Editors’ picks 2010

Our personal rock stars

Underground travel adventure

Chada Thai
117 W. Second St., 342-7121

This delightful little Thai restaurant is tucked away in the basement below Brooklyn Bridge Bagel Works on Second Street in downtown Chico. The stairway is nondescript concrete, but once you’re through the restaurant’s doors, you’ve left workaday Chico behind and are in another world altogether. Savory smells from the kitchen and colorful Thai decorations offer a rich sensual experience even before you reach your table. Then there’s the food, a full menu of delicious Thai dishes, including an extensive vegetarian menu that substitutes tofu for meat or seafood. You’ll leave Chada Thai feeling like you’ve traveled to a magical place.

Local promoter of the arts

Thomasin Saxe

If you have never heard Thomasin Saxe’s name, then you need a little more art in your life. She’s not only the director of special projects for Chico State’s College of Humanities and Fine Arts, but she also sits on the 1078 Gallery’s board of directors as the exhibitions chair. At Chico State, she keeps the Humanities Center Gallery bustling with new art each month and also keeps the annual University Film Series in full swing. At 1078, she stays on top of art exhibits and does an exceptional job of keeping the community updated about upcoming art shows and receptions. She’s also taken it upon herself to keep the media in the loop about art events in the community, with plenty of time in advance to get the word out. It’s a noble mission that definitely contributes to what the Chico art scene has become today. Keep it up, Thomasin—we appreciate your hard work!

Place to take your parents

Thursday Night Market

The strollers and high-school kids can sometimes get in the way, but for non-native Chicoans, the Thursday Night Market is a great way to give your out-of-town ’rents a little taste of Chico when they visit. The vendors will notice your dad’s Tommy Bahama shirt and will summon him over for a taste test, and your parents will be delighted at the lemony spreads and variety of sweet and spicy almonds at the sample counters. On top of that, it’s easy to stop in for a quick bite to eat at one of our always-tasty downtown restaurants. Mom and Dad will surely be charmed by your little town, and helping the local merchants just spreads the love.

Place to have your parents take you

Johnnie’s Restaurant & Lounge
220 W. Fourth St., 895-1515

College students, take a hint from us: Don’t take your parents to your favorite bar to show off your drinking skills and the greasy burgers you down regularly. Instead, impress them with the swanky little gem hiding inside the Hotel Diamond—Johnnie’s Restaurant. With a full bar featuring fancy drinks, an impressive selection of posh appetizers and full-flavored, meticulously presented entrées—plus an elegant atmosphere accompanied by live piano (and the occasional jazz) music—Johnnie’s is certainly one of Chico’s classiest joints. With a menu ranging from tender filet mignon to sophisticated mac ’n’ cheese, and an extensive wine list, this will give you an opportunity to eat better than you’re likely to the rest of the semester. Also, avoid making your parents crash on your uncomfortable futon and suggest they get a room at the hotel.

Lar Lar Hot Sauce from Tong Fong Low

Heat source

Lar Lar Hot Sauce from Tong Fong Low
2072 E. 20th St., Chico, 898-1388; and 2051 Robinson St., Oroville, 533-1488.

If a restaurant that’s been around for nearly 100 years is selling some of its signature sauce in a jar for only $5.50, you have to buy it. If you’ve ever ordered anything from the spicy menu at Tong Fong Low—either from the new Chico shop or the 98-year-old Oroville restaurant—this is the flavor that’s been added to your dish. A simple blend of red peppers, black beans, garlic, salt and plenty of vegetable oil, the sauce is rich and smoky and of course packs some heat. It’s the perfect flavoring for a stir fry or anything else you’d normally enhance with Huy Fong sriracha or even the ubiquitous Tapatío hot sauce. In measured doses, it’d probably even be a smokin’ base for barbecue marinade. In fact, it’s so flavorful, and the heat is reasonable enough, that you can actually eat it by the spoonful right out of the jar.

Place to buy petits fours

Mim’s Bakery
890 Humboldt Ave., 345-3331

Petits fours—those iced delicacies that are basically a tiny, guilt-free version of a whole cake—are a common sight in French patisseries. But one does not have to travel to Paris to experience the mouth-watering delight of a fancily decorated, raspberry- or lemon-filled petit four. You don’t even have to leave town, in fact. They’re available right here in Chico’s Chapmantown neighborhood in the bakery case of Mim’s Bakery (and in the Mim’s case at downtown’s Made in Chico). Absolument délicieux!

