These are a few of our favorite things
Love letter to Chico
195 Humboldt Ave.
The completely unmissable mural at the corner of Humboldt and Park avenues is a bright spot where it used to be bleak. Painted by local artist Jedrek Speer, a Pleasant Valley High alum and owner of Seizer-One Designs, the mural—in bold and vibrant colors—declares its love for this city and we love it right back. One of the coolest things about it is that it covers two whole walls of the building occupied by Lulus.com, serving both as an advertisement for the building and a beautification project for the neighborhood, as those walls were previously blank, signifying nothing.
Best thing to save
The water towers
Chicoans are great at saving things we find historically important. Think back to the Save the Mansion effort of 2011 that kept the iconic home of John Bidwell open for tours during the state’s financial woes. More recently, Chicoans got behind the Save The Esplanade effort—to block the construction of roundabouts on the historic boulevard—and the Save the El Rey cause to keep that iconic theater from being transformed into office space. The best thing to save these days? Chico’s old water towers. Back in June, owner California Water Service Co. announced it was going to tear down the four structures due to seismic studies that conclude they could be unsafe during earthquakes. That triggered an immediate response from the folks at the Chico Heritage Association, among others, who are working to preserve them, preferably in their current locations. The effort, called Save the Chico Water Towers, includes exploring tax reductions, retrofitting and other options to keep the towers in place.
Best new addition to your liquor cabinet
Hooker Oak Distillery rums
2420 Park Ave., 809-0720
Hooker Oak Distillery opened last December in Chico’s new “Booze District” and it couldn’t be a better fit. Nestled in near HoneyRun Winery and Lassen Traditional Cidery, it’s an entirely different kind of alcohol being brewed with a label featuring an entirely different North State icon. Tours of the distillery are short but sweet—all the magic happens in one room of the warehouse. And, as it turns out, that warehouse was quite an eyesore before partners J.T. Martin and Billy Ahumada— contractors by day—got hold of it. Now it’s a beautiful building with space enough to pack food trucks into the parking lot for events. The kicker is that the rum is really good, too! With flavors including apple pie, pineapple and vanilla bean, the list of creative cocktails are endless—and a great addition to any home or bar menu.
Best sporting/ drinking combo
Bocce and wine at Red Tavern
1250 Esplanade, 894-3463
Red Tavern is best known for its fine dining. But it’s also a great place for the competitive among us to imbibe. That’s because the local restaurant has not only a vast array of wines to satisfy lovers of the grape but also a sweet little patio with a killer bocce court. Indeed, the Tavern is a recipient of Wine Spectator magazine’s 2017 Award of Excellence, meaning it has an extensive wine list, comprising superb choices to go along with its impressive food offerings. Who’s up for a game?
Best whack job
Andrew Coolidge's weed takedown
Back in May, following an atypically wet winter, the city-owned strips of land along the north side of East Second Street between Wall and Camellia Way were overrun with weeds. The vegetation was particularly obvious since nothing has been planted in those landscaping areas, including the roundabout, since the completion of the couplet project about four years ago. It was quite an eyesore at that entrance to downtown. Until, that is, Chico City Councilman Andrew Coolidge got tired of looking at it. He’d heard complaints from constituents, whom he tried to mollify by noting the city had plans to beautify those features. Since those efforts are moving at a snail’s pace, however, Coolidge loaded up his weed-whacker and spent a couple of hours over the Memorial Day weekend chopping the jungle down. Nicely done!
Best grandiose project
As it’s currently constructed, Bikeway 99—the city’s arterial, north-to-south path for cyclists—is great until it dumps you out behind Kohl’s and you face the gauntlet of gridlock known as East 20th Street. But wait! This past spring, the city floated a concept that would allow pedestrians, disabled people and cyclists to avoid that mess altogether. It’s a solution that city engineers say could become Chico’s signature piece of bicycle infrastructure—a bridge over East 20th Street. Everything’s still in the early planning stages and the city would need to secure somewhere between $3 million and $8 million of grant funding to move the project forward, but we can’t help getting excited about this concept that would make biking in Chico oh so much better.
Best place to let your freak flag fly
Keep Chico Weird Talent Show
When the CN&R launched the now-annual Keep Chico Weird Talent Show back in 2014, we emphasized that weird is good—that all the freaks running around Chico keep the place fun and interesting. The show itself has only reinforced that notion, becoming a marquee event for which Chico’s quirky characters show up in force. We’re continually impressed by the high level of talent and everything about our fair city that’s outrageous, awkward, hilarious, confusing or just plain weird. Keep it coming, Chico.
Best place to sweat out those Trump toxins
At a local rock show
How did you feel watching the evening news last night? How about after scrolling through your newsfeed this morning? Does your blood pressure rise at the mere thought of the mess our loudmouth in chief is making of everything—race relations, environmental protections, etc., etc., ad nauseam—in this country? Our prescription is to direct you to a local nightspot—The Maltese, Lost on Main, Duffy’s, any will do—and order you to release some of that tension by rocking the funk out to the riffs and grooves of one of Chico’s many noisemakers. Chances are, the band members are just as stressed out as you are and will be ready to cut loose as well.
