The best things in Chico, in our view
Best place to have a drink, play and watch the game
The Oasis Bar and Grill
In the words of Garth Brooks, if you need a place where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases your blues away, then you need to step on down to The Oasis.
Even if it seems like the ideal place to drink after your truck broke down, your girlfriend dumped you and your dog died, the Oasis still has a surprisingly wholesome appeal. As a tapestry of fraternity and sorority relics from Chico’s yesteryears hangs above, you can enjoy shuffleboard, ping-pong, pool, foosball and arcade video games. The bar also offers 13 high-definition televisions for sports fanatics, as well as pints starting at around $3.
It may be slightly off the beaten path of a typical late-night bar crawl, but The O is a great way to beat the crowds, play some games, watch your favorite sports team and enjoy those friends in low places.
Location: 1007 W. First St.
Best Butte County supervisor
The former Chico City Council member has settled into her position since taking office in January 2007, becoming a strong presence on the board. She prepares well for meetings, asks pertinent questions, doesn’t waste or mince words and clearly has the respect of her colleagues.
Just as important, she is remarkably available for her constituents. Calls to her office often find her there, and messages are returned quickly. And she stays in touch with residents of her far-flung district, attending neighborhood and community meetings, contributing to newsletters and otherwise making herself available.
She is, in short, a model public servant.
Best art reception food
James Snidle Gallery
Tamales parties, Spice Creek salsa and Cory’s cakes? Only at the fun, well-attended opening receptions at James Snidle Gallery, right across the street from The Hands downtown. The art—from prominent local, regional, national and international artists or from Snidle’s astounding personal collection—ain’t half bad, either.
Location: 254 E. Fourth St.
Best place for Fido to meet Fifi
The dog park on the north end of town (take The Esplanade up past Eaton—it’s right behind Shasta Elementary School) is god’s gift to our four-legged friends. With so many apartment complexes in Chico, there’s not always a large, safe place for our pets to run. DeGarmo is the answer (and for a little trivia, it’s named after one of CN&R ads saleswoman Jamie DeGarmo’s ancestors). We love it—and so do our pets.
Best place to chill at 3 a.m.
On weekends, where is one to go when all the bars are closed and even Pita Pit has shut its munchy doors? Arabian Nights, of course! The new(ish) downtown hookah bar is filled with plush pillows to relax on, has a constant mix of music on the stereo and, well, who can forget the hookahs? There is quite possibly no better way to end an evening on the town than sitting down for a mellow toke on white peach- or vanilla-flavored shishah.
Location: 142 Broadway
Best local theater coup
Rent at Butte College
How do you measure the drawing power of a popular Broadway musical? Maybe it’s by how many different productions of it can be sustained in one rural county.
Both Chico State’s and Butte College’s theater departments have the Tony Award/Pulitzer Prize-winning musical on their schedules this school year, but Butte beats Chico to the punch by giving the musical its area premiere this fall (Nov. 5-15), while Chico State will show it in the spring (May 5-9).
And as a bonus, Butte kicks off its season of love inside the 4,500 square-foot black-box theater that’s part of the spankin’-new Arts Building at Butte. Best of all for theatergoers, though, if you happen to miss Butte College’s version, you have to wait only 262,800 minutes to catch it at Chico State.
Best drink special
Sierra Nevada’s cask-ale Thursdays
Dubbed “real ale” by many connoisseurs, cask-conditioned ales are those conditioned in the cask/keg and served without the normal carbon dioxide-induced carbonation found in most draft beers. Carbonation instead occurs much as it does with bottle-conditioned ales, where a secondary fermentation process produces gasses that create so-called natural carbonation.
On most Thursdays, Sierra Nevada’s brewpub features one of the brewery’s ales in cask-conditioned form, offering fans a new way to experience some of the finest beers in the world. Call ahead to check variety and whether cask-conditioned offerings are available that week: 345-2739.
Location: 1075 E. 20th St.
Best way to meet local artists
Open Studios Art Tour
If you want to immerse yourself in art, meet dozens of artists, and add new works to your collection at bargain prices, there’s no better way to do it than the Chico Art Center’s Open Studios Art Tour, which begins with a free exhibition next Saturday (Oct. 3) and continues for four weekends ($10 for a tour pass).
What began 20 years ago in Chico with just a few studios has now gone countywide and involves nearly 100 artists. It’s one of the most enjoyable events of the year, not only because of the range of art to be seen and the variety of studios, but also because the artists are such interesting people and fun to talk with.
For a schedule, go to www.chicoartcenter.com.
Double-dipping bank robber
In July, Christopher Babb was arrested for allegedly holding up the Tri Counties Bank on Mangrove Avenue … twice … in the same week! We can’t decide whether to boo or applaud—if at first you succeed, why not try, try again, right?
