Editors’ picks 2014

A few of the CN&R’s favorite people, places and things in Chico

Mural at Amigos de Acapulco

Mural at Amigos de Acapulco

Best cleansing of the creeks

BEC’s Big Chico Creek Cleanup

The sheer amount of garbage pulled out of Chico’s waterways during the cleanup on Sept. 20 was mind-boggling (nearly 20 tons!), and we’re thankful an organization like the Butte Environmental Council was around to organize it. We’re also thankful that so many community members (nearly 450!) volunteered to help the cause. The effort has never been more important, because our creeks were more littered with trash than ever before. (This year’s haul almost doubled the previous record.) And trash littering the banks of our creeks is more than gross and unattractive; our refuse floats downstream, harming aquatic habitats in the Sacramento River and eventually the Pacific Ocean. So, cheers to BEC and the volunteers who diverted that stuff to the landfill. The community and its waterways are much better for it.

Best artistic rendering of a peyote trip

Mural at Amigos de Acapulco

820 Oroville Ave., 898-8488

Man, we’re not sure what the heck is going on with that painting on the wall at Amigos de Acapulco. All we know is it’s totally badass, like probably the baddest-ass mural in town. There’s this giant bird of prey kicking a rattlesnake’s, uh, rattle, in the foreground of this surreal landscape with distant mountains and a river running through it. Amazing! Seriously, dine in instead of taking out (we recommend the puerco verde chimichanga), sit down and just trip out on that thing for a while. Epic dining experience.

Sheriff’s Rescue Vehicle

Best comeback

Pale Bock

When Sierra Nevada announced in March that it would be reviving its beloved Pale Bock, Chicoans rejoiced. Assuming they hadn’t stockpiled it (it would be borderline criminal to keep it bottled so long), five years had passed since they’d tasted that deliciously potent golden lager. The local brewery decided to rerelease the former favorite as part of its Old Chico brand and we here at the CN&R were not alone in rejoicing in that fact. We ordered it on draught at local bars and brought six packs to friends’ barbecues (or home purely for personal enjoyment). It’s seasonal, so once again we must wait. But that’s OK—it’s worth it.

Best alternative to the word “tank”

Sheriff’s Rescue Vehicle

In February, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office received a 15-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected M1220 Caiman vehicle for free through a controversial government plan that transfers surplus military equipment to civilian authorities. In an August interview with the CN&R, Sheriff Kory Honea insisted the vehicle is “not a tank” and assured it will not be used for nefarious purposes like squelching college parties or peaceful protests, as some critics fear. Instead, he promised it will be used sparingly and dubbed it the “Sheriff’s Rescue Vehicle.” Here’s to hoping Honea keeps his word and we never see the vehicle used to “rescue” keg-standers, couch-burners, righteously pissed peaceniks or legal medical marijuana growers.

Best place to catch a free cooking demo while buying exotic cheeses

The Galley

551 Country Drive, 343-8820

For the aspiring home chef, there’s nothing quite as inspiring as watching local pros show off their kitchen skills. That’s why we love The Galley, where every week there’s a different cooking demo, ranging from homemade chocolates to salads to cheese. And, speaking of cheese, the fromagerie inside this kitchen mecca is worth its own stop, but why not do double-duty and pick up your favorite brie after learning how to make tartlets? Talk about food heaven!

Best Wildcat excuse for late homework

“It was between the cushions of the couch I burned.”

It’s foolproof, see. Just explain to your professor that, over the weekend, you and your pals’ drunken frenzy culminated in ritualistically torching your living room sofa on the sidewalk, and your humanities quiz must have been between the cushions when that thing went all Hindenburg. They’ll understand. I mean, who doesn’t remember their college days—cramming for tests, cheering for the rugby team, drinking beer-ish liquid out of red plastic cups, and being overcome by the urge to dance in the glow of smoldering upholstery? Wait, no one remembers that last part.

Best place for a super-sized sushi roll

Sushi King & Boba Tea Zone

2190 Esplanade, 892-8688

Oasis Bar and Grill

We know, we know. A sushi burrito sounds, well, weird. But take our word for it when we say it’s quite possibly the most genius thing to hit Chico’s food scene since the SoCal Burrito at Sol. It goes against all the principles of sushi, but eating a roll that fits in your hand like a burrito is simultaneously invigorating and satisfying. This is especially true for those out there with an appetite big enough to wolf down three rainbow rolls, two egg rolls and a whole order of gyoza. (The best part is, you can get all that other stuff at Sushi King, too. Insider tip: Try the crab and cream cheese roll. De-lish.)

Best place to challenge a pro at pool

Oasis Bar & Grill

1007 W. First St., 343-4305

The Oasis (or, simply, “The O” to regulars) has long been a go-to spot in Chico for billiards lovers. But all that has been amplified the past few months with the refelting and refinishing of several of the half-dozen pool tables, including the coin-operated challenge table near the bar. So, the pool players among us find it hard to resist heading over to The O when we want to grab a beer and a burger, catch the game on TV and challenge a top-notch player (or even a pro—national champ Jackie Karol runs the Chico Billiards Academy next door and operates the leagues and tournaments at the Oasis). Word on the street has it, too, that a pro tournament is in the works for later this year. We say, “Bring it on.”

