Best of Chico: Editors’ picks
The CN&R editorial staff takes this opportunity to tell you about some of our Favorite local superheroes
Best place to fling it
Peregrine Point disc-golf course
When it comes to Butte County’s disc-golf venues, there’s no doubt that Peregrine Point reigns supreme. This 18-hole course offers play for advanced players, but beginners shouldn’t be discouraged. So, while many disc-golf enthusiasts take their games as serious business, it’s OK to head up Highway 32 and leisurely enjoy the course. (Just don’t hold up others who are trying to enjoy it, too.) After all, this oak-studded hillside set within Bidwell Park offers some spectacular views of the canyon. Hats off to the members of the nonprofit Chico Outsiders recreation group for their dedicated work to keep the sport in this region of the park, and also for their ongoing efforts to maintain and preserve the site.
Best place to buy a pair of socks featuring the Virgin Mary
333 Broadway, 345-4880
Baker’s Birkenstock—long known for its shoes—has become sock central. For those for whom socks are a major part of their fashion statement, this is very happy news. Not only does the Birkenstock store stock women’s socks sporting the same wonderful image of La Virgen Maria de Guadalupe as appears on Mexican religious candles, it also offers a large array of other equally fun, decorative sock designs, such as mushrooms, sushi, Frida Kahlo, the Eiffel Tower, Godzilla, peace signs, cherry blossoms—even sock monkeys. Cool socks for men and kids as well (such as piranha socks for men, and flowery, wooly socks for toddlers.) Seasonal offerings, too, such as acorns, pumpkins, ghosts, turkeys, etc.
Best place to adopt a ball of algae
231 Main St., 343-5686
Home Ec had its grand opening July 12, and in four short months, Christianne Belles’ eclectic shop has already made its mark on the downtown scene for its intriguing, off-the-beaten-track offerings, such as “marimo” (Japanese for “ball seaweed”)—small round-growing balls of algae that one names and keeps in a bowl like the goldfish you win at the county fair. Like Cabbage Patch Kids of old, Home Ec’s marimo balls come with adoption papers. They’re also cute and furry, and according to legend, can bring luck, love and happiness to one who patiently and lovingly cares for them. There’s even an annual Spherical Algae (Marimo) Festival every October in Hokkaido, Japan—the natural habitat of marimo. Buy one and celebrate!
Best clothing to express the rebel in you
State of Jefferson T-shirts at Konjo
112 W. Second St., 342-1222
In honor of a revived, local-focused movement to have Northern California and southern Oregon secede from their respective states and form a new state called Jefferson, Konjo sells T-shirts (designed locally) sporting the striking double-X Great Seal of the State of Jefferson. Konjo (which means “beautiful” in Ethiopian) sells other cool-looking duds, too—dresses, tops, pants—as well as a great selection of creative handbags and trendy earrings made by local designers.
Best place to play catch
Oak Way Park
1500 W. Eighth Ave.
There are only a few things more satisfying than a game of catch with a buddy at Oak Way Park next to Emma Wilson Elementary, and those activities are too awesome for the human brain to process, so we’ll stick to playing catch. The grass at Oak Way is arguably the spongiest in town for those looking to go for the old all-out grab, and you’ll never run into the kind of crowds common to One-Mile or Hooker Oak. So grab the pigskin, a baseball or a Frisbee, and don’t forget you buddy (or your “A” game).
Best cold-beverage innovation to finally make it to Chico
Finally, the chance to enjoy refreshing iced tea loaded with black, gummy, fairly flavorless balls of tapioca starch! Anyone who’s been to China, or a big city’s Chinatown, knows about the boba milk teas, or bubble teas. And thanks to our local tea source—T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café—and our local Taiwanese food source—Broadway Market and Deli—can now take part in the tactile fun of drinking the tapioca pearls through over-sized straws here in Chico. Broadway Market & Deli offers traditional boba milk teas, and the T-Bar will add pearls in any of its wide selection of iced creations.
Best place to get hopped up
Home Brew Shop
1570 Nord Ave., 342-3768
It’s seems impossible that one tiny shop in Chico could have so many varieties of hops (in pellet, whole or extract form!), grains, yeast and anything else you might need to brew up your own craft beers at home. Then again, Chico is the home of microbrew pioneers Sierra Nevada, and the craft-brew craze in America is only getting crazier. So join the fun and head out to the north side of town and pick up the ingredients—and any other equipment, books, bottles and supplies you could need—for making beer or wine, and take advantage of 25 years of expertise to get you fermenting in the right direction.