The Tackle Box Deli

Place to eat fried alligator

The Tackle Box Deli
379 E. Park Ave., 898-9761

Perhaps the most interesting twist on a traditional fishing and hunting sporting goods store is the recent expansion of the Tackle Box. Just next door to the store is a deli—opened in April—and a bar that’s large and in charge, with a stage and game room. But what really makes this place unique is the deli, which offers staples such as burgers and fish ’n’ chips alongside more exotic fare like alligator—choice tenderloin imported from Louisiana—and frog legs, served up all fried and delicious. Apparently there are plans in the works to offer more exotic meats, like kangaroo, sometime in the near future—so watch out!

Place to expand your sewing skills

The Rabbit Hole
2607 The Esplanade, 345-5015

Avid quilters are most likely familiar with this shop in north Chico, but for those seamstresses and fabric hounds who have yet to enter the Rabbit Hole, you’re in for a treat. The shop completely lives up to its name, with a very small storefront that leads into a large space that seems to keep going and going—in fact, owner Sandy Scott recently leased the space behind the Rabbit Hole and expanded her shop to include a classroom. Learn everything from beginning quilting to making fun, quirky purses. Classes just started in September, and considering Scott started out in 2004 with just 350 bolts of material and now offers more than 4,000, it’s safe to say there’s no limit to the possibilities. Check it out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rabbitholequiltshop for info on upcoming classes and specials.

Place to have a baby

The Birth Day Place

We’re eager to get a look-see at Enloe Medical Center’s new Nettleton Mother & Baby Care Center, which is scheduled to open next summer. We understand it’s going to be a comfortable place to have a baby, with private birthing rooms with showers. Which makes us think it’s going to be a lot like Feather River Hospital’s The Birth Day Place, which pioneered the concept of birthing suites locally many years ago. The goal at The Birth Day Place is to create an environment that is as home-like as possible, but with the added benefit of an endless supply of hot towels, a whirlpool bath, medications and anesthesia if needed, and excellent nurses and physicians. There’s room for family members to attend the birth and a bed for Dad if he wants to stay the night. Windows look out on a landscaped garden. It’s a serene and comforting facility. And, for women who prefer to have a midwife present, the excellent Paradise Midwifery Services is nearby.

Monikah Niemczynowicz

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Name for a funky art and music maven

Monikah Niemczynowicz

The woman with the last name that’s too big to fit comfortably in a jingle or a rap song is the curator of the busy art and music calendar that seems too big to fit into her tiny neighborhood café. Despite its very cozy stature, Café Flo (365 E. Sixth St.) remains one of the most vital Chico arts venues thanks to Monikah Niemczynowicz’s calendar of local and touring musicians, plus rotating exhibits by local visual artists. And this weekend provides the perfect snapshot of Niemczynowicz’s (pronounced “Nee-em-chin-o-veech”) eclectic scheduling: Friday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m.: progressive rock of various pedigrees with Chico’s Clouds on Strings, Portland’s Microtia and No Quarter from Woodland; Saturday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m., it’s all acoustic with locals Zach Zeller and Geoff Baker, plus S.F. singer/songwriter Cyndi Harvell.

Name for a funky art and music space

Ol’ Hawk Eye’s Art Shackle
641 Nord Ave.

Chico has had its share of DIY arts and music venues with cool names operating somewhere outside of the downtown sphere of influence: Crux, TiON, The 46, Half-Assed Art Gallery, and of course, the D.I.Y.R.G.—the Do It Yerself Rock Garage. The baton has now been handed to Ol’ Hawk Eye’s Art Shackle and its founder, Naiya Sullivan. Taking up residence in one of the funky strip-mall spaces on Nord Avenue, the Art Shackle is Sullivan’s place to make her own art as well as a “community-art collaborative” and music performance space. So far, the Art Shackle has hosted a handful of metal and punk shows (and will continue to do so), and Sullivan is in the process of putting together a series of art workshops. Look up “Ol’ Hawk Eyes” on Facebook and get the early word.

Place to worship in your own way

Cafe Culture
931 W. Fifth St., 345-6045

From dance church to drum circles and aura-balancing, Café Culture has everything one would need to connect with his or her spiritual side. Get your body moving with Zumba or enjoy an open-minded discussion during Aristotle’s Café. No matter what you believe in, Café Culture provides plenty of family-friendly outlets to maintain the strong bond between your spirit, mind and body, without all the denominational divisions that exist in an overtly religious setting.

The Grand View

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Architectural improvement

The Grand View
Third and Main streets

We have owners Scott and Ellen Stephens to thank for investing in one of downtown’s signature buildings—the long-time home of M. Oser & Co. at Third and Main streets—and restoring it to a thing of beauty, renamed The Grand View, that houses several local businesses. For more than a century Oser’s was Chico’s premier department store. As a newly placed plaque on the building states, it was completely remodeled in 1925. Oser’s closed in 1986, and in the ensuing years the building went through various incarnations, including as home to a sporting-goods store and an antiques emporium. The Stephenses have beautifully restored the exterior. Most important, they’ve added floor-to-ceiling windows on the second floor, giving the building a brighter look. They’ve also added a portico roof and given the building a classy paint job. Downtown is a prettier place because of their commitment to this historic building.

