Readers’ Picks: Food & Drinks

T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café

T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café

Local restaurant (chico)

1ST PLACE: 5th Street Steakhouse

345 W. Fifth St., 891-6328

When meat-lovers want a high-quality, mouth-watering steak, the first place that comes to mind is 5th Street Steakhouse. There, diners are treated to cut-with-a-spoon filet mignon, the juicy rib-eye, New York and other prime cuts. The restaurant prides itself on offering a truly fine-dining experience, so every aspect of the operation, from the wait staff and the wine list to the menu selection, which also offers seafood and other fare, is top-notch.

2ND PLACE: Sierra Nevada Taproom & Restaurant

1075 E 20th St., 345-2739

3RD PLACE: Leon Bistro

817 Main St., 899-1105

New restaurant

1ST PLACE: B Street Public House

117 Broadway, 899-8203

Even if eating wiggly little oysters in the shell isn’t for you, B Street Public House—previously B Street Oyster Co.—offers a fresh new menu for downtown eaters and drinkers. The restaurant with the cozy-but-chic atmosphere also serves salads, wings, burgers, salt cod croquettes, and a favorite appetizer is their spinach and artichokes, served hot and melty with tortilla chips. Reservations may be made for special occasions when only “comfort food” will do. The place also came in third for its outdoor patio.

2ND PLACE: Sweet Cottage

220 Broadway, 513-2044

3RD PLACE: Winchester Goose

800 Broadway, 715-0099


1ST PLACE: Sin of Cortez

2290 Esplanade, 879-9200

Chicoans love breakfast at Sin of Cortez, which just celebrated its 15th year in business. The eatery’s faithful clientele go back week after week for its delicious and artfully created menu items, including those scrumptious seasoned potatoes that everyone raves about. Go this time of year and find seasonal specials, such as the sweet potato chai and white chocolate pancake. Oh, and the coffee is to-die-for good. Cheers to another 15 years!

2ND PLACE: Café Coda

265 Humboldt Ave., Chico

3RD PLACE: Mom’s

209 Salem St., 893-3447


1ST PLACE: T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café

250 Vallombrosa Ave., 895-8100; 555 Flying V St., Ste. 1, 809-1545

See also Best Place for Tea

2ND PLACE: Broadway Heights

300 Broadway, 899-8075

3RD PLACE: The Banshee

134 W. Second St., 895-9670

International cuisine

1ST PLACE: Priya Indian Cuisine

2574 Esplanade, 899-1055

Priya opened for business about seven years ago, and at the same time opened Chicoans’ minds to the wonders of Indian cuisine flavors—savory curries, cardamom, cumin and other spices—mixed with an array of vegetables and meats. Priya is a favorite spot among adventurous local foodies. They head there in daytime for the amazing lunch buffet, which offers up a big bang for the buck. And they go there in the evenings for the thali plates, many of them vegetarian, that include a little of everything—soup, vegetable curry, lentils and an entrée, all served with rice and freshly baked naan. Dessert, too.

2ND PLACE: Cocodine Thai Cuisine

2485 Notre Dame Blvd., 891-1800

3RD PLACE: Roots Catering Food & Restaurant

3221 Esplanade, 891-4500

Asian cuisine

1ST PLACE: Tong Fong Low

2072 E. 20th St., Ste. 100, 898-1388

Ever since Tong Fong Low opened its second location in Chico—after nearly 100 years as a local favorite in Oroville—it’s been among the top choices for Asian cuisine. The chop suey is out-of-this-world, and they’re continually praised for the quality of their ingredients, both for meat and vegetarian dishes. The service is always fast and friendly, and with portion sizes big enough to share—or take home for later—customers always leave happy.

2ND PLACE: Happy Garden

180 Cohasset Road, 893-2574

3RD PLACE: Cocodine Thai Cuisine

2485 Notre Dame Blvd., 891-1800

Cheap eats

1ST PLACE: La Comida

954 Mangrove Ave., 345-2254

For many locals there is no more comforting affordable family restaurant than La Comida. Visit on a Friday night and the line all the way to the door might seem daunting, but theirs is a well-oiled machine that has had 46 years to perfect serving their generous portions of wholesome Mexican comfort food.

2ND PLACE: Gordo Burrito

1295 E. Eighth St., 809-1211

3RD PLACE: Sol Mexican Grill

3269 Esplanade, 342-4616

Italian cuisine

1ST PLACE: Italian Cottage

2234 Esplanade, 343-7000, and 2525 Dominic Drive, 342-7771

It’s no wonder why Italian Cottage is a regular winner in this category, with its two locations and delicious array of Italian classics, from delicious pizza and mouth-watering sandwiches to their famous “Valley lasagna.” Both spots are good for family outings as well as for those looking for a romantic place to take a date.

