You cast your votes—here are ours
Best overlooked restaurant
House of Bamboo
We just can’t understand it. House of Bamboo has great food: Thai cuisine so fresh and with such subtle twists that even non-aficionados love it. (Pineapple rice—to die for!) The restaurant is on Second Street, between Panama’s and Pluto’s, and has classy décor. Maybe it looks too classy, turning off those who want a reasonably priced meal. The secret is, House of Bamboo is totally reasonable. It’s closed Mondays; give it a try any other day. Trust us, it’s worth the lack of wait … 163 E. Second St., 893-8811
Best place to sit and breathe
Sky Creek Dharma Center
Take a cushion. Or a meditation bench. Or a chair, if you prefer. Now, just sit and breathe. Listen to your heart beating. Watch the way your mind works. The past is gone, the future hasn’t arrived, so be here now. Sky Creek Dharma Center is a good place to practice sitting still. It’s set up just for that, and three different meditation groups are now meeting there regularly. The center is also open mornings, Mondays through Fridays, at 6 o’clock for drop-in meditation. The center’s meditation room is a beautiful space with beamed, vaulted ceiling and hardwood floor, and there’s also a restaurant-style kitchen and other meeting rooms. www.skycreekdharmacenter.org
Best place to get in touch with your inner child
Powell’s Sweet Shop
Powell’s settled into a well-known and -loved storefront when Redwood Forest shut its doors. So, it faced a little resistance from the Chico public. Walk inside anyway. Just the sight of the lollypops, jelly beans, throwback lunch boxes and Dick and Jane books will put a big, giddy grin on the most skeptical of faces. Like a kid in a candy store—a candy store full of enough sugar to give you a tummy ache for a week. 121 W. Third St., 332-9866
Best use of leftovers
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Ah yes. The cycle of life: The Sierra Nevada brewmaster makes the beer. The spent grain, hops and yeast from the brew making is fed to the cows at Chico State’s University Farm. The poop from the cows is used in the fertilization of Sierra Nevada’s hops field. The hops in the field make the ales for the barkeep to dispense. And the ale in front of you at the Sierra Nevada Taproom goes really well with that ribeye steak cut from those lucky, beer-eatin’ cows. May the circle never be unbroken. 1075 E. 20th St., 345-2739
Best place for PDA
Alumni Glen, Chico State
Let’s be honest, sometimes you like a little smoochy-woochy from that special someone when you’re out and about. And what better place to sneak in some kissing time in public than our beautiful public university? The shady knoll on the north side of Big Chico Creek (near Holt Hall) is quiet and has plenty of grassy areas and benches. Go there, listen to the water trickle and get your snog on.
Best local lawman
The Chico Police Department has been getting a bad rap lately, with violent crimes alarmingly frequent and the “disorderly events ordinance” (which it drafted) roundly booed. We don’t believe in painting all people with one brush, so we’re recognizing one of the good men in blue. Mike Maloney, one of the department’s two captains, has served as interim chief when Bruce Hagerty has been recuperating or vacationing. He made a clear, cogent case for staffing increases, and he seems to have the respect of city higher-ups as well as the officers under his command. When Hagerty steps down, we have a good feeling we know who’ll step up.
Best local blogger
OK, so he’s on a site owned by a conglomerate—we won’t hold that against him. On his Bullfight blog on NorCalBlogs.com, former Chico City Councilman Dan Nguyen-Tan has created a plaza de toros for progressive thinking. He’s as quick with praise as constructive criticism, responds promptly to comments, and keeps the discourse from degenerating into insult exchanges. Unlike many bloggers, he’s not a one-trick bronco—he covers a range of topics, interspersed with fun video clips and Scrabble words. Throw your hat into his ring … or at least sit in the stands. ¡Olé!
Best civil servant
Unless you’re a Butte County employee or a local gadfly, you probably haven’t heard of Star Brown. She’s toiled behind the scenes for 19 years, achieving a measure of recognition this summer after the departure of her boss, Chief Administrative Officer Paul McIntosh. Brown is the interim CAO, responsible not only for the daily operations of county government but for long-range projects to protect our water rights and our interests in the relicensing of Oroville Dam. She doesn’t want the job on a permanent basis because, as she puts it, “I’m not at the beginning of my career.” Even if she reverts to assistant CAO, she’ll remain tops in our book.
Best new ethnic restaurant
Priya Indian Cuisine
Ah, curry. With very few varieties of ethnic food to choose from in Chico, we welcomed with open arms Priya Indian Cuisine. Even if it came on the heels of the death of Grayatip Thai Cuisine, one of the city’s most beloved establishments. Priya is open seven days a week and offers authentic Indian dishes to our tastebuds’ delight. 2574 Esplanade, 899-1055.
