Experiencing lows

Food critic not impressed with local favorite

THE HIGHS<br>Broadway Heights occupies a large space on the second floor of the Phoenix Building downtown.

Broadway Heights occupies a large space on the second floor of the Phoenix Building downtown.

Photo By Brittni Zacher

Broadway Heights California Cuisine
300 Broadway
Phone: 899-8075
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Broadway Heights California Cuisine

300 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 899-8075

Expectations inevitably set one up for disappointment, and as such, I try not to have too many. “Expect nothing, and be prepared for anything” is a fine mantra, and can help prevent disillusionment and regret.

This is especially valuable advice when returning to restaurants where previous meals have proven satisfactory. A mention of this popular downtown eatery and a vague memory of a delicious sandwich I ate some time ago, when Broadway Heights was still Jasco’s, entered my subconscious while perusing the shops downtown. I decided to pay a visit.

The menu remains unchanged despite the restaurant’s new ownership and name. My bestie and I surveyed the large menu. I couldn’t resist the special: A filet of salmon, topped with artichoke hearts, zesty lemon rosemary sauce and focaccia breadcrumbs, baked until toasted ($15.95), while my friend went with a half sandwich. The house soup, a rather thin tomato garlic parmesan, has a nice flavor, but the special, baked potato soup, may as well have been called last night’s mashed potatoes. Thick and desperately needing to be cut with some milk or water, the soup wasn’t so much soup. Or stew. Or even chowder. At $4.95 a bowl, I felt I was eating leftovers at a far too expensive price.

Our dinners arrived, and my friend’s Turkey Italiano sandwich ($7.95; smoked turkey breast, pesto aioli, pepperoni, melted mozzarella, red onion, lettuce and tomato) came with the addition of artichoke hearts, which are not supposed to be on the sandwich.

The salmon is served with a side of marinated vegetables (that tasted disturbingly like Caesar dressing), garlic mashed potatoes and fennel bread wedges. I took the first bite and instead of sheer delight, was met with a confusing mix of flavors that have no business being together on the same plate. Sour overtook bitter, artichoke wrestled with rosemary, as the anise-flavored pizza crust passed off as bread wedges lent a licorice top note to the lemon-y fish. Even the mashed potatoes fell flat.

My next visit called for a sandwich, which Broadway Heights is known for. I sampled the Roasted Vegetable Focaccia Sandwich (eggplant, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, tomato, red onion, lettuce and garlic parmesan spread). Accompanied by a small side of rotini pasta salad, my whole sandwich ($9.75) looked to be up to par.

It was good, but yet again, something was missing. The creamy pasta salad had for some reason been doused with a vinegar-heavy dressing, which soaked my sandwich. The focaccia (baked in-house) isn’t traditional; it’s quite fluffy and has a slightly off taste that I would chalk up to simple staleness if it weren’t baked fresh daily.

As I sat in disappointed silence for the second time in a week amidst tables that hadn’t been cleared or cleaned, my eyes roamed, people watching, until I was distracted by the cobwebs hanging from the neon lights above me. Looking down by my elbow, the dusty windowsill proved quite unappetizing.

I took an order of fresh basil manicotti ($14.50) home for dinner. Again, the flavor was somehow off, the delicate sweetness of quality tomato sauce and the creaminess of ricotta disguised by the spicy pervasiveness of too much black pepper.

At the Heights, neither food nor atmosphere is up to par, and for the prices, this seems to be an expensive lesson in being prepared for anything, but not expecting a whole lot. Perhaps a recipe revamping is in order, or maybe just hiring someone to maintain quality control would do the trick.

I was looking for the ray of sunshine in this somewhat disappointing experience, and I found it in the White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake ($4.95 a slice). The delectable desserts are made in-house by Dawn, the head waitress, who apparently moonlights as a pastry chef extraordinaire.

On my last visit, I ordered two pieces to go. My impending glee turned to shock and dismay; there was no cake to be had. C’est la vie, I thought, and kicked my sweet expectations to the curb.