Editors’ picks 2012

CN&R staffers weigh in with their takes on the best people, places and things

Best place to buy a pair of tobacco-brown, full-quill ostrich, exotic, square-toe cowboy boots

Diamond W Western Wear

181 E. Second St., 891-1650

Check it out, pardner. This cowboy, cowgirl and cowkid clothier located on Second Street in downtown Chico has an atmosphere unlike any other clothing store in town. It’s two-story … well, not exactly. It’s got a balcony and offers a variety of items like red suspenders, four-inch silver belt buckles featuring a bull rider gettin’ bucked in front of both the Stars and Stripes and the Confederate flag, and a sweet pair of baby cowboy boots for that soon-to-be bow-legged toddler. The promo for the boots sums up the store in general: “This is an exotic boot to the heart; an ultimate performer to the soul.”

Best local-food development since food trucks

Ethnic food stores

While it’s nice to be able to pick up such specialty items as Takis Fuego corn chips and Huy Fong Siracha sauce at most grocery stores around Chico, for foodies who want to make a deeper cut into ethnic cuisine, we now have a growing selection of specialty markets from which to choose international flavors such as dried fish (Asian Market, 347 Nord Ave.); fermented bean curd (My Oriental Market, 2550 S. Whitman Place); chicharrones and fresh-baked Mexican treats (Panadería La Michoacana, 1414 Park Ave., No. 116); fresh-baked tortillas (La Mexicana Bakery, 112 W. 17th St.); fried “pork ears” (Her’s Asian Market, 1414 Park Ave., No. 110); Chinese teas (House of Rice, 338 Broadway) and now, labna, Halal meats and other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern items at the new Bella Family Market (671 Walnut St.).

Best place to make a new best friend

Butte Humane Society

2579 Fair St., 343-7917

OK, guilt trip at work here. But if you care about our furry Earth-mates, particularly canines and felines, remember that a lot of them are spending time behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit. Go to the shelter someday soon and introduce yourself to these desperate inmates. The common message (translated from woofs and meows to English): “Hey, get me outta here and I’ll be the best friend you’ve ever had! Honest!” The joint is located at 2579 Fair St. in south Chico, and its hours are 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Go to www.buttehumane.org for a photo of your potential new best friend.

Best place to see an angel

Chico Cemetery

881 Mangrove Ave., 345-7243

Everywhere you look among the headstones, pine trees and green expanses of the Chico Cemetery, there are carvings and statues of angels flying, guarding, trumpeting, harping and doing all the other things these heavenly beings are normally imagined to be doing. But the most striking depiction of all is located in the south central area of the property. That’s where visitors will find a life-sized marble statue of an angel doubled over in mourning, her face buried in her arm. The grieving angel stands eternally over the Simpson family plot, and is so realistically rendered you can almost hear her sobbing. Regardless of one’s sensibilities and beliefs, it’s hard not to be moved while standing in its presence. The cemetery is open to the public, and guided tours are held every third Thursday of the month or by special arrangement.

Best place to people watch while getting a haircut

Gypsy Rose Salon

151 Broadway, 891-4247

Downtown is by far one of the best places to people watch, and there are a variety of spots from which to perch yourself for a good view. But there are few places where you can also simultaneously get a new ’do. The best one is tucked into a space on the east side of Main Street just north of Second Street. Head there to the see the hustle and bustle of students, businesspeople and other downtowners, and get a kick-ass haircut or color while you’re at it.

Best non-food reason to go to the Saturday farmers’ market

Weezie Campbell’s dollar-a-minute massage booth

Heading to the downtown Saturday farmers’ market for fresh fruit, veggies, eggs and meat is basically a no-brainer, as is going there for a steaming breakfast burrito or tamales and a cup of hot coffee. Local massage therapist Weezie Campbell’s massage booth is another compelling reason to visit the market. Campbell—whose magic hands are revered by countless locals, as well as by the musicians who get treated to her services after playing a set at the Chico World Music Festival—charges $1 per minute for her services. Twenty bucks will get you feeling real good after a little too much Friday-night action—she’s got regulars who swear by her powers of rejuvenation.