Best reason to ask, “Can I touch it?” in public
The S.F. Giants championship trophy is in town
Despite the Sacramento Kings’ disappointing season, it was a good year to be a sports fan in Northern California. Not only did Chicoans get to bask in some of the glow of local hero Aaron Rodgers leading his Green Bay Packers to the championship, but a few weeks earlier—on 01/01/11—the San Francisco Giants’ World Series trophy made a tour stop in Chico’s downtown City Plaza. Touching was actually strictly forbidden (photos only), but we really, really wanted to.
Best way to improve your karma
Annie B’s Community Drive
Chico is a caring place, and nothing gives form to that caring better than Annie B’s Community Drive, held annually in August and September and sponsored by the North Valley Community Foundation. Named after Annie E.K. Bidwell, the wife of Chico’s founder and the woman who donated Bidwell Park to the city, the fundraising drive is a coordinated effort to raise money for a wide range of local nonprofit groups in Butte, Glenn, Tehama and Colusa counties. Under the leadership of Alexa Valavanis-Benson, the foundation has come up with a way to offer matching funds to each of the groups in amounts proportional to what they raise, giving donors even more reason to give. In the five years of the drive’s existence, it’s generated nearly $5 million in contributions. Most important, it’s become a rallying point for giving. The spirit of generosity that Annie B’s fosters encourages all of us to open our hearts and give back to our communities.
Best twist on a Long Island Iced Tea
Orange Julius at Panama’s
Where else can you go in Chico where the menu’s specialty is one drink done 31 different ways? Not only does Panama’s manage to make more than two dozen variations of the classic Long Island Iced Tea, but they also manage to sell them all for less than $4. The pours aren’t shy and flavors range from the traditional Texas (tequila) to the exotic Tokyo (midori). Our personal fave is the Orange Julius—it’s a fun and delicious, alcohol-infused take on a classic fruit drink. Cheers!
Best back-down from a bluff
Chico City Council’s repeal
It took the city of Chico more than two years to craft and pass an ordinance regulating medical-cannabis dispensaries, but it took the City Council only a month to repeal it. On July 5 the council passed an ordinance allowing two dispensaries of up to 10,000 square feet each (so they could grow the herb onsite as well as dispense it), but on Aug. 16 it repealed the ordinance. That’s because they’d had time to contemplate U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner’s threat to prosecute city officials for conspiracy if they went ahead with the ordinance. Council members thought he was bluffing, but they chose not to call that bluff and repealed the ordinance. Now they’re looking to draft one that won’t attract Wagner’s attention. Best of luck.
Best place to head -bang while eating lasagna
Monstros Pizza & Subs
628 W. Sacramento Ave., 345-7672
Monstros Pizza is known for two things: loud punk-rock shows and Uncle Al Fresco’s homemade lasagna. Just about every other week pedestrians walking along West Sacramento Avenue are inundated by loud basses, crashing drums and the tantalizing aroma of traditional deep-dish pizza, fresh garlic bread and lasagna. As you walk inside, swinging heads of hair gather around the wood floor sprinkled with sawdust, pulsating to the beat of the band, as the hungry Italian-food cravers sit in the large wooden booths against the walls. The thrashing, pasta-mashing local pizzeria is open Tuesday through Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m., and Friday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to midnight. Oh yeah, did we mention they serve beer?
Best Mexican take on meat and taters
So-Cal Burrito at Sol Mexican Grill
3269 Esplanade, 342-4616
French fries in a burrito? Say what? If you’re not from the southern part of the state, that’s probably your first reaction when you read the ingredients that Sol Mexican Grill tucks into its generously sized So-Cal burrito ($6.25). These crispy potato morsels aren’t the frozen fast-food variety either; they’re house-made fries, skin-on and delicious. But let’s not forget the combination that makes the Sol-Cal a winner. The counterpart to the spuds is carne asada that not only is tasty, but also gives the burrito a desirable dense texture. Add to those main ingredients some cheese, onions, cilantro, sour cream, guacamole and salsa, and you’ve got yourself one darn good burrito.
Best mystery meal
Shige’s Special at Annie’s Asian Grill
243 W. Ninth St., 891-9044
Always different (and always a total surprise), at eight bucks, chef Shige’s special is an amazing deal. It’s a divinely delicious and artfully arranged dish that always seems to include an array of delectable sushi items as well as whatever other tasty thing Shige feels inspired to make. Suitable for a one-person dinner or as an appetizer to share, Shige’s Special never disappoints.