Best legs in Chico

Tedra Thomsen

Tedra (prounced Tee-dra) Thomsen is a highly visible member of the community who is anything but shy about showing off her shapely legs often supported by 3-inch high heels. At 6-foot-4 inches sans heels, Thomsen is hard to miss when she is walking the downtown sidewalks toward the Naked Lounge on an early sunny morning, or to Duffy’s Tavern a bit later in the day. We have no doubt that the rest of her day is spent toning those calves and thighs to their shapely perfection. Visitors to town—those who put money in the parking meters on weekends—are sure to take a double glance when Thomsen walks past. She is one of the people in this town who add to Chico’s quirky personality.

Best salad bar in the Garden Walk Mall

Zot’s Hot Dogs and Deli

225 Main St., Ste. A, 345-2820

It’s kind of an odd combination—a hot dog joint featuring a salad bar of vast choices including homegrown veggies. At Zot’s, there are three types of lettuce, sliced and diced tomatoes, potato and macaroni salads, cottage cheese, kidney beans, beet slices, asparagus, dill pickles, pineapple chunks, garbanzo beans, black and green olives and a number of other ingredients to round out that salad. Oh, yeah, and then there is owner Val Montague behind the counter, entertaining patrons with humorous comments about current events while taking their order and money.

Brian Nakamura

Best case of whiplash

Brian Nakamura’s quick exit

Chico’s former city manager had a long track record of hit-and-run jobs over his career—10 positions over 21 years—but that didn’t stop the City Council from hiring him back in September 2012, at a time when the city was deep in the red and looking for a lifeline. Brian Nakamura came wielding an ax—dozens of heads rolled during his tenure. Making cuts to city staff was painful at City Hall and to members of the community, who felt the loss of services. Nakamura was criticized by many in Chico, but he remained steadfast in his desire to stay here and make the area his home. He assured the community (and this newspaper) that he was here for the long haul. What a joke. Twenty months after taking the post, Nakamura flew the coop for a more lucrative job with fewer responsibilities. He now manages Rancho Cordova, an ugly Sacramento suburb known for its giant strip club. In other words, the joke’s on him.

Best lazy excuse for not shopping downtown

No parking

Give us a break. Positioned as the CN&R is at the corner of Second and Flume streets, directly adjacent to two municipal parking lots, we have a clear picture of the parking situation downtown. The lot that accommodates the Saturday farmers’ market is rarely full, and when it is—say, on Saturday mornings—parking lot P, just across the roundabout, always has open spots. (That’s not to mention three massive parking structures on the west side of downtown.) No, you probably won’t be able to park directly in front of the business you plan on patronizing. Yes, you’re going to have to use your feet (or, better yet, ride your bike!). But for all the talk of shopping local and preserving the vitality of the downtown business district, walking three blocks shouldn’t be such a big deal. So don’t complain about parking downtown. It’s so cliché.

Best beer rides

Scotty’s Landing and the Empire Club

While more experienced (or masochistic) riders might be eager to ride dozens of miles into the foothills toward some vague destination because they actually like pedaling uphill, we casual cyclists are more motivated to attempt longer rides by flat land and toward tangible goals. So, if you’ve been riding around town for awhile and are ready to try something a little more challenging, either head west toward Scotty’s Landing (12609 River Road, about 14 miles round trip from downtown), or south toward Durham’s Empire Club (9391 Midway, roughly 17 miles). Both routes offer a leisurely, flat ride through the countryside and the watering holes are veritable pots o’ gold at the end of the rainbow, offering cheap beer, interesting clientele and great atmospheres for kicking back midride.

The roundabout

Best rogue gardening

The tree in the roundabout

Who doesn’t like greenery? We sure do. So we were excited about the sapling that started growing in the middle of the roundabout in front of CN&R’s offices at Second and Flume streets. Being reporters, we also were intrigued. We hadn’t seen anyone plant the little tree, so we starting asking around to find out who had—and who was keeping it alive. Turns out, it wasn’t the city. In other words, it was an act of rogue gardening. We liked seeing the little sapling in that barren space, but that didn’t stop the officials from yanking it from this city-owned property. Boo!

The tree

Best survivor story

Melody Records

341 Main St., 895-8196

On the one hand, it’s sad that Chico has only one record store. On the other, it’s amazing that Melody Records is still slangin’ vinyl in this age of iTunes, music-streaming services and music pirates, who are no-good jerks. And while a familiar eye may take it for granted, the funky little shop, as cozy as it is with Duffy’s Tavern, adds a ton of character to the corner of Fourth and Main streets. Where else in town are you going to find the alternate studio version of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? (Don’t say Amazon.)

