—the Skinny Dipper (roast beef, cheddar, onions, mayo and au jus). It was yummy, though fairly generic, but my only real complaint was that it arrived with the mayo that I had expressly requested none of.

I gave the Beach Hut a few months to work out its kinks and went back in for a second try. This time I was feeling more adventurous. I ordered the Santa Cruz, which came with a generous helping of pastrami, bacon and cream cheese (it also comes with avocado, which I’m sure is delicious, but sadly I’m allergic). I also chose lettuce and onions from the list of free add-ons. A size small, which was more than enough for lunch (or dinner), set me back $6.90.

Though my second trip yielded far better marks, I wanted to go back once more—I had been dying to dine “on the beach.” And I’m too chicken to do it alone, so I brought along two co-workers. We brought our Frisbee plates and drinks to the back of the restaurant—it’s bigger than it looks from the outside—and took a small step up into faux paradise, complete with sand and beach chairs. Oh, and a nice view of Second Street.

It was truly one of the more fun dining experiences I’ve had in Chico—sitting in a display case, people-watching and getting funny, surprised looks from people on the street. The only thing that would have made it better would have been chill-out, beach music. The club mix was bad and not at all fitting with the mood.

This time around I tried the Shark Bite ($6.40)—a strange but delicious combo of ham, swiss, cream cheese, barbecue sauce, onions and bacon. Once again, the amount of meat was impressive, about an inch thick—a far cry from the three or four small slices you get at some other sammich shops in town. The owner, Kurt Russell (yes, that’s his real name), fashioned my meal himself and promised it’d be a good one (he was right).

Russell, who moved here from Granite Bay, where he grew up on Beach Hut grub (that’s where it started, in 1981), also offered some insight into his plans. He hopes to offer live, acoustic music on Fridays, aside from hosting DJs on Thursdays. I ducked in on a Thursday night for a few minutes to sample the vibe and play a free game of foosball—pretty low-key, but it was late.

My favorite thing about the Beach Hut, by far, is the ambiance. It’s bright and cheery and the surfboard tables and other décor truly evoke that beachy feeling (but they must do something about that music). And it doesn’t hurt that the beers are cheap ($1.75 a pint!) and that the sandwiches, while not spectacularly better than the competition, are pretty darn good (and unique).