Carnivore Creations’ rolling kitchen is Chico’s new hotspot
Carnivore Creations150 Airpark Blvd.
Chico, CA 95928
Chico Municipal Airport has been a pretty happening place recently. Between metal/suspension shows and my favorite place to eat as of late, Carnivore Creations, I’ve spent more time at the airport recently than a … well, a pilot.
I received a tip from an enthused airport employee who highly recommended the food from the eatery on wheels, informing me that between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on most weekdays a black SUV with a mobile kitchen in tow sets up at the corner of Piper and Fortress. Intrigued by stories of gourmet salads and massive sandwiches, I made my way out to the airport midweek, and sure enough found the truck, kitchen and a line of people.
Greeted by a motherly, smiling woman named Yvette, I glanced at the daily specials to the right of the little screened window, and was informed they were mostly out of those, because “they go fast.” In fact, their daily specials are so popular that Carnivore Creations has an e-mail list. Every day that there’s service (some days they’re booked for catering events), an e-mail is sent out describing the special(s). To reserve one, simply e-mail back, or call the number provided.
Looking over the mostly meat menu, I decided on the half-pound cheeseburger ($4.95), served on a Kaiser roll with red-leaf lettuce, onion, tomato, garlic aioli or chipotle mayonnaise, mustard and cheese.
The garlic aioli is a great complement to the huge burger and fresh veggies; add avocado for $1, and it’s simply a perfect burger, at a perfect price. I sampled the Fuji apple and cashew salad with chicken and blue cheese ($4.95) and could’ve died happy right there. This salad is huge, delicious and beautiful to look at, and it’s served with some delightful homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I was also given a complimentary “sweet treat of the day,” a baklava-type pastry that was the perfect small dessert.
That day I ate my lunch picnic-style out of the back of my station wagon and watched clouds drift over the Aero-Union building. No distractions, no waiter, no annoying music, no fellow diners. Maybe the sparse atmosphere enabled me to enjoy my food that much more.
On my next visit, I asked if they could make me a simple cheese sandwich, which was not on the menu, to go with my BLT salad. Yvette deferred to “Chef,” as she endearingly calls executive chef Alex Tibbs, the genius behind the mobile kitchen. “No problem,” Chef replied. I chose cheddar and pepper jack on jalapeno-cheese focaccia with spring greens, tomato, onion and garlic aioli. Perfect. The BLT salad ($4.45), a mix of fresh spring greens topped with hickory smoked bacon, cherry tomatoes, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, herbed croutons and homemade buttermilk ranch, is mouth-watering.
After a two-week break (they were busy catering), I was back chatting with Yvette and Chef while I waited for my hot barbecue tri-tip melt ($5.45), thin slices of slow-smoked tri-tip, smothered in barbecue sauce and cheddar, on a fresh-baked onion-cheddar Kaiser roll.
Turns out they’ve been catering for two years, and doing the airport gig for a year and a half. Chef said they’re mostly organic. In addition, all dressings are made from scratch, the bread is baked fresh daily and all meats are hand-rubbed with “secret spices.” Seasonal menu changes offer diners new choices throughout the year; now that summer’s coming, gourmet potato salad and more salads will be offered. They’ll even take your suggestions for daily specials. Via e-mail, I recommended a portabella burger when I found out Chef also specializes in vegan faire (as well as exotic meats). The next week, a marinated portabella burger with all the fixins was a special.
The food is incredible. The portions are generous. And the prices are reasonable. I’m waiting for the day Alex Tibbs opens a restaurant in Chico, but until then I’ll fly out to the airport when I can and eat good, made-with-love food.