Goes well with beer
Henri celebrates the food at Chico’s much-loved brewery
Chico, CA 95928
As a relative newcomer to Chico, Henri finds himself rather disenfranchised from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s history and mythology, having neither stories nor memories of the company’s early days, when a couple of bicycle enthusiasts/chemistry students started brewing beer in their garage. Not that he would anyway, probably, having been raised to view beer drinking as rather churlish and never having even owned a bicycle.
That said, he has enthusiastically joined the congregation, becoming increasingly impressed with the company—its commitment to sustainability, its relationship with its employees and the Chico-area community, and its covenant with quality in every quarter, from the beer to the pub food to the live music in the Big Room. Not to mention the company’s astonishing growth—without advertising—that still cannot keep up with demand. And: While he still prefers almost any wine over a pint of ale, he’s thankful that the Sierra Nevada product is vastly different from that favored by his neighbors in the Midwest of his youth and which mon père dismissed as “swill.”
Which explains in part why Colette and I have found ourselves frequent visitors to the Sierra Nevada Taproom & Restaurant these last few months, sampling a wide range of items from both the lunch and dinner menus.
We first stumbled upon the pub late one afternoon, famished, on our way home from a hugely successful all-day TJ Maxx outing. We walked in and were led to a table in the middle of the high-ceilinged main dining room, immediately taken by the convivial ambiance and warm décor—gorgeous stained and beveled glass and dark oak throughout. There’s also a lovely enclosed outdoor patio, about half the tables nicely shaded by viney trellises.
Sierra Nevada beers are used in many of the restaurant’s dishes, including the dinner rib eye ($24), topped with a Pale Ale steak sauce. The entrees also feature many local ingredients (walnuts, cheeses, olives and greens), and the beef, which is from the Chico State farm, is from cattle fed on spent grain from the brewery.
The dinner menu includes flatbreads and pizzas, salads, burgers and sandwiches, and seafood, beef, chicken and pasta dishes. The lunch menu is similar, with a few more sandwiches and without high-end beef and seafood entrees. Daily specials include recommendations from among the brewery’s dozen-plus award-winning beers and ales (including a rotating selection of in-house-only specialty drafts). The wine list is small but sufficient, Salmon Creek the house wine, with other California wines, such as Kendal Jackson, also available.
Our very favorite dish is the Thai seafood coconut curry ($12 lunch, $17 dinner), with chili-glazed prawns and rock fish, julienned carrots and zucchini, Thai pesto, green onions and toasted coconut over jasmine rice—among the best Thai food in town. We also love the pizzas, especially the Thai chicken, with peanut and chili sauces and pesto chicken, and, almost as much, the beef-and-blue-cheese pizza, with filet mignon, Yukon gold potatoes, red onions and a garlic cream sauce. Another highlight is the turkey melt (lunch only), with Kellerweis hefeweizen-cured, slow-roasted turkey breast, applewood bacon, and caramelized onions on toasted brewers’ grain bread. The organic chicken pesto sandwich is also very good, with roasted peppers and pancetta aioli on a Ciabatta bun, and I very much liked the fish tacos (a lunch special one day, $9)—breaded cod, the same they use for their delicious fish and chips, in flour tortillas.
The only disappointments so far have been the Cellerman’s salad (not bad, just generic—not up to the quality of the rest of the menu) and the pulled-pork Cubano sandwich (rather dry).
All in all, though, we love the place, and who knows? Henri might even try a Pale Ale with his fish and chips one of these days, and Colette’s been hinting that I might want to think about getting a bicycle. Come to think of it, Henri might look pretty good in a pair of bike shorts, although he’d much prefer a three-wheeler, with a basket.