Best lemonade-from- lemons moment
Tubing on the busted Oroville Dam spillway
The members of Chico funk/fusion band GravyBrain have always been known for their brave musical explorations, but in 2017, they threw aside all fear and common sense for a truly extreme adventure. In February, as most of us watched from afar when the Oroville Dam spillway began to crumble, the GravyBrain boys—Gravy, Galaxo, Danger and Scorpion—grabbed their tubes and their brews and floated down the dam atop the rushing waters, toasting each other as they launched over the breach. Don’t believe us? See the footage for yourself as captured by the GravyBrain News Network: www.goo. gl/m2bHjL.
Best new food trend to hit Chico
Sure, you can find a poke bowl at a handful of Asian restaurants around town (mostly sushi spots), but none quite compare to the authentic poke shops of Hawaii, which are as ubiquitous as taco trucks in Chico. Here’s the gist: Choose your poke—generally raw, marinated fish—then add rice and veggies. Voilá! You have a poke bowl. This trend has manifested itself quite quickly in Chico, first with the opening of Halo Hawaiian BBQ and Poke Bar (1354 East Ave., Ste. P) and most recently with the sign for Lucky Poke hung over the old Bulldog Taqueria downtown (119 Second St.). This is a trend we’re ready for! Bring on the poke!
Best hope for Chico’s arts future
1078 Gallery finds a home
The eviction of the 1078 Gallery from its home on Broadway last spring has left a huge hole in our local arts scene. In many ways, Chico is missing its arts heart. The constantly replenished calendar of local and visiting artist exhibits, vibrant art openings, all-ages rock shows, classical guitar recitals, literary events and open-entry group shows has been interrupted since May as the 1078 board and other volunteers have looked for a new space. So far, there are no prospects. For the sake of our arts scene and the health of our community, we hope 1078 Gallery finds a home soon. Chico misses you!
Best way to cruise around town
An electric unicycle (just ask Randall Stone)
You read that right—an electric unicycle. If you’ve spied City Councilman Randall Stone around town lately as we have, you’ve likely seen him atop his newest favored mode of transportation. In fact, he tells us he’s cruised over 300 miles on his Segway One S1 since he bought the thing in July. Apparently he can get around pretty quickly—the unicycle can reach up to 12.4 miles per hour—and it charges fast, too; in about an hour. Great Scott! Maybe you’re onto something here!
Best move to the other side of the street
Fast Eddie's Sandwich Shop
1175 East Ave., 342-8555
Fans of Fast Eddie’s Sandwich Shop had a rough start to 2017, as the beloved eatery’s former location—a converted house across the street from Tinseltown—was shuttered, leaving them longing for the deli’s signature sammies. Fortunately, that deprivation was short-lived, as Eddie’s soon reopened at another converted house about a mile down and on the other side of East Avenue. The new location offers an expanded menu and beer selection as well as more parking, more video games and more of all the things that make Fast Eddie’s worth a visit to the northeast side of town.
Best day out with the girls
The Chico Women's March, Jan. 21
Donald Trump’s presidency has inspired more political involvement by those opposed to his policies and frequent transgressions against reason and good taste than perhaps any leader in U.S. history. This became apparent the day after his Jan. 20 inauguration, when millions of daughters, mothers, grandmothers and the people who love them took to the streets for the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches in cities around the world, including Chico. The local daily ran with one police officer’s estimation of “about 1,000” attendees, but most anyone else present can attest to the fact that closer to 3,000 to 5,000 people took part in this truly inspiring and unforgettable day of action.
Best breakthrough technology to hit Chico
The “taco machine” at Tacos Pepe
1002 W. Fifth St., 566-7745
Yes, we said “taco machine”—by which we mean Tacos Pepe’s outdoor grill with its raised dome in the center surrounded by a moat filled with a variety of meats and peppers. The grillmaster, Pepe Tolentino, dips tortillas in the oil, then layers them across the dome before filling them with carne asada, pollo, carnitas, chorizo, cabeza or whatever else is gently frying in the moat. It’s a beautiful sight to behold, with the only drawback being that it’s only fired up on certain days—after 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Best place to make an escape (or have fun trying)
Chico Escape Rooms
3075 Cohasset Road, Ste. 2, 636-4475
Rifling through an elderly relative’s belongings might not sound like an exciting way to spend a night out with friends … unless said relative is a batty puzzle master who’s left behind a series of clues leading to a hidden fortune. That’s the premise behind Aunt Edna’s Condo, the first themed, interactive puzzle room at Chico Escape Rooms, where groups of up to eight people can test their deductive reasoning and communication skills. Those who’ve found Edna’s fortune (or, more likely, tried) now have reason to return—a second, Sherlock Holmes-themed adventure called Baker Street Mystery was added recently.
Best end to a long wait
Museum of Northern California Art (Monca)
900 Esplanade, 487-7272
When the Museum of Northern California Art, or Monca, finally opened this year in the long-unused Veterans Memorial Hall on The Esplanade, it marked the fruition of a Herculean effort dating back to at least 2009. The museum not only serves as a repository and place to view some of the North State’s finest visual art, but also offers lectures, musical events and more, adding a much-needed injection of culture into the Chico landscape.