Fritz McKinley

Hair at City Hall

Fritz McKinley

This city official’s gray locks are long enough now that he’s developed that ultra-cool hair-flip thing that surfers do. We’re not sure what McKinley does during his time away from his day job as the director of Building & Development Services. Could be he’s got a second job modeling for the covers of romance novels. He’s too dapper to be a roadie for, say, Phil Lesh and Friends. Whatever’s going on here, the dude’s hair is cool. We have only one question for him: What shampoo do you use?

Comanche Creek

Undiscovered paradise

Comanche Creek

Call it Edgar Slough or Comanche Creek. Either way, this waterway in south Chico is a rich riparian habitat, and a place that local outdoorsmen and -women would have a great time exploring if they knew it existed. Oh, and if it was open to the public. The city purchased about 15 acres along the creek back in 2006, but has kept it fenced off. It’s too bad, because the region would make an excellent creekside greenway. That was, after all, the idea when the City Council approved its purchase for $1.25 million. The property begins just west of the little bridge near the intersection of South Park and East Park avenues that goes over the waterway. A peek at the creek from that spot reveals its potential.

Doggie birthday cake

Ace’s Cakes

Ace’s Cakes (www.acescakes.com) came into existence shortly after the passing of Ace, the beloved dog of city Arts Commission Chairwoman Carin Hilgeman, from bone cancer. Ace’s Cakes offers its signature, bone-shaped “Ace Cake,” made from wholesome ingredients such as whole-wheat flour, carob and plain yogurt, as well as a take-and-bake Ace Cake and mini-Ace Cakes. Peanut-butter and blue-berry-peanut-butter dog biscuits are available also. Added bonus: All local orders are delivered!

Place to get a locally made dog collar

All Cats and Dogs
228 Main St., 894-0364

Local doggie designer Patti Myers’ trendy, colorful dog collars will be the envy of everyone at the dog park. Top it off with one of Myers’ equally fashionable, snuggly, felted-wool doggie sweaters when the weather gets chilly. For those with a male pooch with a peeing problem, Myers makes attractive “belly bands” to slip around the dog’s middle during visits to someone’s house to keep Fido from leaving his mark on their furniture. Store owner and animal lover Gayle Fritz also stocks a variety of toys, bowls, beds and natural treats for dogs and—as the name implies—cats as well.

Annie’s Asian Grill

Place to eat bulgoki

Annie’s Asian Grill
243 W. Ninth St., 891-9044

Bulgoki—or Korean marinated, barbecued beef (or pork)—is one of those divine meat dishes that is hard to stop eating until your tummy hurts. Annie’s gives you just the right amount of the yummy, thinly sliced meat, though, in its build-your-own bento box ($9.95), which includes two entrées, steamed rice, green salad, miso soup and choice of gyoza (pork potsticker) or California roll. A smaller bulgoki “lunch plate”—with steamed rice and green salad—will run you a modest $7.50.

Stupid crook story

Laura Jane Murray

The CN&R doesn’t always cover bank robberies, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t paying attention. In July, the story of Laura Jane Murray’s alleged three-robbery spree that ended in a bizarre arrest (she locked the keys in her getaway car!) was just too much to ignore. Here’s how it goes, as told in the Sacramento Bee and Enterprise-Record: On July 14, Murray was arrested in Paradise after apparently telling a friend she’d robbed the Oroville Sierra Central Credit Union the day before. Police found the money on her, but because she was infected with MRSA—which is highly contagious—she was brought to Oroville Hospital rather than Butte County Jail. When she was released the next day, she retrieved her car from the impound lot and allegedly told police she was planning another robbery. A few hours later, a woman matching Murray’s description robbed Butte Community Bank. Here’s the bizarre part: A week later, Murray was arrested in Davis outside a Union Bank allegedly trying to break into her own car. Police say she’d just robbed the bank and had locked her keys in the getaway car.