2ND PLACE: Sicilian Café

1020 Main St., 345-2233

3RD PLACE: Franky’s

506 Ivy St., 898-9948

Mexican cuisine

1ST PLACE: Sol Mexican Grill

3269 Esplanade, 342-4616

Fresh Mexican food, made-to-order in a casual environment is what keeps locals lining up at Sol. The popular and generous-sized So Cal burrito features house-made french fries with carne asada, cheese, onions, rice, beans and more for just $7.75. The fish tacos are also a favorite. Open every day for lunch and dinner, Sol also features noteworthy chile verde, tortas (Mexican sandwiches), fajitas and enchiladas.

2ND PLACE: Casa Ramos Mexican Restaurants

216 W. East Ave., 894-0119; 2490 Fair St., 893-5050

3RD PLACE: Tres Hombres Long Bar & Grill

100 Broadway, 342-0425


1ST PLACE: Upper Crust Bakery & Eatery

130 Main St., 895-3866

The Upper Crust is one of the most jumpin’ joints for breakfast and lunch fare not only in downtown but within the entire city. That’s unsurprising considering the eatery serves up made-to-order artisan sandwiches, along with ready-to-go wraps, pot pies, quiches and other freshly made yummy eats that await hungry patrons in the business’ cold case. Of course, the sweet treats—pies, cakes, tarts, teacakes, cookies, muffins, etc.—are to-die-for delicious.

2ND PLACE: Tin Roof Bakery & Café

627 Broadway, 892-2893

3RD PLACE: Lovely Layers Cakery

131 Meyers St., Ste. 120; 828-9931


1ST PLACE: Burgers & Brew

201 Broadway, 879-9100

The inviting atmosphere, delicious burgers and range of craft brews—not to mention its convenient location at Broadway and Second streets—draw people to Burgers & Brew. Customers come back for the mouth-watering Niman Ranch burger meat, free of antibiotics and hormones. For something different, choose a burger made from lamb, buffalo, chorizo, smoked tofu, Portobello mushroom, or a garden vegetarian patty.

2ND PLACE: Nobby’s

1444 Park Ave., 342-2285

3RD PLACE: Burger Hut

2451 Forest Ave., 891-1430; 3211 Cohasset Road, 342-4555


1ST PLACE: Aca Taco

133 Broadway, 894-0191;1000 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. D, 343-0909

The competition for Best Burrito is fierce in Chico, a town where it’s hard to throw a rock in any populated area without hitting a taco truck or shop offering its own signature take on the border classic. Aca Taco is a longtime local favorite with its generous portions, choice of wheat or flour tortillas, wide-ranging filling options and two convenient locations. Another reason it’s so popular is that the Nord location is open till 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

2ND PLACE: Gordo Burrito

1295 E. Eighth St., 809-1211

3RD PLACE: Sol Mexican Grill

3269 Esplanade, 342-4616

Hot dog

The Steak House, Gold Country Casino

1ST PLACE: The Dog House

1008 W. Sacramento Ave., 894-3641; 1354 East Ave., Ste. U, 894-2242

Whether your a fan of the simple hot dog with traditional condiments or believe the plain wiener on a bun is a blank canvas on which to create a culinary masterpiece, then the Dog House has got the goods for you. Hot dogs here range from the simple Top Dog (an all-beef tube steak with your choice of ketchup, mustard, relish and chopped onions) to the extravagantly dressed Spicy Hawaiian (a polish sausage with barbecue sauce, spicy mustard, pineapple chipotle salsa, onion and grated cheese). They also serve burgers, chicken sandwiches and have some of the tastiest lemonade around.

2ND PLACE: Costco

2100 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, 342-6494

3RD PLACE: Zot’s Hot Dogs & Deli

225 Main St., Ste. A, 345-2820

Ice cream

1ST PLACE: Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy

178 E. Seventh St., 342-7163

Chico Mint, oh how we love thee. And don’t forget Turtle, Black Raspberry, Cookie Dough and Mt. Shasta. These and the other delicious housemade ice creams of Chico’s granddaddy of sweet offerings are staples in the lives of countless Chicoans. One can hardly drive in the vicinity of Seventh Street without stopping in for a quick cone or one of the other treats—chocolates, mints, shakes, etc.—that this downtown ice cream parlor offers.

