Smokin’ Mo’s BBQ, owned by Larry Kowalski and wife-husband team Jill and Scott McLeod

Smokin’ Mo’s BBQ, owned by Larry Kowalski and wife-husband team Jill and Scott McLeod

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Smoke ’em if ya got ’em

I’ve never heard as much eager anticipation preceding the opening of a Chico restaurant as with the new Smokin’ Mo’s BBQ, owned by Larry Kowalski and wife-husband team Jill and Scott McLeod (they’re pictured in that order below).

There are already two Mo’s: in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach, on the Central Coast. In fact, I remember standing in line for Mo’s tri-tip sandwiches at SLO’s Thursday Night Farmers’ Market (a community event that Chico would be well-advised to emulate, in that it is a certified farmers’ market and local restaurants cook and serve their wares on the street). The pork ribs have racked up cookoff awards, and the sauces are bottled for sale.

Kowalski started the restaurant eight years ago, after first touring more than 80 rib joints in the South.

The McLeods have long wanted to open their own Mo’s, so with Kowalski (he’s the “Mo") on board, they’ve finally made it happen, with the official opening Jan. 7.

“I just knew that it would fit in with Chico, having grown up here,” McLeod said.

He also said he knew that if they were going to open a Mo’s, it had to be in the downtown. “When this opportunity came up, we jumped on it,” Kowalski said, signing a 20-year lease. Mo’s caters and expects to set up a barbecue pit at the Thursday Night Market, and also offer delivery, in the future.

Last week, 131 Broadway (formerly Avanti, transformedwith retro-rustic decor) was abuzz with last-minute deliveries and building inspections.

We had “Sweet Carolina’s” ribs, shredded meat sandwiches (there’s beef, pork or chicken) and sides of beans (Kowalski’s grandpa taught him how to cook them when he was 5 or 6), cole slaw and potato salad.

We Dodgers fans even sucked it up and had some homemade potato chips named after Giants announcer Mike Krukow. They were delicious. There’s also beer-battered onion rings, garlic fries and, when possible, fried green tomatoes. Bring on the moist towelettes.

Birds are the word at festival

The annual Snow Goose Festival, which offers a chance to witness the winter waterfowl migration in the North Valley first-hand, is on tap for Jan. 19 and 20.

I went one year, and it was a great experience—there were workshops and field trips to farms and places like Llano Seco and Gray Lodge Wildlife Area where we got close to geese, ducks and majestic heron. This year, there is a full range of workshops at the Chico Masonic Family Center, from to how identify waterfowl to how to attract butterflies to your garden. There’s also a Saturday night banquet catered by Guzzetti’s Catering, with a keynote address by wildlife photographer Gary Kramer.