Caffeinated in Chico

A look at some of the city’s hottest coffee houses

Photo By Matt Bates

Chico might be known as a party town, but it’s not the beer that people miss when they leave, it’s the coffee shops. A strong cup o’ joe and a pleasant atmosphere to drink it in are never far away. Let’s see where locals go near the Chico State campus to get caffeinated.

The Naked Lounge
118 W. Second St.
The coffee joint topping most favorites lists is The Naked Lounge. Someone told me it got its name from the workers roasting the coffee in the back room naked. Jared Truby, the barista on duty when I visited, told me they do in fact roast their own beans but with their clothes on, though he admitted it might not be a bad idea considering the hot summers. Truby attributed the popularity of Naked to the calm ambiance and antique feel of this San Francisco-like shop. The many couches are often occupied, and the walls hold the work of local artists. Customer Steve Spirk was in for chocolate chip cookies “to die for” and the Mexican hot chocolate. He also recommended the Bowl of Soul. Barnaby the Egg Man, a woman who may have given me a false name, said they have the best soy drinks—thick and consistent.

Has Beans Coffee and Tea Co.
501 Main St.
Neck and neck with Naked in popularity is Has Beans. Andrie Irons goes there for good coffee and free wireless (two nights a week; near-free other times). Aside from the dodgy folk who sometime hang around outside, Andrew Burke likes the friendly, non-pretentious staff and clientèle, the art that regularly changes and what he claims are the best bear claws in town. Adam Salz likes the weekly open mic and the shows that take place on the weekend. Mary Clare and Sheena, the two bean slingers on the clock when I visited, said they have a great selection of tea, excellent chocolate from Europe and carefully roasted coffee. The Dutch owner is very particular about the food and drink at Has Beans. Bring your own cup for a sizable discount.

Moxie’s Café & Gallery
128 Broadway
Deanna Johnson and Raquel Desimone didn’t need to think twice about why they like Moxie’s the best: “The art,” they exclaimed in unison. Rod Johnson drinks an iced coffee there every day. I found him sitting in his favorite seat by the French-door-like windows that open onto Broadway. Lindsay, the barista on duty, commented on the relaxed atmosphere, the wonderful regulars and what she believed to be the best selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes in Chico. Wi-Fi and a few desktop computers are available for a small fee.

Photo By Matt Bates

Upper Crust Bakery
130 Main St.
I found Christine Weston relaxing at an outdoor seat at the newly remodeled Upper Crust. She comes mostly for the pastries and enjoys the art that rotates monthly. Perennial winner of the Best Bakery honor in CN&R’s Best of Chico Readers’ Choice Awards, the popular bakery makes its own pastries, cookies, salads, quiches, grilled sandwiches and cakes. Upper Crust is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

246 Broadway
The wooden floors, comfy couches and outlets lining the walls invite students looking for a place to study into the downtown Starbucks. Jena Schroeder and Sarah Best, who were busy making drinks when I visited, pointed out that customers know what to expect when they enter a Starbucks, whether they’re from Georgia or Japan. Nichole Stenbak stopped typing a paper on her laptop to tell me that she liked the large tables, the fact that she can sit for hours and work, and that the coffee is the same as the Starbucks in her hometown.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea
145 Main St.
Kevin Spaulding was sitting in Starbucks as well, but only because his favorite coffee shop, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, was closed. Spaulding said Peet’s’ coffee is the best in Chico, but when I went to talk with the baristas at Peet’s the next day, I was told their manager would not let me talk with them. Such is the state of corporate coffee. What I can tell you is that Peet’s has some of the strongest coffee around, and it has good teas. The Jasmine Fancy Green Tea is good and affordable at $6.45 for a 4-ounce tin.

Photo By Matt Bates

Café Paulo
642 West Fifth St.
For possibly the best breakfast burrito with your morning cup of joe, check out Café Paulo. Katie Pirson, who made me a great Wildberry Smoothie, says they also make bagel and croissant sandwiches and they have free Wi-Fi. They close at 3 p.m. daily, so get there early.

Café Mondo
951 Nord Ave.
On the east side of town, where West Sacramento meets Nord, locals drink the drip coffee and espresso drinks at Café Mondo. Eric, behind the counter when I visited, told me all about their free-trade, organic and shade-grown coffee. Community is real important to the workers and owners at Mondo, which generates a healthy population of regulars. Though not using the free wi-fi, local Carlos was working on his laptop when I approached. He likes the quiet environment and the friendly staff who start making his drink before he orders it.

Common Grounds
Downstairs, Bell Memorial Union
Located on the Chico State campus, Common Grounds offers free Wi-Fi for university folk and 22 desktop computers for those without laptops. When Kate Larkin was finished working the espresso machine, she told me that it was an all-student staff and the majority of the clientèle are students. It’s open until 10 p.m. most nights, so students don’t have to go far to find the Internet, fellow classmates and caffeine.

Creekside Café
Also on campus is the Creekside Café. Victoria, occasionally looking up while she crafted a sandwich during the busy lunch hour, told me the place was so packed because of the friendly service, the custom-made sandwiches and drinks, and the fact that they know so many of their customers by name and know what they order. Chico State student Skylar Witkowicko said she likes Creekside because she can use her meal plan to order her morning pick-me-up.

There you have it. Needless to say we didn’t hit every coffee shop. In fact we would have taken up this entire space just covering all of the Starbucks in town. Consider this a good starting point. So drink up, remember to tip, order something if you are using the free wi-fi and enjoy the community that has formed around our most popular stimulant.