Best cookie if you’ve got a craving for chocolate, pepper and sea salt

Chocolate Aztec cookies at Bacio Catering & Carry Out

1903 Park Ave., 345-7787

In addition to great soups, sides and entrees (the polenta lasagna is to die for), Bacio Catering & Carry Out makes some seriously killer cookies. Topping the list are Bacio’s Chocolate Aztec cookies—everything a person with a chocolate jones could possibly want, and then some. Perfect with a glass of milk (or all by themselves), these scrumptious, chewy, chocolaty, gluten-free delights are made even more pleasing with the addition of snappy, subtle bursts of pepper and sea salt in every bite. Good-for-you food never tasted so good.

Best art maven who doubles as a community activist

Maria Phillips

To those who know her, Maria Phillips is a force of nature, an energetic, upbeat advocate for all things Chico who brings an irrepressible flair to everything she does. Born in Rome, she spent her childhood in Venezuela before moving to this country when she was 11. She retains a bit of an accent, though whether of Italian, Spanish or French is hard to say, since she speaks all three in addition to English. Owner of the vibrant Avenue 9 Gallery, she also had a leading role in creating the Chico Visual Arts Alliance, the monthly ARTabout event and the Chico Art Map. When not promoting art, she’s been a leader of several political causes, including the successful effort to stop the M&T gravel mine west of town. Most recently, she played a key role in the campaign to keep Bidwell Mansion open. For all of these reasons, on Oct. 2 she was honored with a Mayor’s Art Award for 2012.

Best place to lose a disc-golf disc

Hole No. 3 at Peregrine Point

Anyone who’s shanked a driver on the third hole at the Peregrine Point disc-golf course off Highway 32 knows exactly what we mean—that disc is pretty much a goner. The basket is precariously close to the edge of Big Chico Creek Canyon, which makes for both a spectacular vista and the easiest way to lose a disc this side of getting stoned. And unless you’re a seasoned mountaineer, attempting a search-and-rescue mission on the cliff face is a risky proposition. Some say there is a crazy canyon man down there with a huge net waiting to catch your wayward discs. OK, no one says that—just bring an extra driver.

Best place to buy a cool-looking bra if you have big boobs

Heavenly Blue Fine Lingerie

240 Main St., 343-3333

Any woman with large breasts knows the frustration that goes along with looking for a brassiere that even comes close to fitting properly, let alone looking attractive. The average department store stocks a few in maybe up to a DDD cup—in plain styles and boring “colors” like white and beige—but if you need something bigger or prettier you’re basically out of luck. Thank the gods for Heavenly Blue, where one can purchase a beautiful, well-constructed dusty-plum, bright-red or leopard-print bra in such cup sizes as H, I and J, after being fitted by friendly owner Ellen Stephens or one of her knowledgable staff members. Heavenly Blue’s 2,500-bra inventory, incidentally, ranges from cup-size 28A to 44J.

Best dummy in a local band

Victoria Blair

We all know that people in rock bands are not the sharpest crayons in the box (especially drummers). But big brains aren’t what we’re looking for. Just get on that stage with your colorful personality and play three chords over a hard-hitting beat, and we will forgive all mental deficiencies as you rock us well. However, there is one local band member who really is a dummy: Victoria Blair of Chico indie rockers Voltare. She is so slow that she doesn’t even seem capable of moving her own limbs. She just stands there onstage, never moving, never blinking, never saying a word. In fact, we can’t recall ever seeing her play an instrument or sing even a single note! She might as well be propped up in some department store, sitting frozen and silent while she models the latest fall fashions.

Best place to support the Chinese economy


You heard right. Walmart. It’s got the best supply of Chinese-made goods around! Don’t confuse that with best-made goods. What we mean is that nearly everything in the darn store carries the old Made in China stamp, or the P.R.o.C. (People’s Republic of China) logo. So, if you’re into sending all of your hard-earned money to the Far East … and to Sam Walton’s heirs, then Walmart’s your place. If that’s not your thing, well, don’t shop there. If you’d rather support the local economy, shop at small businesses owned by your neighbors. Sure, they have Chinese goods, too, but many carry more homegrown products, and the majority of the money spent there will stay in the region.

Best place to cowgirl up

Crazy Horse Saloon & Brewery

303 Main St., 894-5408

So, you wanna be a cowgirl, or a cowboy, for that matter. Well, there’s no better place to get in a little practice than at the Crazy Horse Saloon and Brewery. There, greenhorns and cowhands alike can jump on the bar’s mechanical bull and either get schooled or show the crowds how it’s done. You can also get your boot-scootin’ on out on the dance floor. While there, sample some whiskey, beers on tap, or one of the bar’s other libations. In fact, you might want to have that drink before you jump on the bull.