Bailey and Casey Schwab

Best downtown business/dog team

Bailey and Casey Schwab of Campus Bicycles

Bailey, 8, and Casey, 4, who each work near full-time schedules, are low-key employees at Campus Bicycles (330 Main St.), often caught sleeping on the job. No, they’re not the high-pressure “what can we sell you” types. In fact, the only pressure they’ll apply is the inquisitive eye, looking for a treat from a store visitor. When the UPS guy arrives and carries in his delivery, the dogs greet him at the door, and then approach him as soon as he’s made his delivery. He then hands them each a dog treat—the whole thing seems choreographed. These girls are very well-liked by the employees, regular customers and delivery people. Word on the street has it Bailey is looking to join the Downtown Chico Business Association’s board of directors. She’s got our vote!

Best example of walking the talk

Comedy nights at the Maltese and DownLo

Orchard Church

818 Salem St., 342-7692

Chico has great services for the local homeless community. We have the Jesus Center and the Torres Community Shelter. Other local organizations have pitched in to aid this marginalized community, too. But over the past year, we have been especially impressed by the Orchard Church, whose pastor, Jim Culp, and members were placed under the microscope last fall for their longstanding work feeding needy residents at City Plaza one evening per week. Many in the community criticized the local congregation, charging that its efforts attracted people who were down and out to the area. We don’t see it that way. Through our reporting we learned that the church had not only filled bellies, but also given several folks the helping hand they needed to get off the streets. There’s a lot of talk about what’s needed to help solve this crisis, but Orchard Church walks that talk—showing compassion and giving assistance to the needy.

Best reason not to hate Mondays

Comedy nights at the Maltese and DownLo

According to the Boomtown Rats, Garfield the cat and the vast majority of working Americans, Mondays suck. The Rats’ song “I Don’t Like Mondays” refers to a San Diego schoolyard shooting, and it’s understandable why workers dread the day, but c’mon—Garfield? Unless he’s got a date with the vet, it’s just another day of eating lasagna and lying around being a jerk. Whatever your reasons may be for hating the day, Chicoans have something to make it a little less painful—rotating comedy nights at the DownLo (319 Main St.) and the Maltese Bar & Tap Room (1600 Park Ave.), featuring the cream of Chico’s bountiful crop of comedians. The Maltese offers an extra way to chase away a case of the Mondays with its (in)famous Mug Night—patrons are invited to bring a receptacle of any size/shape up to 40 ounces and fill it for just $3.

Best one-man hootenanny

Bran Crown

Bran Crown

If you’re on a soapbox budget but need a sound as big as a flatbed for your barn-raising, Don Parish—aka Bran Crown—is your man. Small of stature and huge of passionate caterwauling voice, this self-described purveyor of “loud acoustic jams” (who also happens to be a classically trained pianist) plays an exuberant, magnetic brand of freak folk that inspires people to clap, stomp and sing along. Catch him at just about every local venue, and download his new album, Summer Weaks, at brancrown.bandcamp.com.

Best end to a longstanding controversy

Saturday farmers’ market stays put

For more than 21 years, a farmers’ market has operated on the city-owned parking lot at Second and Wall streets. And for many, many years its presence at that location has drawn the ire of nearby business owners, some of whom say both the market and its shoppers siphon away customers from the brick and mortars due to a lack of downtown parking. Every couple of years, the city has tossed around the idea of moving the market to put an end to the complaints, but not this year. We’re happy to note that, after a successful petition drive, the City Council approved a six-year franchise agreement with the market to stay put. What’s more is, the market will pay the city $5,000 a year, rather than the $144 yearly franchise fee it had long paid, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Best liquid inspiration

Naked Lounge’s cold brew

118 W. Second St.

The simple stuff is the best stuff, especially when it comes to coffee. Adding dairy and sweeteners to your morning cup can create a worthwhile indulgence, but to taste coffee’s raw essence, you have to go naked … or to the Naked Lounge for its house-made cold brew. In contrast to an espresso, where intensely pressurized water forces the caffeine and oils into a crema-capped shot of goodness, the cold brew takes the long road to your cup of daily rebirth, steeping for 16 hours in coarsely ground Great State Coffee Co. beans and chicory to create an intense, fruity—but not bitter—and refreshing morning jolt.

Best sister city prospect

Asheville, N.C.

With all due respect to Chico’s two current sister cities—Tamsui, Taiwan, and Pascagoula, Miss.(the former established in 1985 for its similar demographic makeup to Chico, and the latter in 2005 after Chico sent a truckload of aid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina)—there is a new prospect that is too desirable to not pursue as sister No. 3: Asheville, N.C. Mostly it’s a natural fit because of the fact that our hometown Sierra Nevada recently opened an East Coast brewery there—well, technically in tiny Mills River, 19 miles south of Asheville—but we’re a better match for the city with a similar population and a university (UNC Asheville), and we are inspired by the 17 breweries in its vicinity.