Best place for fiesta lasagna
Fiesta what? No, really. Picture this: lasagna noodles, some marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, ground beef, maybe a little onion, garlic and oregano. Now add some spicy sauce and corn, and you’ve got Fiesta Lasagna. To be honest, we really have no idea how Spiteri’s makes its oh-so-delicious Italian/Mexican creation. We’ve never taken the time to dissect it, but that’s only because we wolf it down so fast. Don’t be skeptical, try it. But leave some for us. 971 East Ave., 891-4797
Best place to see Ponch and Jon
The corner of East First and Vallombrosa
This used to be the spot for accidents, but no more. Now you’ll occasionally see a pair of motorcycle cops with radar in hand camping out on this hot corner for speeders. Makes for a different kind of entertainment. Now instead of rubbernecking through the office window, we daydream of Francis Llewellyn Poncherello and Jon Baker zooming the streets of Chico on their trusty mechanical steeds. Can you see it? Now if they’d just bring roller disco back to Chico …
Best underpants theater
If there isn’t a bustier or pair of fishnets in wardrobe, then you are not at Chico Cabaret. The Moulin Rouge of Chico keeps things hot with high-energy and clothing-lite productions like the The Rocky Horror Show, Le Nöel Depravé, and, of course, the legendary Cabaret. By living up to its name, and consistently putting on energetic (and yes, sexy—it’s OK to say it) shows, the Cabaret has become the most fun place to catch a musical in Chico. Watch for the latest editions of Rocky Horror Live (Oct. 4-Nov. 3) and Holiday Burlesque Show (Nov. 29-Dec. 22) in the fall. 2201 Pillsbury Road, 895-0245
Best local newscast
Like many people, we watch local TV newscasts. We also listen to the radio, and we find the news on KPAY to be music to our ears. Substance with style is the trademark of AM 1290’s morning team: anchors Clark Michael and Terry Jones, reporters Bruce Lang and Christina Craven, sports guy Mike Baca and good ol’ Anthony “that’s Watt[’]s up with weather.” No fluffy featurettes here, and media types especially appreciate how KPAY credits other outlets when it picks up their stories. We’re just careful to switch stations at 9:06—Rush makes us queasy …
Best name that’s going away
The Naked Lounge
It’s one of the quintessential names in Chico, evoking a sense of freedom and comfort (or bare necessity, which isn’t a bad misinterpretation). But the coffee house is planning to take down its signature sign and go with a new identity, chosen from customers’ suggestions. We’re not businesspeople or lawyers, so we won’t question the wisdom of this change. We’ll just honor this great moniker, born in Chico and soon to be exclusive domain of the Sacramento offshoot. 118 W. Second St., 895-0676
Best home stereo store
Sounds by Dave
“I will not sell junk to people,” Dave Maurer says defiantly. “If you want a $27 DVD player, go someplace else.” That commitment to quality may explain why Sounds by Dave has survived—since 1974—as an independent home stereo store. The business has changed, of course. These days the emphasis is on home theater systems. But Maurer still operates with the awareness that Chico is a small town and he can run into customers in town. The last thing he wants is to learn they’re unhappy with their purchases, so he stocks only brands he knows work well and are durable. 1256 Esplanade, 891-5800
Best underappreciated music treasure
North State Symphony
The North State Symphony has many fans who know quite well, thank you, just how excellent it is, but it could always use a few more. Formed seven years ago, when the venerable Chico Symphony merged with the Redding Symphony, the group is led by Music Director Kyle Wiley Pickett, who has developed it into the finest orchestra north of San Francisco. Executive Director Keith Herritt told us the symphony has grown “in terms of musical quality and budget” since the merge and is also attracting more high-quality soloists, such as Brian Ganz, who performed Brahms’ monumental First Piano Concerto as part of the symphony’s first performances of the season Sept. 15 and 16. Look for Mahler’s immense—and immensely beautiful—Second Symphony, featuring chorus and soloists, Nov. 17-18. www.northstatesymphony.org
Best local organic brew
Butte Creek Organic Pilsner
When you think of beer in this fair town, Sierra Nevada is likely what comes to mind. But although it’s smaller, Butte Creek Brewing Co. churns out some fine beers, too. With the organics industry rising in popularity, we imagine Butte Creek, early to jump on board, will only prosper. The brewery, which produces 6,000 cases and 220 kegs of beer a month, is distributed in 30 states. Among the varieties offered are ale, pilsner, porter and pale ale. Our personal favorite is the Organic Pilsner, which you can buy in local grocery stores or swig from a pint glass at many a Chico drinking establishment.