Best business survival story
341 Main St., 895-8196
In the 31 years he’s been selling records, Ray Coppock has watched as the industry has gone from vinyl to CDs to iPod downloads and competitors have come and gone as well—mostly gone. But his Melody Records is still in business and doing OK, thank you. When he started in 1979, there were at least three record stores downtown, including the formidable Tower Records, but now his shop at Fourth and Main streets—which he shares with the equally durable and unique Ital Imports—is the last one standing. Overhead is low, and “I don’t need a lot to live on,” Coppock says, but there’s another reason Melody has survived: It’s a treasure trove for collectors who seek out rare releases and folks who think vinyl albums sound better than CDs. If you’re looking for Quicksilver Messenger Service’s classic first album, this is the place to go.
Best rabble-rousing senior citizen
For someone who’s 74 years old, Stephanie Taber is remarkably energetic. An active member of the Chico Tea Party Patriots group and regular attendee at City Council meetings, she was the driving force behind Measure A, the initiative measure on the special-election June 7 ballot. The measure, which would have switched council elections from November to June, was soundly defeated, with two-thirds of voters turning thumbs down. But it was a testament to Taber’s determination and energy (as well as the significant financial assistance the petition campaign received from local businessman Tom Dauterman) that it even got on the ballot.
Best top-secret wedding
Paul Zingg and Yasuko Hartley
Chico is a small town, and thus a place where a secret isn’t exactly easy to keep. So, it was pretty impressive that Chico State President Paul Zingg was able to keep his pending nuptials to Yasuko Hartley this past July on the downlow. Even better, it sounds like the ceremony was very sweet. It all took place at the Old Municipal Building downtown, with Mayor Ann Schwab officiating. She brought flowers and a rug to set a wedding-like environment, and only Hartley’s two grown daughters were in attendance. The CN&R got wind of the news the following week and when we asked the president about the occasion, he was clearly overjoyed. We couldn’t be happier for these newlyweds.
Best place to get schooled at pool
Angel of Billiards classes at the Down Lo
319 Main St., 892-2473, www.angelofbilliards.com
For all the amateur billiards players out there—and we know there are a lot of you!—the absolute coolest thing to come to Chico this year is Jackie “The Angel” Karol. When she moved to Butte County 10 months ago, she brought with her decades of experience (no, she’s not ancient—she just started shooting pool when she was 3). The sweet, calm-mannered Karol works at the Down Lo, where she offers her Angel of Billiards training classes on everything from perfecting your shooting stance to how to master the art of English. The four-hour classes are held on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with free intros on Monday evenings, 6-7. If classes aren’t you’re thing, get to know Karol by joining one of the many leagues she hosts at the Down Lo. We might just see you there.
Best reason to get to the farmers’ market early
Llano Seco bacon
If you like bacon like we like bacon, you must try a slice—or a pound—from Llano Seco Rancho, available every Saturday at the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market. While the rest of their pork selection is delicious, the bacon is what’s truly fit for a hero’s plate, as evidenced by the fact that it regularly sells out. Just sitting here writing about the thick slices as they sizzle in the pan, setting free the aroma of a delicious, home-cooked breakfast, is enough to make us wish it were the weekend. And did we mention that, once cooked, it damn near melts in your mouth!? Beware: Once you go Llano Seco, you may never go back to your store-bought brand again (yes, we speak from experience).
Best buffalo sandwich
Chico Locker & Sausage Co.
196 E. 14th St., 343-7370
If you thought that bison meat was an extinct commodity, then think again. You can devour your very own buffalo sandwich at Chico Locker & Sausage Co., which has been a hidden treasure in Chico for more than 40 years. The locally owned company offers award-winning meat products, which are made on the premises, like ham, bacon, smoked turkey, sausage, jerky, marinated tri-tip, pork chops, steak, ground beef and chicken breast. They offer a multitude of meat-related custom services other than their deli, too, such as smoking, catering, slaughtering and processing. Chico Locker has specials for each weekday, including their new buffalo tri-tip sandwich every Thursday—reason enough for us to go for a visit. Stop by between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. every Monday through Friday, or on Saturday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Best Place for an Oversized High-Five
You just aced that test, got the big interview or won Best of Chico and you need to celebrate big. It’s time to paint the town red, but let’s face it: friends are at a premium, and you certainly aren’t going to be investing your time in personal relationships anytime soon. Luckily enough, there’s a friendly and supportive inanimate object downtown totally there for you. The “Our Hands” sculpture in front of the Chico Municipal Center is perpetually poised for an enthusiastic greeting. Don’t be shy, this is sure to be the best high-five of your life. What’s the sound of one hand clapping another, giant hand? Success.