Best of Oroville

Best new use of an old place

The Axiom
On the edge of downtown, in a building once used by the neighboring auto business, Orovillians have joined forces to create a safe gathering place for young people. That place is The Axiom, which opened in September and already needs to expand. Tuesdays through Fridays, from 3 to 9 p.m., junior high and high school students come to the center to socialize, play pool or foosball, or play video games—all for free. There’s also a coffee bar that keeps prices low (latte: $1.15). Donations fund The Axiom; volunteers helped with the renovation. Ironically, they have to tear down one of the new walls to develop some of the unused space in the back, where soon a stage will be completed so the center can hold shows. Very, very cool. 2130 Montgomery St., 533-8010;

Best feel-good meal

The Axiom

Photo By Evan Tuchinsky

It’s always great to have a warm, tasty, filling meal. Helping young people in the process is fresh parmesan on the marinara. Checkers participates in the Regional Occupational Program, offering teens a chance to learn job skills at an actual job. So the student who caters to you at Checkers may wind up doing the same at the Steak House or Red Tavern. But don’t think of this place as a charity case—the food is scrumptious, which after all is the prime reason to eat at any restaurant. 109 Table Mountain Blvd., 538-2007;

Best down-home cookin’

Big Moma’s Fish & Stuff
Big Lem’s fans may take issue with us, and this certainly is no knock on his amazing barbecue—but there only can be one “best,” and we’re giving the nod to Big Moma’s Fish & Stuff. Dorothy Alexander, aka Big Moma, does fish right in her piquant Cajun creations. The “Stuff” includes BBQ, fried chicken, mouth-watering yams and heavenly sweet potato pie. There’s no place like home, and Big Moma’s is like a home away from home. 455-B Oro Dam Blvd., 532-0110

Best ethnic restaurant

Tong Fong Low
Tong Fong Low has deep roots in downtown, and it is easy to see why it remains a popular choice for Chinese food. Its menu ranges from the basics such as fried rice and chow mein to more exquisite dishes, including sautéed shrimp in the house special sauce. The take-out option and call-in orders are nice, but nothing beats dining in the large back room decorated with giant bamboo and Chinese fans. 2051 Robinson St., 533-1488

Best place to shop for a gift

Mary Lake-Thompson Ltd.
People may not realize that this classy, subtle shop on Montgomery holds items coveted across the nation—and created right here. Mary Lake-Thompson is an artist who has called Oroville home for 30 years. She designs everything, from the towels and totes to the sachets and soaps, and her employees handcraft the products in “The Factory,” down the street from the store. Check online or visit downtown to see all she has to offer. 1870 Montgomery St., 533-9073;

Best-tasting gift

Riverbend Park

Photo By Evan Tuchinsky

Lodestar Olive Oil
You can give this to a foodie friend, or make it a present for yourself. Lodestar’s oil has a distinctive flavor—buttery and light. That makes it particularly good for bread, and thus the popularity of the balsamic dipping oil. The lemon oil is special, too, made by pressing lemons with the olives. Try it yourself at the tasting room. 3719 Foothill Blvd., 534-6548;

Best spot to spend an afternoon

Riverbend Park
Anyone who’s gotten off Highway 70 at Montgomery knows there’s something major to the west. The metal arch proclaiming “Feather River” and “Catch the Dream” provides entry to a project that’s partway complete yet already fabulous. Riverbend Park features a series of picnic pavilions linked by the gently curving driveway. There’s a boat launch, playground equipment, a fountain for waterjet hopping and pathways for strolling. Further construction is taking place on the northern side, but there’s already plenty of room to move around. Check with the park district for pavilion rentals and other information. 1 Salmon Road Run, 533-2011;