Good-bye to a Chico classic
Check out this quintessential neighborhood bar and restaurant before it’s gone
The folks who regularly drop by JB’s Bar and Restaurant for lunch or an after-work beer are slowly getting used to the unwelcome fact that it’s soon going to be history.
Nobody knows exactly when the friendly spot will be razed to make way for a new commercial complex on the northwest corner of Mangrove and Vallombrosa, but it could be in the next two or three months. Along with the other buildings on the site, it will be replaced by something that resembles the corporate-designed complex on the southwest corner of East Avenue and Cohasset and include yet another Starbuck’s.
For now, though, JB’s is still there, and it’s one of the best little joints in Chico. It’s the kind of down-home place where, if you’re a regular and walk in, the waitress meets you at your table with your favorite drink and where working folk—construction workers and secretaries, mechanics and landscapers—meet their friends for lunch or a drink, and if they want to smoke they can sit outside on the patio and puff away.
JB’s reminds me of some gone-but-not-forgotten neighborhood bars, Harry’s Pitcher of Beer on The Esplanade, for example, places where you were more likely to end up sitting next to a motorcyclist or hair stylist than a frat boy and were glad of it. Another such classic was the Old Navy Inn, which is what JB’s was called before J.B. Burns bought it in July 1980. It’s now owned by his son Ed, who says he “grew up in the place.”
JB’s food is standard pub fare—burgers and sandwiches, homemade soups and salads—served in generous portions for not much money. There are six different burgers, each with a half-pound patty and served with a choice of fries, chili, soup or salad, ranging from $5.95-$6.95.
And there are 10 sandwiches—BLTs, tunafish, clubhouse, turkey, etc.—ranging in price from $6.50 to $7.25 and served with the same choice of sides as the burgers. I recently had the Monterey chicken sandwich ($7.25), which comes with guacamole and Swiss cheese and is served on a French bun. JB’s calls it “our best sandwich!” and I won’t argue with that claim. It was a meal and a half, and I ate it all.
If you like hot sauce on your food, JB’s has the biggest collection in town after Bomber’s Baja Grill. There must be 200 bottles of the stuff from all over the world sitting in a rack by the front door. A big sign invites customers to help themselves.
Right next to the hot sauces is the jukebox, which is another cool feature of JB’s. It has an eclectic, well-chosen selection of tunes, from country to R&B to mellow rock, and if the customers aren’t plunking down coins to get the sounds flowing, the waitresses happily do so.
Then there’s the fenced-in patio. It’s built around this huge pine tree that rises up a good 50 feet or more and shades the whole area. Ed Burns says he planted the tree as a seedling when the place opened 25 years ago this month. When the weather’s good, JB’s has live music on the patio, usually on Thursdays. This week (July 7) is the excellent Jeff Pershing Band, and the following Thursday, July 14, it’s the Retrotones. Both shows start at 8:30 p.m.
If you’ve never been to JB’s, check it out before it’s gone. Neighborhood bars are a dying breed, and JB’s is one of the best. Besides, it’s a piece of Chico history. The only question remaining is, will the tree be saved?