New deli and market brings the British Isles to Chico
U.S.-U.K. Deli & British Market1722 Mangrove Ave.
Chico, CA 95926
I imagined a trip to the U.S.-UK Deli & British Market would be like a cheap trip overseas where a cockney-accented waiter would be serving up blood pudding on toast with bangers and mash while The Beatles and Kinks played nonstop. Almost.
Tucked away by Kinko’s on Mangrove Avenue, the restaurant cooks up traditional British and Irish menu items as well as American deli sandwiches and burgers.
The walls are covered with kitschy British décor—old beer signs, flags, maps, tea towels and even a kilt. It reminded me of my bedroom as a teenager, the walls plastered with postcards and photos when I was obsessed with all bands British.
A fresh-faced ball cap-wearing lad greeted me from behind the counter without a trace of an accent. Written on the board behind him were numerous sandwiches with names like the English Rose (turkey, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato on a French roll) and Her Majesty the Queen (same as the English Rose but with sprouts) for $6.99.
You can also “build your own” sandwich for $6.99. For a healthy alternative, the deli sells similar fare inside a wrap for the same price, including a crispy chicken wrap with chipotle aioli sauce.
The UK offerings include steak and kidney pies, sausage rolls, and curry or beef pasties, served with peas and mashed potatoes and gravy. There’s also an English roast beef dinner that comes with the mentioned sides as well as a Yorkshire pudding and carrots (all meals between $9.99 and $10.99).
We sat at the table nearest a large-screen TV with a muted soccer game on. I ordered the Aunt June’s beef pastie meal while my friends ordered a sausage roll meal and the Bass Ale beer-battered fish and chips, which comes with bread and butter, and a side of coleslaw or peas ($10.29).
While we waited, it was amusing to peruse the large inventory of grocery items. The market offers British teas (Typhoo and PGs, $5.99 for 40 teabags), sauces (HP sauce $7.99; Heinz Treacle $5.99), digestive biscuits, soups, cereals (Scott’s Porage Oats $7.95), beverages (Tizer, Tango, Ben Shaw’s Dandelion and Burdock, all $1.99) sweets and chocolates. The market also offers Vegemite and Marmite—both popular spreads in Australia and New Zealand, respectively. There is also a frozen case with to-go items, Irish soda bread ($5.75) and blood puddings ($4.99).
The deli sells Irish and English beers in the bottle or can ($3.99) such as Tetley’s English Ale and Boddington’s Pub Ale as well as domestic beer. I imagined rugged football fans converging on the deli to watch overseas matches on the big-screen TV and launching into rousing versions of pub songs while drinking beer from back home.
Our meals arrived within a few minutes. Not having the foggiest idea what to expect, I scrutinized my pastie—a tube-shaped item with a fried pastry shell. Filled with delicious roast beef and mashed potatoes, the pastie is comfort food: warm, tender and inviting like a soft couch on a Sunday afternoon.
The pasties and the sausage rolls are handmade by the native Irish mother of the brothers who own the deli (they moved to the area from England 13 years ago). My pastie was down my gob in a flash. I faithfully ate my peas, but was too full to finish the large serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. The gravy was unusual as it was sweet and clumpy. The cook said it’s made not from meat grease, but from the stock from roasted potatoes and carrots.
The fish and chips were the star of our table. The pieces were thick and tender, the coating of traditional beer batter was lightly crispy golden, and my friend became almost teary eyed when he told me between bites “this is the fish I’ve been looking for in Chico.”
Although a tad pricey, U.S.-UK Deli & British Market offers something different in Chico for those who want traditional tastes from across the pond. The atmosphere isn’t fancy, but the grocery items make the deli fun to visit. And the fish and chips will keep you coming back.