CN&R staffers crown their favorite things in Chico
Best grocery store sommelier
720 Mangrove Ave.
Safeway’s large selection of vino, from local wineries to international vintners, sometimes makes it tough for customers to choose a bottle (or, ahem, bottles). But never fear, wine steward Dave Mettler works at the Mangrove Avenue store and is the go-to guy for helping shoppers choose between that Bordeaux they’ve been eyeing or that Petite Sirah with the pretty label. Mettler’s been a Safeway employee for close to 30 years. He knows his stuff, including when something fancy has been temporarily discounted, so he’s a great resource to guide customers to what their tastebuds desire. Whether they are searching for a pricy special-occasion wine with lots of tannins or a fruity Chardonnay under $10, Mettler’s the guy to ask.
Best reason to get stoked on next summerReturn of the Chico Heat
The past few summers have been a bit boring for local baseball fans, especially those who followed the professional teams that played under the lights at Chico State’s Nettleton Stadium—first the Chico Heat, from 1997 to 2002, and then the Chico Outlaws, from 2005 to 2011. But excitement is mounting for next June, when the Heat will return as part of a new collegiate wood-bat circuit, the Great West League, which will recruit NCAA players from across the country. What’s more, the Heat will be led by Chicoan Fred Ludwig, the head coach of Pleasant Valley High School’s baseball team. Like many locals, we can’t wait for high-level baseball, hot dogs and fireworks on warm summer nights.
Best neighborhood makeover11th Street
For years, the quiet residential block on 11th Street near Park Avenue was marred by four vacant and dilapidated houses. On top of the area being plain ugly, neighbors were plagued by nighttime disturbances from squatters, hard-drug users and criminals stashing stolen goods. But residents say they’ve experienced far fewer nuisances since Habitat for Humanity of Butte County purchased and demolished two of the homes to make way for the construction of new houses for low-income families. And just down the street, at the corner of East 11th and Nelson streets, a previously vacant Queen Anne-style home has been beautifully renovated by local historian Michele Shover, who lives nearby in the yellow-and-white A.H. Chapman House. It’s all added up to a remarkable turnaround for the blighted neighborhood—though that warehouse at the corner of 11th Street and Park Avenue is still an eyesore.
Best place to get your hands dirtyBig Hot Crab
701 Main St., 879-1822
When was the last time you donned a bib, threw all your food out on the table and just dug in? If it’s been a while, you probably need to head on over to Big Hot Crab, where getting dirty is so regular an occurrence that they’ve installed a hand-washing station in the dining room. If that’s not enough, the food—from Dungeness crab legs and lobster tails to plump shrimp and tender mussels—is off-the-hook. It’s a great place to bring a group of friends, because then you can try a little bit of everything. Sauces range from garlic butter to traditional Cajun—spicy or mild—and all are rich and delicious. There’s also a fried menu, featuring onion rings, fries and beer-battered cod.
Best breakfast hikeGuardians Trail
Upper Bidwell Park
Starting from the Centennial Avenue trailhead, take Annie Bidwell Trail until it splits off. Follow Guardians Trail up the ridge until you’ve gone about 2 miles total. There you’ll find a rock outcropping over the canyon that is just begging to be picnicked upon. It’s the perfect observation platform for taking in the scope of the Big Chico Creek canyon while enjoying a morning meal, and you get the added benefit of a 4-mile round-trip hike to work off your breakfast.
Best morning greetingSharon Stern and Edgar Ovalle
Frequent users of Lower Bidwell Park, especially those who go to the green space in the morning, may be familiar with Sharon Stern and Edgar Ovalle. The Chico couple are Park Watch volunteers who, after their jogging and bicycling routines, spend several hours most mornings on or near a bench at Vallombrosa and Manzanita avenues. Stern and Ovalle greet park users and answer their questions about the space, keep an eye out for hazards, and do things like pick up litter. In addition to greeting hundreds of park-goers by name, they also smile and wave to the “regulars” who drive down Vallombrosa in the mornings. Their friendly greeting helps hundreds of Chicoans have a good start to their day.
Best way to spend the whole day jammin'Reggae shows at Sipho’s, mon!