2ND PLACE: Jon & Bon’s Yogurt Shoppe

300 Broadway, 899-9580; 1722 Mangrove Ave., 899-0484

3RD PLACE: La Flor de la Michoacán Paletería y Nevería

1008 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. C; 893-9999


1ST PLACE: Celestino’s

101 Salem St., Ste. 100, 896-1234; 1354 East Ave., 345-7700

When it comes to high-quality, New York-style pizza by the slice—or by the pie—Chicoans’ go-to spot is Celestino’s. Want a gourmet veggie slice? Try the Godfather. Or are you a meat lover? The Tom Jones is a local favorite. The downtown shop also offers subs and calzones, and you can find an extensive pasta menu at the East Avenue location.

2ND PLACE: Woodstock’s Pizza

166 E. Second St., 893-1500

3RD PLACE: Farm Star Pizza

2359 Esplanade, 343-2056


1ST PLACE: Spiteri’s Deli

971 East Ave., 891-4797

When it comes to the traditional lunch-counter experience and fantastic sandwiches constructed from the best meats, cheeses and breads, Spiteri’s Deli reigns supreme in Chico. It’s tucked in the corner of a strip mall on Chico’s east side a fair distance from downtown, but any sandwich-loving local will tell you it’s worth finding. They also offer an array of tasty salads, sides and other options (bagel dogs, meatloaf, barbecue from Ike’s Smoke House on select days, and more).

2ND PLACE: Broadway Heights California Cuisine

300 Broadway, 899-8075

3RD PLACE: Kona’s

138 Main St., 893-4344; 969 Nord Ave., 894-1635


1ST PLACE: The Rawbar

346 Broadway, 897-0626

There’s no shortage of great sushi restaurants in Chico, but locals reserve a special place in their heart for Rawbar, a continual Best of Chico winner. With creative rolls that range from simple to complex, spicy to mild, raw to vegetarian, sushi lovers of all stripes can find something delicious on the menu. Add to that an extensive nonsushi menu that includes both Japanese and Korean staples, along with an impressive sake selection, and it’s hard to go wrong at Rawbar. Oh, and they offer classes, too.

2ND PLACE: Japanese Blossoms

2995 Esplanade, 891-9022

3RD PLACE: Aonami Sustainable Sushi

1008 W. Sacramento Ave., 924-3168


1ST PLACE: Bacio Catering & Carry Out

1903 Park Ave., 345-7787

Whether you’re planning a wedding or a corporate event, Bacio Catering & Carry Out fits the bill. Offering appetizers from chicken satay to bacon-wrapped prawns, salmon croquettes to creamy hummus dip, the menu then moves on to salads and sides like curry and Thai chicken salad, lunch entrees such as roasted lemon herb chicken and dinner ideas that include Portabello mushroom pasta. Much of the menu is also available at Bacio’s carry-out counter.

2ND PLACE: Roots Catering

3221 Esplanade, 891-4500

3RD PLACE: Special Times Catering

2500 Floral Ave., 892-2837


1ST PLACE: Ann Leon (Leon Bistro)

817 Main St, 899-1105

If you and the person with whom you like to do romantic things are wanting to splurge on a meal in Chico, chances are Leon Bistro is at the top of your list. And it’s not just that the restaurant is one of the best choice for gourmet cuisine in Chico, but also that California Culinary Academy graduate Chef Ann Leon is always bringing something new to her rotating menu. Standards like surf and turf are perfect, of course, but it’s her unique creations—rack of elk, or Leon’s Chico burger made with Kobe wagyu beer—that make her little bistro a date-night destination.

2ND PLACE: Nate Johnson (The Kitchen Table)

1250 East Ave., 592-3480

3RD PLACE: James Taylor (Sicilian Café)

1020 Main St., 345-2233

Champagne brunch

1ST PLACE: Nash’s 7th Avenue Omelette House

1717 Esplanade, 896-1147

Standing out right off The Esplanade, Nash’s has a full breakfast menu, including a dozen different omelets, and an attentive staff that keeps the champagne flowing. The champagne brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. What better way to get your weekend day started?

2ND PLACE: Café Coda

265 Humboldt Ave., 566-9476

3RD PLACE: Italian Cottage

2234 Esplanade, 343-7000; 2525 Dominic Drive, 342-7771

CSA (community supported agriculture)


3197 W. Sacramento Ave., 680-4543

“Growing Resourcefully Uniting Bellies” is the nonprofit grassroots powerhouse that also took first place in our Best Farmers’ Market Vendor category. GRUB has reached out to support community-based farming enterprises since its inception in 2007. GRUB educates local youngsters on how to grow food, plants seeds for the future in community gardens, and connects related organizations and resources—all for socially and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

2ND PLACE: Comanche Creek Farms

240 Speedway Ave., 894-7775

3RD PLACE: Heartseed Farm

1525 Dayton Road, 588-8474

Date-night dining

1ST PLACE: Crush

201 Broadway, 342-7000

If you’re looking to make a great impression on a first night out or keep the romance alive with you’re long-term partner, a visit to Crush is highly recommended. From the swanky interior, complete with candlelit tables and a gorgeous waterfall, to the breezy and well-appointed patio overlooking downtown, Crush oozes ambiance. Add in some cocktails or a few glasses of fine wine and sumptuous Italian fare and you have all the makings for an epic date night.