Best bar for a romantic rendezvous

Johnnie’s Lounge

220 W. Fourth St., 895-1515

If a rendezvous is to be truly romantic, it has to take place in a classy joint, and Johnnie’s is as classy as they get in Chico. After all, it’s located in downtown’s Hotel Diamond, the classiest hostelry in town. You can also tell Johnnie’s is classy because the people you’ll meet there are wearing spiffy threads, not tank tops and cut-offs. The lounge itself is all high windows, dark wood, glass and brass, very attractive. It’s tied in with Johnnie’s Restaurant in the room next door, and these days it’s specializing in tapas. Check out its new menu. Thursday evenings catch three ace musicians, John Seid, Larry Peterson and Steve Cook, playing smooth jazz. And if your rendezvous becomes as romantic as you’d like it to be, just grab a room at the hotel—and don’t even look at the bill.

Best fake holiday

Bloomsday at Blue Room Theatre

139 W. First St., 895-3749

Every June 16, celebrations are held worldwide commemorating the day (June 16, 1904) on which James Joyce’s Ulysses, considered by many the ultimate work of Irish literature, takes place. Locally, the festivities are arranged by the Celtic Knights of the Sea and held at the Blue Room Theatre, and include dramatic re-enactments and readings from the book, step dancing and men’s choral renditions of traditional songs. The Guinness flows freely, but the more crass trappings of a certain mid-March holiday, such as green Budweiser and slutty leprechaun costumes, are noticeably absent. Basically, Bloomsday is something like St. Patrick’s Day for people who read. Yes!

Best taco-shop hot dog

El Rey Mexican Grill

465 E. 20th St., 342-4121

The term “authentic” is often bandied about to describe Mexican food, but what does it really mean? While there is something to be said for traditional flavors, Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine and culture are in a constant state of evolution, and Pancho Villa probably never had a burrito supreme anyway. Behold one piece of evidence of this evolution: the Sonoran Hot Dog, which originated in Hermosillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora, and became popular stateside in Tucson. El Rey’s rendition is an all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and grilled, then served on a bolillo roll and smothered in beans, grilled onions, cheese and a special sauce. They also have a spicy version, substituting the regular hot dog with chopped hot sausage. They’re delicious, filling and—at only $3.99—a great lunch bargain.

Best place to get off your bike and walk

The intersection of Nord and West Sacramento avenues

Chico is a fairly bike-friendly place, with dozens of miles of bike paths, wide shoulders and generally cooperative motorists. But there is one intersection in Chico that can make even veteran bike commuters feel uncomfortable—the crossing of Nord and West Sacramento avenues. The heavy college-area traffic, bizarre exits from Safeway’s disaster of a parking lot, and several stoplights and crosswalks within close proximity make for a hectic, confusing nightmare for cyclists and motorists alike. Even if it hurts your pride to get off your bike and pose as a pedestrian, this beast is best challenged on foot during rush hour.

Best place to pour your heart out

Calvin “Doc” Layland sculpture on Vallombrosa Avenue

There are plenty of potential reasons to be super bummed-out—maybe your girlfriend left you, maybe you lost your job. Or maybe your girlfriend left you, took your job and then told all your former co-workers about your sexual inadequacies. Fortunately for down-and-out Chicoans like yourself, there is someone who can’t make phony excuses when you need a shoulder to sob on. In fact, said individual can’t pass judgment, tell anyone about your blubbering confessions, or take evasive maneuvers when a pigeon makes excrement. The sitting statue dedicated to Calvin “Doc” Layland—found on a bench alongside Vallombrosa Avenue near the CARD center—offers a lifeless yet dependable shoulder to lean on when times are tough.

Best noodles made out of cucumbers

Kyuri noodles at Aonami

1008 W. Sacramento Ave., Suite H, 924-3168

In addition to yummy, sustainably sourced sushi, Aonami makes the best non-traditional noodles in town … out of cucumbers. Cold, crunchy and divinely delicious, Aonami’s kyuri noodles in tangy miso sauce topped with grated fresh beets are a must-eat when visiting this north Chico restaurant.