Oh, and in case his award needed any more padding, once out on bail, Babb was re-arrested, this time for allegedly selling bogus raffle tickets for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The fliers he used for bait featured an “Action News 10” logo across the top and a bogus Web address that, naturally, led to a porn site. Classy!
Best place to get a $1 burger on a Wednesday night
And $1 corn dogs, salads, fries and so on. From 6-9 p.m. every Wednesday, you can actually eat a burger, fries and salad dinner for only three bucks—plenty cheap for plenty of food—while you watch a game on one of several TVs. Get there early, because the food line gets long fast.
Best Hot Dog Experience
As faithful as the sunrise itself, John Geiger ascends every morning and does what he has done so well for the past 10 years, sell hot dogs. An establishment on wheels, Geiger’s stand on West First and Warner streets has outlasted 18 other vendors over the last decade, and Geiger proudly displays that fact with mini painted hot dog carts on the side of his own cart, like kill decals on the side of World War II fighter planes.
But it’s not ego that drives him; instead it’s a wife, Allyson, and two children, Alli, 4, and George, 6. Geiger, who sometimes wears eye-catching costumes sewn by his wife, has a debit machine, Sirius satellite radio and music on an iPhone to enhance your hunger for hot dogs.
Geiger says the best part of his job is his subtle attempt to make people happy: “Sometimes people may be having a bad day, and this may be the best part of their day.”
Best place to sacrifice your pride
Beer Can Beach
If you’ve been there, you know it—Beer Can Beach brings out the worst in people. Even the most polished of your peers can be found phoneless, keyless and prideless, as they spill out of their bathing suits and expose tattoos that they’ve kept hidden for a reason. But at the end of the day, as everyone lines River Road with one, two or no shoes at all, they all knew what they were getting themselves into, and those kids make a fortune off the crushed beer cans.
Best local music event
Chico World Music Festival
Maybe you just missed it. Too bad.
The Chico World Music Festival, which took place Sept. 18-20 at Chico State University, is far and away the biggest and best music event of the year—and it’s mostly free! This year, the only performance that required a ticket was the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis show in Laxson Auditorim, and that was well worth paying for.
Otherwise, the festival, which is put on by Chico Performances as a gift to the community, takes place over two days on two stages on Chico State’s front lawn and in Laxson and Taylor Hall and features both local musicians and groups from around the world. There are kids’ performances and crafts and food booths, as well.
Simply put, it’s more good music and great fun for less money than you can get anywhere else.
Best place for students to forget about raised tuition
Chico State WREC Center
Even though its check-in system would make Aldous Huxley queasy, the Chico State WREC Center is a great place for students to forget they’re getting less education for more money this semester. Since its official opening in August, a constant stream of students has been flowing in and out of the center, without any additional costs to them.
The WREC center offers a weight room, cardio areas, three basketball courts, an all-purpose court, a running track, a three-story climbing wall and a pool area with a Club Med ambiance. The best aspect of the center is that the architects specifically designed the building to meet the US Green Building Council’s LEED Silver rating.
So students, even though it may seem like you’re entering a brave new world with the electronic hand check-in system, you are also entering the most sustainable recreational facility in Butte County.
Best place to get in touch with your psychic side
Karma Psychic Boutique
Enter the delicately decorated, sweet-smelling store and “reading room” owned by the ever-sweet Chicoan Mary Kay Ricketts and you’re entering another world. The retail store offers items like tarot cards, candles and other “spiritual products.” But the real fun is in Ricketts and her team’s services, which range from astrology and chakra balancing to past-life readings and feng shui consultations. So if you’re feeling a bit on the spiritual side, step into Ricketts’ oasis, which for now is located in a beautiful house off The Esplanade across from Chico Nut but will be moving to 5 Williamsburg Lane Oct. 1.
Best place to slurp your soup
Pho C & C
At Pho C&C, no one will think you have bad manners for slurping your soup. On the contrary—feel free to slurp their delicious noodle soup like the pros do—spoon in one hand, chopsticks in the other. If you have any questions, look around and copy—there’s usually at least one diner who knows the trad way to eat Vietnamese noodle soup.
Best tucked-away farmers’ market
Chico State’s Organic Vegetable Project
What’s this? You say you’ve never heard about the amazing variety of fresh, delicious, seasonal, organic veggies, fruit and flowers available for sale at Chico State’s University Farm? The farm is just a few miles from campus off of Hegan Lane.