2ND PLACE: 5th Street Steakhouse

345 W. Fifth St., 891-6328

3RD PLACE: Christian Michaels Ristorante

192 E. Third St., 894-4005


1ST PLACE: Cozy Diner

1695 Mangrove Ave., 895-1195

Diners are all about comfort food, and it doesn’t get any more comfortable than Cozy diner. The Mangrove Avenue eatery is a favorite meeting place for locals drawn in by unique menu items like the Southern Fiesta—a fusion of Southern fried chicken, Spanish rice and refried beans—and the locally famous prime rib burgers. Also available are all the mainstays, like chicken fried steak and hearty home-style breakfasts. They also have senior and kids menus.

2ND PLACE: Jack’s Family Restaurant

540 Main St., 343-8383

3RD PLACE: Morning Thunder Café

352 Vallombrosa Ave., 342-9717

Drunk munchies

1ST PLACE: The Banshee

134 W. Second St., 895-9670

The best way to avoid a hangover is to take pre-emptive measures … in other words, late-night munchies. And when it comes to post-drinking pigging out, Chico’s favorite destination is The Banshee. Featuring some of the best burgers in town and a menu filled with classic pub food, like Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, Baja-style fried-fish tacos and macaroni and cheese (add some ham or bacon for extra drunken enjoyment), it’s hard to go wrong here.

2ND PLACE: Aca Taco

133 Broadway, 894-0191; 1000 W. Sacramento Ave., 343-0909

3RD PLACE: Burgers & Brew

201 Broadway, Ste. 150, 879-9100

Fine dining

1ST PLACE: 5th Street Steak House

345 W. Fifth St.; 891-6328

Wild Oak Café

See also Best Restaurant—Chico

2ND PLACE: Leon Bistro

817 Main St.; 899-1105

3RD PLACE: Crush

201 Broadway, Ste. 200; 342-7000

Local coffee house

1ST PLACE: The Naked Lounge Tea & Coffeehouse

118 W. Second St., 895-0676

See also Best Place for Eavesdropping

2ND PLACE: Bidwell Perk

664 E. First Ave., 899-1500

3RD PLACE: Cal Java

Various locations

Local restaurant (Oroville)

1ST PLACE: The Steak House

Gold Country Casino & Hotel, 4020 Olive Highway, (800) 334-9400

For those looking for a premier dining experience in Oroville, they know to look no further than the Steak House inside Gold Country Casino. Located above the casino, diners are treated to a panoramic view of the foothills—perfectly romantic at sunset—and the courteous wait staff is always ready to refill a wine glass or recommend a dish. The menu ranges from mouth-watering steaks to lobster to elk. An excellent choice for a date or celebration.

2ND PLACE: Tong Fong Low

2051 Robinson St., 533-1488

3RD PLACE: Feather Falls Casino Brewing Co.

3 Alverda Drive, 533-3885

Local restaurant (Ridge)

1ST PLACE: Black Bear Diner

5791 Clark Road, 877-0877

For many a Northern Californian, nothing says comfort—with both the food and the ambiance—quite like Black Bear Diner. Beginning with just one location in Mount Shasta, the restaurant’s quality food, huge portions and hokey-fun atmosphere (there’s always a bevy of beaming wood-carved bears welcoming diners) have helped it expand to 63 locations in eight states. The Paradise location is one of best and most established, and serves as a regular haunt for Ridge locals and a nice destination diner well worth a trip up the hill.

2ND PLACE: Sophia’s Thai Cuisine

7641 Skyway, 877-4296

3RD PLACE: Ikkyu Japanese Restaurant

5525 Skyway, 876-1488


1ST PLACE: Tres Hombres Long Bar & Grill

100 Broadway, 342-0425

While we don’t always admit it, most Chicoans love to see and be seen. That’s why the patio at Tres Hombres, while relatively new, has become practically iconic, at the corner of first and Broadway in the heart of downtown. It’s also a fun place to ponder Chico history, as the location was originally the General Store run by the founder of Chico, John Bidwell. The margaritas, tacos, salads and sandwiches help make this a choice for big birthday groups, girls’ nights out and first dates.