Best candidates for a ZZ Top cover band

Downtown sign-holding fellas

The ideal ZZ Top cover band would possess rudimentary knowledge of power chords, the ability to drawl incomprehensibly in a most rocking manner, a knack for making not-so-subtle sexual innuendo and, of course, wicked-awesome beards. In Chico, the clear winners are the dudes holding anti-tea party signs at the corner of Fifth and Main streets on Saturdays. They’ve certainly got the beards and, based on appearances, seem like they might be able to bang out some power chords. At the very least, they could probably handle growling “a-haw-haw-haw” into a microphone.

Best interspecific member of the prunus genus

Photo by Little Blue Hen (via Flickr)


Thank you, farmer scientists, for getting the plum and the apricot together to create this most delicious product of fruity miscegenation that Chico looks forward to every summer. It has a denser, less-watery flesh than a regular plum, but it is still insanely juicy and flavorful, mixing the plum and apricot juices into one tart and especially sweet ball of goodness. It’s the perfect summer fruit. In fact, maybe it should be the official fruit of Chico! Who’s with us?! The only sad thing is that the season is about to end and we will have to spend the next seven months or so eating inferior fruits before the pluot can once again pull us out of the darkness.

Best place to run the table

The DownLo

319 Main St., 892-2473

When you’re in the mood for a good game of pool, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a certified newbie, look no further than the DownLo, Chico’s premier spot for all things billiards. The pros and the regulars go there because they can set up on a top-quality Diamond pool table and run it all night. Those newer to the sport head to the spacious establishment occupying the space underneath Lost on Main because they can meet new friends while learning a thing or two. Just to prove how serious the DownLo is about pool, it employs a house pro, Jacqueline Karol, who teaches classes and runs several tournaments every week. (Insider tip: They also serve up some mean burgers, and there’s plenty of good beer on tap!)

Best place to journey into the past

Patrick Ranch Museum Country Faire and Threshing Bee

10381 Midway, Durham, 342-4359

If you’ve ever wanted to see how a working ranch actually operated a century or more ago, this annual June weekend festival is about as close as you can get. Held at the beautiful and historic Patrick Ranch on the Midway just south of Chico, it provides a glimpse back in time to when farm families harvested wheat using horses, mules, steam engines and early gas engines. There are all kinds of demonstrations—horseshoeing, wheat binding, bundling and threshing, loose hay loading, stock dogs at work, making flour, “bee beards,” biscuit and bread making—as well as continuous live acoustic music. It’s fun and educational at the same time.

Best Chico City Council candidate political sign

Toby Schindelbeck for City Council

The big sign promising common sense, public safety and fiscal responsibility sits in the back of the candidate’s jacked-up, extended-cab Ford F250 pickup truck, which also serves the duel purpose of advertising the small-business owner’s Nutrishop stores. What makes this sign so sweet is that it gets around town, unlike those cardboard fixed-to-a-metal-stand lawn signs that end up getting uprooted and tossed in an alley Dumpster about five weeks before the election. Just as the candidate claims about his own future, the Schindelbeck sign is here to stay.

Best reason to carry a stick


There have been an especially high number of rattlesnake sightings on the trails of Upper Bidwell Park this summer. As soon as the warm weather hits, our cold-blooded friends venture out onto the hot dirt to sun themselves, and when we (or our dogs) come around the corner and surprise them, they wind up and warn us off with that rattlin’. What can we do to avoid these stand-offs? First, don’t let your dog run ahead. Second, bring a walking stick. The tapping sound will reverberate through the ground ahead of you and scare the snakes off the trail. Plus, you’ll have a weapon to beat down any mountain lions and bears that cross your path (just kidding, no fighting with the wildlife, please).

Best place for a death-row lunch


1444 Park Ave., 342-2285

You might not go to Nobby’s for your very last meal, but what about the one before that. Your very last lunch. Our pick is a Nobby burger topped with its fried-cheese deliciousness. What’s so special about this cheeseburger? Think about a slice of cheddar so large that it oozes over the hamburger patty and onto the grill until its edges transform into a crunchy treat that perfectly complements its accompanying juicy patty and soft bun. It’s kind of like a burger and a grilled cheese sandwich in one, and it is out-of-this-world good.