Head there on Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., to check out the offerings, including succulent heirloom tomatoes. You’ll run into friendly and helpful Katie Fugnetti, who manages the project. Or simply look for a table set up at the Student Services Center on campus on Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Best fast-food equivalent of crack cocaine
Sweet-and-sour chicken and pork at Din Ho Chinese Fast Food
Highly addictive without the destructive consequences, Din Ho’s sweet-and-sour pork and chicken have got more than one CN&R editor coming back for a sweet-and-sour fix on a regular basis. The secret to the crunchy, delicious morsels? Making each serving to order, waiting to pour on the sinfully sweet sauce till the very last second.
Location: 2065 MLK Parkway
Best spot to place the jack
Red Tavern patio
“Placing the jack” is a central part of any game of bocce. Jack is another name for the pallina, the single small ball that is destined to become the target for the larger balls, called boccia in the singular, and it must be thrown to the opposite end of the court before the game can begin.
Bocce is an ancient outdoor game of accuracy played by two to four players and enjoyed by millions worldwide. In Chico, the best place to play is at the Red Tavern restaurant, which has installed a court as part of its lovely outdoor patio. Sip wine, eat some appetizers and enjoy a fun game with your friends.
Best piece of underappreciated public art
Peaces of Chico’
While driving either direction on Camellia Way, the minds of most drivers sometimes shift into cruise control, and they neglect to check their artistic blind spot to see a vibrant display of Chico art as they cross Big Chico Creek.
“Peaces of Chico” was painted by high-school students from around the county with help from Chico artist Gregg Payne in 2007. The four symbols of the natural elements unified by a peace symbol reflect the importance of renewable energy, Payne said. Even though drivers merely grace it with a glance, Payne still believes the painting is in a great location, and gives people a drive-by experience.
So put the brakes on the thoughts of the day’s hectic schedule and quickly take in the mural’s brilliant colors and message. Just make sure you don’t stare for too long and hit the car in front of you.
Best locally famous couple
Kelli Saam and Jerry Olenyn
When you’re a television celebrity, you have to get used to being lionized by total strangers on the street. But if you’re with your mate at the time, he or she has to accept being largely ignored as you bathe in the attention.
That’s a problem Kelli Saam and Jerry Olenyn don’t have. They’re a television-news power couple who share the burdens and pleasures of small-town fame and do so with grace and generosity.
We like that they chose Chico as both a place to work and to put down roots. Unlike so many young TV types, for whom Chico is just a way station on the road to somewhere bigger, they’re sticking around, raising their two sons here and getting to know the community—an invaluable asset for journalists.
Best place to yell out loud
You haven’t seen Bidwell Park until you’ve huffed and puffed all the way up to Monkey Face Rock—known for its quirky little tunnels, fresh air and amazing view of Chico. Stand at the edge of the rock and scream into the wind, or hike with a friend on the sloped and flat paths. And during sunset, watch the sun reflect off Horseshoe Lake below while you enjoy some well-needed solitude.
Best place to get your bike fixed
A.S. Bike Cart
For those with busy schedules, the A.S. Bike Cart takes all the sweat out of giving your bike some well-deserved—or emergency—attention. Get your flat tires fixed, gears and brakes adjusted or have a bike expert test-ride your cruiser while you’re in class or having lunch downtown. Prices range, depending on services, and the cart hosts bike auctions throughout the year, at which they sell refurbished bikes donated by campus police, the county landfill and the community. It’s also open to the public. Thanks, guys.
Best candidate for carpal-tunnel syndrome
Musician, writer and mother Christine LaPado had contributed for years to the CN&R before heading over to the dark side as a full-fledged staff writer. Over the past year, she’s churned out story after well-written story, from insightful profiles of musicians to hard-hitting pieces on the controversial topics Chicoans care about most.
LaPado is a badass addition to the staff, and she’s now making the switch to special-sections editor—spearheading projects such as the twice-yearly Visitor Guide and Dining Guide. Don’t worry, though, she’s going to keep writing. We promise to keep her ergonomically outfitted.
Best place to learn to belly dance while dining
Every Friday night, Sultan’s hosts two belly dancing shows—at 6:30 and 7:15. Patrons are encouraged to take a break from their gyros and falafels to hop up and learn a few moves from the colorful dancers that twirl their tummies to exotic music.
Location: Phoenix Building, Third and Main
Best new place for old clothes
It’s hard to walk down the north side of West Second Street between Main and Broadway and not notice the eclectic, fun frocks in the window of BOHO.
In the short time since opening its doors, this used-apparel and consignment shop—selling an excellent selection of locally crafted creations—has become a must-shop spot in the downtown women’s clothier scene. BOHO also hosts art shows and other events, so keep an eye out for festivities, such as the upcoming off-site fashion show Oct. 23-24 (head to the shop for details).
Location: 112 W. Second St.