Best use of local ingredients
Spice Creek Café
There are a handful of good restaurants around town that work hard to find good, locally grown fruits, veggies, grains and meat. One of them stands out: Spice Creek Café. The food is exquisite, the atmosphere inviting. But what really gets us going is their dedication not only to buying local goods and preparing delicious dishes, but also to sustainability. The masterminds behind Spice Creek—Rebecca Stewart and husband Brian Diendorf—offer cooking classes to pass on their sustainable ways to the general public. Job well done! 230 W. Third St., 891-9951
Fried little meats. Let’s say that together, “Fried little meats.” Now, wipe the drool from your lip and go to the sun-baked parking lot of Duke’s Cork & Bottle on Park Avenue and stand in line where the tiny window has been cut into the side of the liquor store. Crazy Taco’s carnitas are fried (in oil? lard? Do you want to know? Do you really care?) till the juices are seared into each crispy, yet juicy pork nugget. Welcome to flavor country. 1205 Park Ave., 879-9665
Best hamster cage/pizza joint/ rock venue/Pyrate hangout
Yes. You read that right. Monstros has become one of the best all-ages venues in town, bringing in an impressive list including out-of town (and out-of-country) bands like Monotonix, Mathematicians, Fierce Perm as well as locals like Zabaleen, Gorgeous Armada and Dirty Sister. Adding to its charm are the vintage posters that line the walls (including one of Army of Darkness), a floor covered in wood chips and the colorful crew of the local chapter of Pyrate Punx. Add cheap bottles of PBR and slices of pizza the size of your face (including the Breath of Death pizza with jalapeños, garlic and pepperoni), and you’ve got your one-stop rock shop. No boom-sticks required. 628 W. Sacramento Ave., 345-7672
Best place to work out without feeling like you’re working out
There’s a new training regimen that’s sweeping slacker nation. It begins with a bike ride down to Cal Skate. Once there, you must bring the body temperature down by easing into some 12-ounce curls (light beer, of course). From there, slap on a helmet and hit the batting cages—this will loosen up the joints and improve your hand-eye coordination. Then the real work-out: Strap skates on your feet and go a few laps to the sounds of Michael Jackson or maybe some Men at Work. If you find yourself breathing heavy, that just means you need to make a pit stop for more fluids. Remember: Beer is 90 percent water (though water is 100 percent water). 2465 Carmichael Drive, 343-1601
Best community cleanup project
BEC’s annual Bidwell Park and Creeks of Chico Cleanup
What would Bidwell Park and Chico’s creeks look like if they weren’t cleaned once a year? As Barbara Vlamis puts it, “We might find some mattress dams in the creeks.” Vlamis is executive director of the Butte Environmental Council, which each year in late summer organizes a small army of volunteers—130 at this year’s cleanup, held Sept. 15—to spend a morning picking up the trash in Chico’s creeks and portions of Bidwell Park. It’s safe to say that, were it not for BEC’s annual cleanup, our creeks and park would not be the places of beauty we enjoy today.
Best meat from a spit
Beef and lamb gyro from Sultan’s Bistro
Meat, meat, meat, meat. What’s the Greek word for yummers? Is it ušépoxoo? Could be. We’ll just say it’s gyro as the friendly folks at Sultan’s Bistro shave bands of spiced beef/lamb from giant spinning skewers and place them gently on warm pita bread for us to lovingly cram into our food holes. Yummers, indeed. 300 Broadway, 345-7455
Best neighborhood pharmacy
The old-fashioned drug store, which first opened its doors in February 1957, has been owned since the 1960s by Marge Maddox, who’s been a pharmacist since 1945 and still shows up regularly for work. More recently Bruce Crowson bought out her former partners and joined her as co-owner. Crowson said the key to the store’s survival has been customer service—free delivery seven days a week chief among them. An added attraction is the presence of a branch post office in the back corner where customers can mail letters and packages and pay their utility bills. 1283 E. First Ave. (In Motion Fitness complex), 342-0171
Best public place to “relax” with a newspaper
The bathroom on the second floor of Kendall Hall
Many people, understandably, don’t like using public restrooms—they can be smelly, atrociously filthy and now there’s a new fear (for some): foot-tapping senators looking for love in all the wrong places. OK, so maybe we’re giving something away here, but you probably won’t find a more quiet, more clean bathroom in town … well, maybe you will, but this is a fine facility. So grab the paper, go into the east entrance, hike up the stairs and relax—you deserve it! P