The best of the rest, as chosen by CN&R staff
Best place to get a thick shake
Overlook the sticky counters and the kitchen that looks as old as the ‘50s-style shake makers. This joint is the place to go when you want a thick, ice creamy (not ice milky) shake—the kind where you can use your straw as if it were a spoon. We’re hooked on the chocolate peanut butter shakes (ask for extra peanut butter).
Best reason to go corporate
Starbucks’ Chantico drinking chocolate
What’s nearly four times as expensive as coffee, 18 times as expensive as gasoline, and so good you’d step over your own dead pooch to get one more fix? It’s silky, it’s impossibly rich and in Chico it’s only available at Starbucks: Chantico. The name sounds like some mythical creature from an urban legend like the Chupacabra or Yeti, but it’s simply high-quality cocoa mixed with whole milk till it’s the consistency of a melted chocolate bar, then steamed till hot and sold for a price that works out to $53 per gallon.
Best “new” music venue
It’s got cheap beer, miniscule cover charges, decent sound, pool tables and a smoking section. What more could you want in a rock bar?
Best late-night eats
Sure there’s The Pita Pit, but Pommes Frites ensures that you are not only soaking up the alcohol, but also clogging the ol’ arteries before hitting the sack. But it’s so damn tasty. Fish and chips, chicken strips and and an assortment of sauces, including the best tartar sauce around these parts. The clam chowder is good, too. Look inside next time you pass by and the shiny, happy faces will illustrate the goodness.
Best place for Chai Tea
The Naked Lounge
Mochas are so last year. While there are plenty of coffee joints serving up Chai tea, The Naked Lounge has them all beat. Tasty. Creamy. A nice kick to them. We recommend the iced Chai, but the hot version is also a fine choice. Not to mention, “The Naked” a nice place to “lounge,” hence the name. Just keep your clothes on, please. So remember: Chi Tau bad, Tai Chi so-so, Chai tea good.
Best sub sandwich
The sandwich. It sounds so easy: Just take a couple of slices of bread, add some cheese, meat if you like it, veggies and spreads. But too often, sandwiches are disappointingly served just so-so. That’s not the case at the Sub Station, located at 2404 Park Ave. at Meyers Street. There, they have yet to sink a sub. The pastrami—the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats, according to Seinfield‘s George Costanza—comes out of a pot steaming with salty goodness. The bread is just the right combo of crunchy and chewy. If you don’t want to wrestle with tumbling chopped pickles and ‘maters, order yours “inside out.” And for those cold winter afternoons, try their soup in a bread bowl.
Best cinnamon roll
Jedidiah’s Neighborhood Grill
One of Chico’s newer breakfast (and lunch) spots, Jedidiah’s is already making a name for itself with homemade sausages, fluffy biscuits and delicious french toast. But our favorite is the cinnamon rolls. They have just the right combination of flaky and chewy textures, without any pesky raisins getting in the way. The icing, generously applied, is to die for. Serve us up two. Now, if only they were open on Sundays.
Best kids’ menu
Black Crow Grill & Taproom
What? You thought we were going to say Denny’s? (Actually, we were, but our local prejudice got the better of us.) The Crow, with its classy bar and upscale prices, might not be your first choice to bring the kidlets for lunch or dinner, but have you been in the place lately? First off, they give your kid a GameBoy for use during the meal. The kids’ menu has a variety of tasty items priced at $3.95. And here’s the kicker: On Sundays and Wednesdays, one of your kids eats free. (Now you just have to decide which one is your favorite.)
Best place to unwind after work
(Tie) Duffy’s Tavern, The Maltese
Depending on what part of town you live in, there are two perfect spots to snag an after-work cocktail. Duffy’s Tavern, located on the corner of Third and Main streets, offers a dark setting, an eclectic jukebox and stiff drinks. The Maltese (formerly Cheri’s Pastime Pub) has a pool table, a shuffle board and a nice back patio, perfect for imbibing $1.50 PBRs and also perfect for those who like to cancer up their lungs. But what makes them both good places to unwind is that conversation is not snuffed by annoyingly loud jukeboxes and meatheads.
Best free kids’ entertainment
Library storytime with Ms. Nancy
Why pay big bucks for those superbaby classes when the best entertainment for Chico’s under-3 set is free? Toddler storytime hits the Chico branch of the Butte County Library system each Friday at 10 a.m., when at least two dozen cuties descend on the newly remodeled children’s area to hear a couple of books, a story and song on the felt board and a few rounds of “The Wheels on the Bus” and other tunes. Ms. Nancy (Leek is her last name) really gets into it. Where is Thumbkin indeed? As if that weren’t enough, the library has preschool storytime, story and craft hour for older kids and storytimes in Spanish, Japanese and Hmong.