Local scandal

Tony Symmes’ real-estate scam

This story, told in detail in the CN&R cover story for July 1, “Web of deception,” by Tom Gascoyne, had it all: $21 million in ill-gotten gains; expensive cars; escapes to foreign countries; body builders with neck tattoos; a puffed-up mixed-martial-arts cage fighter; $20,000 stuffed into a Pringles potato-chip can and sent overseas; and for good measure, a conviction for a federal hate crime perpetrated in a popular Chico bar. Symmes, owner of Aspire Homes and Chico’s largest developer, has acknowledged that greed sucked him into a dangerous scheme masterminded by an unlicensed Paradise mortgage broker named Garrett Griffith Gililland III. In the sinking housing market, Symmes had 62 unsold homes, and when Gililland approached him offering to create phony mortgages to purchase them at inflated prices, Symmes went for it. The scheme began to unravel when local law-enforcement officers began to make a connection between a number of houses being used for marijuana grows and Aspire Homes. Symmes is cooperating with authorities and has paid $4 million in restitution. He faces sentencing in November.

Place to change your identity

Alter Ego Costumes
2260A Park Ave., 230- 2107

Taking a step into the 4,000-square-foot building, anyone would be overwhelmed with the amount of shirts, dresses and numerous other costumes that fill the space. But fear not, the staff is friendly and appear to know just where to find just about everything in the expansive shop. Customers are encouraged to call ahead to set up an appointment for a fitting—especially leading up to Halloween, the store’s busiest time. The better idea you have for a costume, the better they can fit you. If you need inspiration, check out their books of photographs. They’ve dressed up kids, teens, adults—they even create entire wardrobes for the casts of many local theater companies. From gangster suits and flapper dresses to full-body turkey suits and bunny rabbit head pieces, you’re bound to find just the costume you’ve been looking for at Alter Ego.

Free health care

Shalom Free Clinic
1190 E. First Ave., www.shalomfreeclinic.org

In these days of economic turmoil, many of us need medical attention—be it for physical ailments, addictions or mental illness—but don’t have the means to pay for it. Not to worry, the Shalom Free Clinic is here. The clinic opened in 2007 and is staffed entirely by volunteers, many of them working doctors and nurses in Chico. Every Sunday anyone who comes by from 1-4 p.m. can get treated for ailments ranging from chronic headaches, ear aches and minor trauma to asthma and chronic lower back pain. The clinic also offers psychological services and, for those needing spiritual guidance, there is usually a priest, rabbi or pastor on hand. A lot of hard work goes into running the free clinic, and in these times of economic uncertainty for many, it’s needed more than ever. Kudos to everyone involved, especially Karen Kushner and Nancy Morgans-Ferguson, who work tirelessly to keep the engine running smoothly. Check out the clinic’s new thrift store at 250 E. First St. and support a good cause.

Heavenly Blue Fine Lingerie

Place to buy satin and lace

Heavenly Blue Fine Lingerie
240 Main St., Suite 220 (upstairs), 343-3333

This one’s for the ladies out there—and their lucky partners. Heavenly Blue Fine Lingerie opened up downtown just a few months ago, but it’s already generating a buzz. It’s about time Chico got a classy lingerie shop, somewhere you can go to buy a new bra or a sexy little number for that special someone. The cute boutique is staffed by knowledgeable women who are “fitting specialists,” and its location on the second floor of the old Oser’s building—now named the Grand View—means limited ogling by passersby, making for a perfectly intimate buying experience.

Place to get your grandma fix

Kalico Kitchen
2396 The Esplanade, 343-3968

If you’re ever in the mood for some heavenly comfort food, or if you just flat out miss your dear grandmother, take a trip to the Kalico Kitchen on The Esplanade across from Orchard Lanes. The service is extraordinary and leaves you feeling better about yourself when leaving the warm and welcoming restaurant. The California Omelet is to die for, and the hash browns are made with extra love, and by love we mean butter. Regardless of the caloric intake that would make Paula Deen proud, the most phenomenal items on the menu come from the breakfast section. The Kalico Kitchen’s sister restaurant, The Cozy Diner, is nearby on Mangrove Avenue and consistently wins over readers’ hearts as Best Diner. There’s just something about the atmosphere of the Kalico Kitchen that we can’t ignore. If grandma’s kitchen happens to be your happy place and you haven’t been to Kalico Kitchen, make your way over and be sure to bring your appetite.

Kalico Kitchen

Vanishing act

Lance Daniel

This smartly dressed attorney was here just a few months ago, shaking hands as a Butte County district attorney hopeful and ensuring the citizenry that he loved living in Chico. In fact, Lance Daniel said during his campaign leading up to the June primary that—win or lose—he planned to make this place his home. It appears he changed his mind, however, shortly after being defeated by incumbent Mike Ramsey. Within weeks, poof(!), he appeared to be back in the Sacramento area, where his law practice is established. But have no fear, this legal eagle’s fans can now tune into the Lance Daniel Show on Talk Radio 1410 KMYC AM. It’s streamed at www.1410kmyc.com. The station’s motto is: “Where Rush [Limbaugh] and Dr. Laura [Schlessinger] live together.” Now, there’s a picture.