Next round on me

Sharing a drink (and a bite) with the neighborhood at south Chico pub

Bar manager Malinda Stamy serves up a BLT and a mug of cold brew.

Bar manager Malinda Stamy serves up a BLT and a mug of cold brew.

Photo By jason cassidy

Park Ave Pub
2010 Park Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri.-Sun., 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Attention Billy Boy: You have a salt ’n’ pepper martini waiting for you at Park Ave Pub, courtesy of your pals Dean and Ashley. You might want to grab the ZMan on your way down, because his next one is on Vicki.

Now, I don’t know these fine folks, but I reckon I may have inadvertently stumbled upon their regular watering hole. Maybe Vicki was the college girl sitting at the bar, sipping a draft three stools down from the guy in motorcycle leathers talking weather with the friendly bartender.

I know their names only on account of the board hanging above the bar: “Pub Pals—Buy your Pal a Drink” it reads, with columns for gifter, giftee and type of libation or dollar amount. The board is a perfect example of the reason why I love corner pubs and tucked-away neighborhood bars. They’re all about community, and even if everybody doesn’t know your name, there’s comfort to be had in the fact the patrons likely know each other’s.

I’d long been tempted to stop into this cozy-looking building on Park Avenue, and was finally prompted to do so one recent afternoon, overcome by a sudden particular craving that can be sated only by fried food washed down with a cold beer.

I was pleasantly surprised upon walking into the pub. Opened in 2010, the former home of Woody’s has been completely remodeled and is surprisingly spacious inside, comfortably dark but not overly so, and beautifully appointed in dark wood. The locals’ love of North State pro teams is apparent, but the sports bar vibe is not so overwhelming as to be off-putting. It’s also a great deal less divey than one might imagine, and impeccably clean. The bathroom, scented by potpourri, smelled kinda like gingerbread cookies.

Park Ave offers plenty of options for a fried food fix, and a convenient way of mixing and matching them. Patrons can choose three or five items from their list of appetizers ($9 or $12), which includes mozzarella sticks, jalapeño poppers, onion rings, mushrooms, cheddar-stuffed spuds and chicken tenders and wings. Individual sides are also available for $3.75.

My dining companion and I opted for a trio of appetizers, choosing the poppers, ’shrooms and cheesy spuds. All were quite good and deep fried to a crispy golden brown, and the serving sizes were such that we couldn’t finish the basket before our main dishes came. While many a bar offers fried finger foods, Park Ave Pub also has other options, including sandwiches, burgers, chili and more.

We decided to split two items, the spicy burger ($10) and pesto chicken sandwich ($9). Park Ave’s burgers are all 1/3 pound and served on fresh baked panini bread, and come with a choice of tater tots or French fries.

The spicy burger came garnished with grilled jalapeños, pepper jack cheese and avocado, and was quite good, as was the grilled chicken breast sandwich topped with tasty pesto and diced tomatoes. Of special note was the parmesan-crusted bread on the chicken sandwich, which would’ve fit the burger well (I’ll remember to ask for it next time). Even more notable were the pubs fries, which the bartender-cum-chef explained are hand cut and made fresh daily.

All-in-all, Park Ave Pub is a really cool neighborhood bar with some pretty tasty pub grub. While the food alone isn’t so special as to make it destination-worthy, the friendly atmosphere is worth a trip, and it’s definitely a great place to stop into if you find yourself in the neighborhood.