Go with the Flo
Café Flo offers food, music and art in a comfy locale
My blueberry muffin was still warm. I was going to wait until I finished my eggs and toast. But it was warm, I tell you, and my partner was picking it clean.
There isn’t a better word to describe Café Flo—warm. And there is not a better muffin in town. Homemade, organic, with an attention to detail; the profit margin must be modest. But the three sisters have their own bottom line. Mary, Liz and Katie Gardner opened the café almost four years ago, naming it after their mother Florence. They have given each tile, corner, chair, shelf and menu item its own personality.
Café Flo is close enough to downtown but far enough from the center. The customers have their own roles, their own places. Even the birds are welcome, as they are often fed by café-goers along the sidewalk. While most cafés have sit-com-type atmospheres, Café Flo has an ambiance and a cast that delivers food and conversation more worthy of a play.
Lew, the father of the three quirky sisters, has had a theatrical effect on his kin. You may have seen Lew wearing a long Dr. Seuss-style hat, reciting Shakespeare and original poems atop his soap box at the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. The fruit hasn’t fallen far from the tree.
Breakfast includes the staple eggs and toast. The eggs are light and fluffy served inside a small cup, cooked to perfection, and served with Grace Baking bread and Chico Mountain Fruit Company jam. Eggs are served plain ($4) or with cheese and Prosciutto ($4.75). There are also house-baked pastries and baked goods available every morning, including cookies, cake and the illustrious blueberry muffin for $1.75.
The coffee is good, too, and will run you $1.50 a cup. The bowl (large) of coffee is $1.85 and will fill your bladder three times over. The cappuccino and lattes are above average as well. Damage: $2.75 and $3.25 respectively.
The breakfast menu is a bit small, but the lunch menu has got its back with a large selection of sandwiches. My favorite is the Wasabi Lime Tuna Sandwich ($5.25), which includes white albacore tuna, wasabi and lime, served on organic whole-grain bread. The subtle wasabi and lime flavor makes the tuna salad dance.
Other sandwiches include the Brie and Prosciutto ($6.75), Sun Dried Tomato Egg Salad ($4.75), Organic PB&J ($3.25) and the Sloppy Flo ($7.25), which includes marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and Havarti cheese.
The Chico Market Salad is simple and, of course, organic with arugula, organic greens, pecans and balsamic vinegar for $5.25. The soups are du jour, including my favorite, carrot and dill, for $3.75 a cup or $4.75 a bowl.
Café Flo is also a music venue, bringing in local talent like Jamey Smith on classical guitar and Mike Bagwell with original folk tunes, as well as out-of-town performers that have included Scott Amendola (the innovative Bay Area drummer/ songwriter). The mood and acoustics work well at Café Flo. The restored, cushioned vintage chairs make for great seats, and the dimly lit art exhibits (which change monthly) enhance the music and dining experience. The pastel-yellow counter seats, the large Jetsons retro Thermos collection, the burnt-colored, glazed floor surface and the lone psychologist’s couch along the front window create the best-thought-out café space in Chico.
There’s just one thing I need to warn you about.
The three sisters are as blunt as they are insightful. They are an enigma, I tell you. My last visit included the abrupt awareness of Mary, who said to me: “I heard you’re doing food reviews. That makes sense because it looks like you’ve gained weight.” The directness I’ve encountered at Café Flo brings back memories of my years in Bulgaria, where the last thing on people’s minds is flattery.
I think you may find it surprisingly refreshing.