Full of Moxie’s

The downtown coffeehouse and restaurant is also an important cultural center

BACKSTAGE AT MOXIE’S <br>Ken Sweet is the man behind the healthful, tasty food coming out of the kitchen.

Ken Sweet is the man behind the healthful, tasty food coming out of the kitchen.

Photo By Tom Angel

Find it here:
Moxie’s is located at 128 Broadway in Chico and is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

While I enjoy eating at any number of downtown Chico’s eateries, Moxie’s Cafà and Gallery is near the top of my list.

As the name suggests, not only can you find satisfying, earthy meals there, but you also can view works by local artists while you’re at it. Personally I would rather experience art in such a low-key, casual environment than in any of those insufferable gallery openings where people sip white wine, nibble hors d’oeuvres and ramble on exhaustively about “the work.”

On a recent sunny day, I sat down at one of Moxie’s marble-topped tables and found myself surrounded by a bright array of paintings created by Paradise artist Marianna Love, whose portrayals of sunflowers would make Van Gogh jealous. The rich colors and magical perspectives of Love’s work were intoxicating, and when my sandwich arrived I almost had to force myself to turn away from the paintings and get interested in the food.

However, with one bite of the Marinated Portabella Mushroom Sandwich on homemade focaccia bread (with a light spread of chipotle mayonnaise), I forgot the paintings. The sandwich was a bit of heaven, with the mushrooms providing a tasty, meat-like texture. I felt I was getting a “meat fix” without the heart attack. Delectable layers of roasted red peppers and melted pepper jack cheese commingled with the mushrooms in this inimitable sandwich, which was accompanied by corn chips and a tomato-based salsa that, by itself, would have been worthy of a stop at Moxie’s.

Ken, Moxie’s cook, later told me he makes the salsa using only tomatoes, basil, olive oil and fresh garlic, reinforcing my belief that the simple things in life are best.

Along with the sandwich, I tried one of Moxie’s homemade soups, the tomato basil—which, while it had a pleasant consistency (not too thick, not too thin), was nevertheless a bit too tangy for my tastes. However, I couldn’t help but appreciate the subtle nuances of herbal flavorings in the soup, along with the fresh slices of fluffy French bread with which it was served.

For dessert, I opted for one of the pecan rolls—baked, like all of Moxie’s pastries, by Moxie’s own baker. Contrary to what I was expecting (a softer, doughier quality), the roll was rather crunchy, almost cookie-like, but quite tasty. It had a ton of caramel-like goo on the bottom and scads of chopped pecans on the top.

Moxie’s also offers a totally rad sound system and a gazillion good CDs to go with it. While I ate my Portabella mushroom sandwich, I got to listen to the nostalgic tunes of the Beatles’ Let it Be album.

You do have to order at the counter at Moxie’s, and then your food is brought out to you (and really, I think the only ones who need bouncy, blond waitresses are middle-aged men). As for Moxie’s staff, I have yet to encounter anyone who isn’t friendly and cheerful. The sky-lit interior of Moxie’s is a real plus, and if you need to check your email, Internet computers are available, along with Internet hook-ups for people with laptops.

Along with the main dining area in the front, which faces the street scene on Broadway, there’s a sunny back porch and a couch lounge, along with one of the most extensive bulletin boards in all of Chico.

You can order breakfast, lunch or dinner at Moxie’s, and it boasts being the only coffeehouse in town where you can also order beer and wine (including local brews and ferments). Check its calendar for performances by local and out-of-town bands, including, recently, the celebrated Australian band Fruit.