1228 Dayton Road, 895-1866
Every so often—maybe it’s Jamaican Independence Day, maybe it’s a random Sunday—Sipho’s transforms from a chilled-out (and awesome) restaurant into a full-on reggae fest. The stage on the back patio becomes home to a string of performers, many of them professional artists, and the vibe is nothing but peace, happiness and Jah love. Sipho’s Jamaican Restaurant and Café also boasts some killer jerk chicken, curried goat and ital stew. If you’re lucky, during the show, they’ll set out a buffet of many of their specialties (for a set price) and you can sit back with some great food, a Red Stripe and the chill beats of some seriously cool Jamaican bands.
Best use of the FrialatorTots at Park Avenue Pub
2010 Park Ave., 893-3500
Let’s be real. The question—“Would you like fries or tots with that?”—is just a formality, right? The wait staff at the Park Avenue Pub in south Chico has to know that, when it comes to marrying the humble tater to hot cooking oil, the geometry of a tot, with its ridges and secret nooks, provides more opportunity for crisping and subsequent drooling and crunching than any fry could. And Park Avenue’s cooks are masters of the frialated arts—pushing the tots to the edge, to a deep-golden crispiness, and leaving the center hot and moist.
Best place for little kids of all abilitiesInnovative Preschool
2404 Marigold Ave., 343-2028
Innovative Preschool’s learning environment may first appear no different from other preschools. The program is home to all sorts of fun educational toys, games and books. Scheduled curriculum and regular activities are accompanied by free time for the kids to play. But this program, nestled in classrooms at Loma Vista School, is partnered with the Chico Unified School District and offers enrollment to children with and without special needs. The inclusionary model not only prepares children for elementary school, but also teaches them to celebrate each other’s differences.
Best reason to drink your breakfastLive Life Juice Co.
A trip to the farmers’ market just isn’t complete without stopping by the Live Life Juice booth for a cold glass of fresh, raw, unpasteurized goodness. Is it a coincidence that the inspiration behind this 100 percent natural juice company was born on the beaches of Kauai? Maybe. But this business, run by three sisters, seems to have figured out a way to bottle something akin to the island life, aka heaven. Just taste their Chico Chiller (passion fruit, orange and pineapple) or Sunshine Daydream (orange, grapefruit, pineapple and ginger) and try not to smile. Yeah, we didn’t think so. Drink up!
Best (just The Best)Duck-fat fries at B Street Public House
117 Broadway, 899-8203
As much as we appreciate a properly deep-fried treat (see Best Use of the Frialator), this naughty appetizer is on a whole other toe-curling, blood-slowing, eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head level. As the dish’s name suggests, B Street’s chefs cook thin strips of potato in duck fat, then they toss the fries in sea salt and chives and serve them with a tangy fry sauce. The duck fat is a perfect match, adding a silky mouthfeel and richness to the crispy fries. Bring a friend, add a fancy cocktail or two, and you have the perfect night out.
Best place to stock your bug-out bagGates Resale
1152 Park Ave., 342-2309
Prepping for the fuzz to hit the fan is so en vogue in post-Y2K America that there are reality shows dedicated to it and Costco offers freeze-dried emergency rations by the bucket-load. Even if you don’t believe modern society’s demise is imminent due to electromagnetic pulse attacks, a zombie apocolypse or Cthulhu sliding out of the sky on a chemtrail, it’s good to follow the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared.” Survival-minded folk advocate keeping a “bug-out bag” stocked with 72 hours’ worth of necessities. The basics: clothes for all weather, water purification tablets, first-aid kit, rations, hand-to-hand and distance weapons—all of which can be conveniently found at Gates Resale. The Chico institution (family-owned since 1944) doubles as a pawn shop, so you can also pick up a sweet guitar and a machete to wander the wasteland Six String Samurai-style.
