Frog legs, elk and alligator, oh my!

Henri has a few words from the tasty confines of the Tackle Box

Deep-fried alligator.

Deep-fried alligator.

Photo courtesy of tackle box

379 E. Park Ave.
Hours: 7 a.m.-2 a.m. (grill); 9 a.m.-2 a.m. (bar)

I n lieu of Henri Bourride’s regular Chow column, we’re printing a letter that the News & Review’s arts editor, Jason Cassidy, received from Mr. Bourride this week.

Dear Mssr. Cassidy: First, please know that Henri truly respects the work you do and has a deep appreciation for our relationship. That said, I’m more than a little bit vexé! “Henri, do you know a restaurant you could review for our annual Weird Chico edition?”

How could I not have seen it coming?

Really! You didn’t care what restaurant I reviewed. You just wanted Henri in your weird issue! Well! I have news for you, Mr. Devo (Ha! Henri’s on to you—he wasn’t born yesterday!): You’re the weird one. The “music” you recommend? Old Vomit Launch? (Fitting name, indeed.) The She Things? (Thin ice, Mssr.) And French Reform? (What would you know?) And … excusez moi! What’s with that châpeau?! It looks like what Colette uses to unclog our toilette! Any time, Mr. Devo, you care to listen to some real music—say, Edith Piaf, or Barbra—come on over. I’ll also gladly take you shopping for a nice designer beret. You’d look far less hideous in a mauve cashmere cable knit by Ralph Lauren.

And I’ll have you know that I am submitting a real review and in fact, at your now obviously disingenuous suggestion, paid a couple of visits to the Tackle Box Bar and Grill, whose motto is “Beer. Food. Guns.” And where, in addition to burgers, sandwiches and salads, you can get alligator, wild boar, elk, bison and venison. And kangaroo.

According to its website, the Tackle Box originally opened in 1997 as a sporting goods store that “incorporates all of its customers’ hunting and fishing needs under one roof. They carry all of the popular firearm brands including Browning, Remington, Winchester, Mossberg, Benelli and Beretta. Along with live bait, and all the ammunition you need.”

So the little grill and big bar next door, which opened three years ago, was a natural for Henri and Colette. And we actually enjoyed the ambiance—concrete floor littered with sawdust and peanut shells, both bar and picnic tables for dining, pool tables, and a sweet—though huge!—yellow dog who apparently has free rein throughout. Plus there are buckets of fresh peanuts on the tables and along the bar to munch on while you wait for your food.

But, Henri’s first mistake? Wearing shorts in a place that serves frogs legs. His second? Asking for a decent Bordeaux. His third? The “calamari.” Mostly greasy onion rings with five or six way overcooked tentacle pieces ($5.99). Quelle honte!

My elk burger ($9.99), on the other hand, was delicious, and the steak-cut fries that came with were excellent. Colette said her venison burger ($9.99) was very good, too. Meanwhile, the bar’s big-screen TV was showing an episode of the Sportsman’s Channel’s MeatEater, featuring squirrel hunting, skinning and cooking. (Heretofore, Henri had absolutely no idea when to add the pickling spices!) Colette was so inspired that she bought three Girls With Guns-label tank tops at the gift shop next door.

But, Mr. Jason, Henri was feeling guilty (see “raised Catholic” in previous columns). After all, the restaurant prides itself on its fish and chips and, weirder yet, the alligator ($14.99, grilled or fried), and as a professional I felt I owed them that much.

So we went back for some alligator. A bit chewy—it is lizard, after all—but with the hot dipping sauce on the side, really quite tasty. I confess to not having tried the frog legs ($10.99 for “three pair”), and the kangaroo wasn’t available, though it probably would have been good with my hoppy Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

Should you decide to visit the Tackle Box Bar & Grill yourself, you can look at the rest of the menu—and read about specials—online. There’s also information on live music, open-mic nights, karaoke and the free swing-dance lessons, which you and “Mrs. Devo” would surely enjoy. Weirdo!

Wishing you all the best for the New Year. Sincerely, Henri.