Best ignored city rule
No food or drink in the Chico City Council Chamber
The words are right there painted in white letters on the front doors of the Chico City Council Chambers building. But get inside the chamber and you’ll see little metal carts parked behind the council dais and stocked with coffee, fruits and nuts. (We know, there’s a joke here somewhere; but we’ll resist.) Without the slightest trace of guilt or any admission of wrongdoing, the councilmembers, city staff and TV technicians consume the food and beverages during the breaks. Perhaps even more ironic is the fact that there is actually a kitchen in the building. (Up until a year ago, this category was the maximum gross vehicle weight for most of the city streets. But the wild popularity of monsterous and weighty SUV’s trumped that law and the logic behind it.)
Best reason to wait it out—maybe
The housing bubble
So the pundits are calling for the housing “bubble” to burst, stopping the skyrocketing prices that have landed Chico on the top of nationwide lists tallying the most overpriced housing markets. Some even say values will go down—something that hasn’t happened since the Bay Area in the 1980s, as far as we know. What to do? We’d say wait it out, but people who decided to do just that two years ago are probably kicking themselves now. Your guess is as good as ours, and for now, $250,000 will buy you a starter home.
Best end to a rumor
Trader Joe’s is coming. It really, really is. We at the CN&R have gotten some flak from people saying we’re hyping a chain that will suck dollars away from local businesses. That may be true, and that’s a bummer. But the food! The prices! Sorry, but we’re as excited as the next guy that this dream finally came true.
Best spot to watch a car wreck
Mark Lore’s desk
At least twice a day, while staring blankly at a computer screen, we’re snapped back into reality by the screeching of tires. And without even moving, we can look out the window onto where East First Street leads to the Memorial Way Bridge and see either a near-wreck or watch a full wreck unfold—from the act itself, to the exchange of phone numbers, to the arrival of the authorities. And sometimes Local Bastard will whip up a big batch of popcorn and the rest of the staff will gather around and gawk. No rubbernecking necessary here.
Best attempt to hide racism behind loopy excuses
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Owners of businesses on Whitman Avenue howled in protest when the City Council voted to name the street after slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., saying it unfairly forced small businesses to pay for new business cards and letterhead, even though they’ll now have almost two years to do so. Many of those business owners adamantly claimed that they would have been opposed to any name change, but come on, people. Aren’t you really just afraid that your potential white customers will see your address in the phone book and assume you do business in a black neighborhood, thus possibly discouraging them to go there? At least be honest about it. Somebody ought to propose re-renaming it “Ronald Reagan Boulevard” and see if anyone protests then.
Best Chico patriot
Chico City Councilmember Larry Wahl is usually pretty subdued during the council meetings. He talks in clipped, often one- or two-word sentences. But when a patriotic proclamation needs to be delivered, gangway for Larry. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Wahl flew combat missions as a Navy pilot over Southeast Asia back in the late ‘60s. In the past few years the council has had the opportunity to welcome home and honor those who’ve fought in the Iraq War. Wahl shines at such ceremonies, offering crisp salutes and a lotta respect for his brother and sister soldiers. He’s even been known to wear an American flag tie for the occasion. We may not agree with Wahl’s politics, but we would never doubt either his sincerity or patriotism.
Best defunct band name
The Dik Diks
Named after a freakish, miniature antelope found in northeastern Africa, The Dik Diks roamed Chico for a short period of time, playing bluesy punk rock and just plain kicking ass. But it’s not so much the name itself, but the way it rolls off the tongue. Try it, “The Dik Diks.” One more time. Pure genius.
Best place to read the incoherent ramblings of strangers or set up a kinky sex tryst under an assumed name
It’s finally available in Chico. But don’t go there! You’ll catch a disease! Try the News & Review’s free online classifieds instead at http://chico.newsreview.com.
Best corporate radio station
The Dollar Tree Radio Network
Played in every Dollar Tree dollar store in the country, this satellite-fed station carries the greatest bubble-gum, soul and fun-time rock hits ever recorded. “Summer Lovin'” from the Grease soundtrack, the Archies, James Brown, Bay City Rollers and tons of cool, underplayed Motown by bands like the Shangri-Las. Good in small doses, like eating a glazed donut soaked in corn syrup.
