Fried, salty and spicy
Abby’s Grill has all your cravings covered
Asian burritos. Chow mein and potato wedges. Teriyaki hamburgers. What?
Those are just a few items on the eclectic, perplexing menu offered by Abby’s Grill, an Asian-American-style restaurant in the Safeway strip mall at Nord and West Sacramento avenues. Its location—a skinny unit near the middle of the lot—has been home to a number of restaurants, including the mysterious Yummy Yummy Burger Shop, which offered a menu similar to Abby’s.
While the new restaurant’s enthusiastic TV commercial never mentions the kind of food it serves, one look at the menu proves that it’s not that easy to explain—Chinese-, American- and Mexican-style dishes are offered through a creative mix of the same basic ingredients of meat, vegetables, potatoes, rice, noodles and cheese. When I arrived for dinner on a sunny evening a few weeks ago, it was immediately apparent that Abby’s is not the place for a person on a diet.
The restaurant’s menu describes the food as “Asian & American Fusion,” but there are munchies to satisfy a number of cravings. Appetizers include Asian classics such as spring rolls, dumplings and tempura. But mixed into the list are seasoned potato wedges, bacon and cheese puffs and an “Awesome Nacho” plate smothered in house cheese sauce.
Large entrées are listed in categories by meat and range between $5 and $8. Listed first are chicken (grilled or crunchy) and shrimp plates, most of which are served with noodles, white rice or potato wedges and a sweet or spicy sauce of your choice. There are also grilled beef plates, some of which are served with potato wedges—putting a twist on the classic meal of meat and potatoes. Vegetarian options, plus a teriyaki-pineapple chicken sandwich and teriyaki hamburger, hide on the back panel of the menu, as well as a slew of side orders including shrimp stir-fry rice and popcorn chicken.
The tiny restaurant’s incongruous décor reflects its blend of food, and close-up photos of menu items are posted on the wall. I wanted to go for something quirky to test this restaurant’s zaniness, so I ordered Abby’s vegetarian fritters for $5.95—cabbage, celery, carrots and yellow onion molded into a patty, deep-fried and topped with cheese. The fritters were served in a pool of sweet sauce that I didn’t expect (and with a side of steamed broccoli and carrots that wasn’t on the menu), but were still crunchy on the outside and had the unmistakable taste of spring rolls. The vegetable side was soft but crunchy as well, and was surprisingly the best part of the meal. I barely made it to the potato wedges, which seemed a little heavy after the fritters and veggies.
On my second visit, I called in a to-go order. I chose one of the mysterious “two-pound” burritos, which was filled with marinated chicken, rice, onion, green pepper, celery, cheese and a “chef spiced sauce” for just $4.95. My food was already packed up when I arrived minutes later. It took me a total of six hours to eat that burrito, but it was delicious. The massive flour tortilla was filled with soft white rice, whole pinto beans, tons of cheese and crunchy vegetables. But what set the burrito apart was its soft, sweet teriyaki-like chicken—a surprising, and tasty blend of Mexican and Asian flavors. There was also that same spring roll-like taste in the burrito, likely due to the unusual additions of green onion and celery.
Overall, the experience of dining in at Abby’s is one that is easy to find in Chico. The space is tidy but unremarkable, prices are affordable, and service is friendly and fast. However, Abby’s does offer something that its neighbors don’t—Asian, American and Mexican food from the same kitchen. The anomalous blend of ingredients provides an atypical flavor that’s not so easy to find.