Café Coda mixes unique dishes with diverse performances
Chico, CA 95928
Music and food usually make for a good mix—maybe a little Coltrane lilting in the background while you eat crab cakes and sip a glass of pinot noir in the company of friends. Chico is stacked with places where jazz combos and musicians in Hawaiian shirts can entertain dinner crowds on any given night.
Although Café Coda is the newest restaurant/venue in Chico, it has taken up residency in a small space on Humboldt Avenue with a history of music and dining. Jedidiah’s served up breakfast and lunch there before moving to its new Main Street location. And Humboldt Studios has served as a recording studio since 1998, and for a brief time as a rock venue.
Café Coda is all three—a mighty trinity of munchies, music and mastering—and is definitely music friendly (any music nerd can tell you that a coda is the concluding passage of a musical piece or movement).
Eric Danielli, a musician himself, opened the doors a few months ago and has steadily been growing the menu and music calendar. But it’s not your typical greasy spoon and rock club. Instead the café offers tasty and unique dishes in a cozy setting, as well as nightly performances that appeal to kiddies, hipsters and fogies.
The interior has been redone, with dark maple tables and benches, funky light fixtures and warm brick-colored walls adorned with local art (Kyle Delmar currently has a photo exhibition on display). As you enter, a small stage sits to the right, where a number of musicians, including acoustic princesses, scat-jazz duos and new-wave rockers, have all strummed and sung.
My first dining visit was for a Sunday breakfast, which I had heard good things about. I went with the Coda Benedict ($9), two small slices of French bread topped with ham, spinach and a tangy bearnaise sauce, served with a side of crispy rosemary potatoes. Very tasty, and the servings aren’t so big you want to hibernate the rest of the afternoon. I went back for breakfast a few weeks later with a hankering for some greasy goodness and found the Applewood Sausage Hash ($9) to be a perfect choice (a pile of rosemary potatoes topped with smoked chicken sausage, sautéed onions and two eggs).
The breakfast menu is reasonably priced ($3-$11), and meat is noticeably absent from most of the main dishes—not a bad thing (sides of ham, bacon or sausage are available for three bucks each). My dining cohorts ordered the Pesto ($8), which included scrambled eggs with pesto, red bell peppers and green onions served with fresh-baked bread and potatoes, and the Chesapeake ($11), grilled Dungeness crab topped with tomatoes, poached eggs and bearnaise sauce. Thumbs up around the table.
The breakfast sold me, but I wanted to step in one more time for dinner. The menu is small but includes some interesting selections (the Lamb Skewers with dried apricots and red onions sounded peculiar, but delicious). We started out with a flavorful and tangy roasted red pepper soup, which was topped with sour cream, fried noodles and bits of shredded chicken. For the main course I had the Crab Cakes ($9) and a glass of shiraz, while my friend ordered the special, Crustinis (French baguette topped with brie, roasted garlic and blackberries for $8). Everything was excellent, although the service was a little slow that night (one waiter wandered around looking confused, and our soup didn’t arrive until just minutes before the main course).
And I don’t mind a little musical accompaniment with my meal, but during a recent Sunday breakfast the performer chose to run his guitar through an amp—probably not necessary in such a small space. On the other hand, classical guitarist Christopher Wolf played to a dinner crowd and found the perfect volume, which made for a very nice experience.