Best example of a daily trying to emulate a weekly and failing miserably
The E-R’s Golden Oaks awards
Terribly written, poorly conceived and riddled with errors and misspellings, this blatant attempt to copy our Best of issue is a perfect example of why dailies should stick to running wire stories and car crash reports and leave this “giant community ass-kiss-a-thon” (as another local weekly recently called this issue) to us.
Best place for a new church in Chico
Closed-down movie theater
About seven or eight years ago the United Artists Theater next to the Almond Orchard shopping center shut down and was soon after resurrected as the Butte Bible Fellowship. A couple of years later, the old Movies 10 multiplex behind the Chico Mall was reborn as the Calvary Chapel and now the old El Rey has risen again as the temporary home for Bidwell Presbyterian. Hallelujah.
Best place for a new parking structure
The Downtown Plaza Park
This is the perfect spot to plant that controversial parking structure looming on the town’s horizon. The Downtown Plaza Park is centrally located, meaning it’s close to almost all the downtown businesses that are allegedly shriveling on the vine for lack of customers. What’s more, there are practically no trees left at the park, the gazebo is gone and so are the bums who use to hang out there. Perfect. Fill the space with a parking structure. Put the park on the first floor and the Thursday Night Market on the Second.
College Invasion 6
In the long history of conquering hordes that have swooped into Chico to cross swords with the city’s mighty collegiate army, no warrior was as respected as the legendary Lexington Steele. The boys of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity were for sure impressed, and ultimately laid down their weapons and welcomed Steele and his harem—Brittney Skye, Trina Michaels and Marie Luv—into their home on West Fifth Street. Shane’s World Productions captured the proceeding on digital video, and proof of their brave victory over the Wildcat image is for sale at $25 a pop. Excelsior!
Best reason to move a downtown bench
It’s being hogged by a non-shopper
For most of the year an artful bench stood near the corner of Second and Main streets. Eventually it was commandeered by one guy, Jim, who kept all his possessions with him on that bench. Soon some of the shop-owners on the block began to complain that the non-shopping Jim was scaring away retail. So the city stepped in with a forklift and uprooted the bench and moved it a block-and-a-half down Second toward the university. The man, however, stayed. Now no one sits on the bench. But its old site, once staked out solely by Jim and an occasional friend, is now a popular site for any number of Army-fatigue-wearing transients with puppies on leashes and/or guitars in battered cases.
Best overlooked downtown lunch spot
Moxie’s Café and Gallery
At 12:22 every weekday afternoon, the downtown is invaded by Chico High School students on their lunch hour. Most lunch spots fill up with these backpack-wearing, skateboard-toting, fashion-conscious and sustenance-seeking youngsters. For some reason they don’t go to Moxie’s, which is good for the downtown worker who always seems to forget that the high school kids hit town at 12:22. Besides its cool brick-wall interior and funky beatnik atmosphere, Moxie’s serves great sandwiches at very reasonable prices. The place is clean and well-lighted and, being a gallery, almost always has interesting art hanging on its walls. And the high schoolers stay away.
Best pleasant surprise
Dwight Frey, new A.S. Presents head coordinator
Time to come clean: When we saw the Tuck and Patti show on this semester’s A.S. Presents events calendar, we jumped to the conclusion that the newly hired events coordinator was taking Chico State’s student programming in a decidedly un-hip direction. We were wrong. Dwight Frey took over the position recently vacated by 14-year A.S. Presents honcho Ajamu Lamumba, and Frey’s very laid-back demeanor belies the amount of hard work he’s already done to bring a wide variety of quality shows to the school. With a lineup that includes Lyrics Born, Jimmy Eat World, Flogging Molly, Tegan and Sara, Michael Franti, S.F. Standup Competition and Fall Out Boy, we’ll stop giving him a hard time about Tuck and Patti.
Best downtown feud
Mr. Lucky v. Sacred Art Tattoo
For reasons unknown by all except the protagonists, the folks who run the bar on Main and those who operate the tattoo business two doors down don’t get along. There have been reported scuffles and incidents of incompatibility between the two neighbors. Outsiders—like this paper—who know and like each party are confounded over the whole thing and wish they’d just bury the hatchet and maybe exchange a nice tattoo for a stiff drink.
Best Chico success story
Former Chico News & Review contributing editor and funnyman Jason Ross has found success after leaving the comfortable but restrictive climate of Chico for the high-pressure atmosphere of New York City. Ross is part of the 12-person Emmy-award winning writing team for Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Last Sunday, right there on our local TVs was Jason accepting for the third straight year the award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program. Way to go Jason, we’re proud of you. Maybe one of us will make it out of these stuffy confines one day and get a job writing for the Synthesis national edition.