Best way to serve salmonWith a cannon
By serving salmon, we mean helping them and not, like, shooting fish filets at dinner parties. See, the damaged fish ladder in Upper Park’s Iron Canyon has long prevented migrating salmon from proceeding higher into the Big Chico Creek watershed to spawn. But the city’s plan to rehabilitate the ladder at a cost of $2.2 million fell through last spring, so in came local eco-firm FISHBIO and Whooshh Innovations, a company based in Bellevue, Wash., that designs and produces vacuum-powered systems to launch fish past manmade obstacles. This May, Whooshh representatives visited Chico and concluded their “cannon” could indeed help salmon clear the fish ladder—at a fraction of the cost. FISHBIO is still pushing to install the Whooshh system, and we hope it’s primed for next spring’s salmon run.
Best saveThe Bookstore
118 Main St., 345-7441
The community came to the rescue of downtown’s iconic used book store back in 2013, contributing the cash needed for longtime Bookstore manager Josh Mills and his wife, Muir Hughes, to purchase the beloved Chico shop. At the time, the public had no idea that the other book store downtown, Lyon Books, would be closing its doors permanently this year. The Bookstore is not only a survivor, though. The shop has blossomed during the tenure of its new owners, who hold regular poetry and prose readings, as well as other special events. It’s a true Chico fixture.
Best unused public spaceTraffic roundabout at First, Second and Flume streets
The traffic roundabout in front of the CN&R office was the subject of controversy long before it was built, and deciding what to fill it with remained controversial after its 2013 completion. Someone even floated the suggestion it be decorated with the decapitated heads of city officials. Two years later, it is still filled with nothing but what appear to be used wood chips from a hamster cage. (A rogue gardener planted a tree there last year, but that’s since been removed.) We’ve heard something may be in the works, but seeing is believing and—given the space’s prominence—it seems like an ideal project to partner with one or more local nonprofits to create something uniquely Chico.
Best productive way to spend 24 hours1day Song Club
Back in May, local musician Michael Bone (Bogg drummer/Pageant Dads guitarist) challenged local songwriters, both veterans and neophytes, to write and record a song based on any interpretation of the topic “the future” in 24 hours. Seven musicians answered the challenge, and Bone compiled the songs, showcasing an interesting cross-section of the Chico music scene. Bone has repeated the process every few weeks with different topics—food, jingles, found sounds and more—and most recently completed the 1day Song Club’s 11th collaborative effort. The results are always worth a listen, usually include at least a few rough diamonds and help to unite the many factions of the Chico music scene. Not bad for a day’s work.
Best noneventLabor Day float
Remember when a crush of students and out-of-towners would hit the Sacramento River by the thousands for a drunken float and raging party at Beer Can Beach? It often resulted in lots of unwanted groping and dozens of water rescues, paramedics transporting highly intoxicated revelers to Enloe Medical Center, or worse—like the alcohol-related drowning of 20-year-old Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Brett Olson in 2012. But booze-fueled flotillas are a thing of the past. In 2013, the Glenn County Board of Supervisors enacted a Labor Day-weekend alcohol ban on and near the Sacramento River, and the revelry appears to have been quelled as law enforcement reported only a few hundred floaters this Labor Day. We say good riddance.
Best bugle tuneTaps …
… as in beer handles. As in the Chico News & Review would like to trumpet the arrival of a flood of new craft-beer taps to the local scene. We’re still bar-crawling our way through the local riches, but our highlights so far include the back bar at Madison Bear Garden, which has doubled its numbers to a whopping 40 taps; the new craft-beer-stocked Clubhouse at the Almond Orchard Round Table; and of course the 64 taps of brewed goodness at the new location of the craft beer and burger mecca, Burgers and Brew.
Best getaway without actually leaving townInday’s Filipino Food
1043 W. Eighth St., 520-2593
This past summer, John and Ethel Geiger opened a brick-and-mortar extension of the Inday’s Filipino Food cart, which has supplied delicious lumpia and other Filipino delights to Chico’s citizenry since 2012. When mobile eateries makes such a leap, fans generally expect some of the same flavor that hooked them in the first place, plus some expanded options, and Inday’s storefront location doesn’t disappoint. The food in this cozy, converted home is served Kamayan-style (sans silverware) and is simply fantastic, made all the more enjoyable by the attention to detail the Geigers committed to decorating the restaurant to ensure a unique cultural experience. A Friday or Saturday evening spent at Inday’s is like a brief escape to a tropical paradise.