Grubbin’ with class

Beer, ‘bitchin’ fish tacos and the ‘best’ burger in Chico at The Banshee

The Banshee: Downtown Chico’s other Irish-style pub. Banshee burger with bleu cheese.

The Banshee: Downtown Chico’s other Irish-style pub. Banshee burger with bleu cheese.

Photo By melanie mactavish

The Banshee
134 W. Second St.
Bar hours: Mon-Sat., 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-2 a.m.
Kitchen hours: Sun.-Tues., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 a.m.

For my birthday in mid-May, I was in downtown Chico celebrating at The Banshee with a group of friends.

My buddy Nick, who never drinks and rarely sets foot in a bar, had never been inside The Banshee. He was immediately impressed by the stylish, dimly lit Irish-style pub. He told me that while he considered most bars in Chico to be “dirty,” The Banshee was the “classiest” joint he’d visited yet.

Nick got it right. Even if you aren’t interested in grabbing a beer, The Banshee is just cool. Weathered brick and red trim make the bar particularly eye-catching from the sidewalk, while the brick and wood-paneled interior is highlighted by a prominent chalk board with a hand-written (and extensive) beer menu, several flat-screen TVs, a glossy wooden bar-top, and a back room with lounge seating. And though it does attract a fair number of college students during the school year, The Banshee stands apart from downtown’s college-oriented bars as more of an intimate pub in which you can have a conversation over a pint (everything from West Coast craft beers to European imports) than a venue for drinking until you can’t feel your face.

Photo By melanie mactavish

Vibes aside, The Banshee’s pub-grub offerings—some of which are also available at the take-out window on the weekends (Thursday-Saturday, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.)—have an excellent local reputation. Well before eating there, I gathered by word of mouth that the fish tacos, burger and the grilled-cheese sandwich were of particular awesomeness. And as I’ve become a semi-regular myself, I must agree that the fish tacos are fantastic, and I’ve developed the opinion that The Banshee serves up the best burgers in Chico.

I headed down last Monday for an early lunch with a female friend. Selecting from a menu that offers entrees mostly in the $10 range, we both ordered the Philly cheesesteak, yet another menu item highly recommended by acquaintances. For a side, I chose potato chips, while my lunch date went with the coleslaw.

Our sandwiches, served on fairly straightforward, white-bread rolls, looked appealing, and I was initially impressed after a few bites. But ultimately, I was actually kind of disappointed with a Banshee meal for the first time, and so was my lunch partner. Before finishing the first half of our sandwiches, we both voiced displeasure at the mushy consistency of the peppers and mushrooms within, agreeing we would prefer our vegetables more crisp and fresh-tasting, though cooking them down is maybe the intention with a Philly. It could’ve been that ordering a cheesesteak sandwich for an early lunch was a mistake. Maybe in the context of a late night on the town it would be just the thing to hit the spot. After all, it’s called pub grub for a reason.

My date and I returned a couple of days later, and the experience was much more satisfying. I decided to go with a tried-and-true Banshee burger, while she ordered the Baja-style fried-cod tacos. You can opt for burger modifications like a fried-cheese skirt, avocado, fried egg, pastrami, or an extra patty, but I kept it simple, ordering a single patty with Swiss cheese and fries.

My perfectly cooked burger, made of high-quality “single-source” beef, was served on a toasted and buttered bun (which provided the perfect crunch with each bite) with fresh lettuce, onion and pickle on the side. It was the kind of burger that demands several grunts of approval throughout consumption.

I took a couple of bites out of my lunch partner’s dish as well, quickly determining that the fish tacos—served with cilantro, lettuce, jalapeños and lime, and drizzled in Baja sauce—were, once again, equally bitchin’. While I may have found a menu item that wasn’t to my taste, The Banshee does so many things better than most that it remains one of my go-to spots downtown.