2ND PLACE: Argus Bar + Patio

212 W. Second St.

3RD PLACE: B Street Public House

117 Broadway, 899-8203

Street food

1ST PLACE: Mayhem Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Various locations, 717-3968

Mayhem is the ultimate purveyor of hot, mouth-watering comfort food. People smell the melty cheese, see the cutting-edge graphics on the truck—and find it hard just to walk by. Since 2012, Mayhem has been wowing eaters with its creations, featuring a variety of cheeses, bacon and other meats and toppings, and, of course, perfectly toasted fresh breads.

2ND PLACE: Gordo Burrito

Various locations, and restaurant at 1295 E. Eighth St., 809-1211

3RD PLACE: Wander

Various locations, 680-3871


1ST PLACE: Tong Fong Low

2072 E. 20th St., Ste. 100, 898-1388

See also Best Asian Cuisine.

2ND PLACE: Happy Garden

180 Cohasset Road, 893-2574

3RD PLACE: Bacio Catering & Carry Out

1903 Park Ave., 345-7787

Spot to satisfy your sweet tooth

1ST PLACE: Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy

178 E. Seventh St., 342-7163

See also Best Ice Cream

2ND PLACE: Powell’s Sweet Shoppe

121 W. Third St., 332-9866

3RD PLACE: Upper Crust Bakery & Eatery

130 Main St., 895-3866

Small bites (apps/tapas)

1ST PLACE: Wine Time

26 Lost Dutchman Drive, 899-9250

On the north end of town, nestled along The Esplanade, sits Wine Time, an elegant restaurant focused on—you guessed it—wines. And what goes better with a great bottle of vino than a plate of appetizers to share with your date or a group of friends? Small bites on offer range from the cheese plate to the Greek Antipasto Plate, which includes goat-cheese-stuffed sweet peppers, dolmades, feta and marinated olives. To add to the allure, the chef offers her suggestions for wine pairings for each dish.

2ND PLACE: Christian Michaels Ristorante

192 E. Third St., 894-4005

3RD PLACE: Crush

201 Broadway, 342-7000

Place for Tea

1ST PLACE: T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café

250 Vallombrosa Ave., 895-8100; 555 Flying V St., Ste. 1, 809-1545

Even with two locations, the T. Bar on Vallombrosa is arguably the hottest spot in town during the lunch hour, when you can count on a line out the door. But the wait is worth it. Aside from their selection of whole-leaf teas they have sugary concoctions to die for (like the Chocolate Chai Frost) as well as iced teas (see the Acai Sunrise) and sparkling infusions (try the Cranberry Spark).

2ND PLACE: The Naked Lounge Tea & Coffeehouse

118 W. Second St., 895-0676

3RD PLACE: Sweet Cottage

220 Broadway. 513-2044

Place for vegetarian food

1ST PLACE: Wild Oak Café

196 Cohasset Road, 343-4876

For the vegetarians among us, finding a restaurant that offers more than just a salad or sandwich, sans the meat, is very important indeed. Wild Oak Café certainly elevates the art of vegetarian cooking and ensures that there’s something for everyone on the menu. With items like the curry tofu sandwich or grilled veggie burgers served with chips and hummus, it’s easy to see why vegetarians—and vegans, too—love this place. Meat lovers need not steer clear—all burgers are available with bison meat as well. There’s also a good selection of fish for the pescatarians among us.

2ND PLACE: T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café

250 Vallombrosa Ave., 895-8100; 555 Flying V St., Ste. 1, 809-1545

3RD PLACE: Aonami Sustainable Sushi

1008 W. Sacramento Ave., 924-3168

Local winery

1ST PLACE: New Clairvaux Vineyard

26240 Seventh St., Vina, 839-2200

The Abbey of New Clairvaux is where Cistercian monks in a Trappist monastery make wines in Tehama County. To enjoy the wines is one treat, but to get the full experience, it’s well worth the road trip to the remote spot. Learn the history of how this operation came together with a tour of the picturesque property and tasting room. Check out the breathtaking Sacred Stones project, the reconstruction of an 800-year-old structure from Spain, on the property.

2ND PLACE: LaRocca Vineyards

12360 Doe Mill Road, Forest Ranch, 899-9463

3RD PLACE: Bertagna Son Kissed Vineyards

3363 Hegan Lane, 343-8014

Food server

1ST PLACE: Joy Johnson (Cocodine/The Kitchen Table)

2485 Notre Dame Blvd, 891-1800 (Cocodine); 1250 East Ave., 592-3480 (The Kitchen Table)

“She goes out of her way to make people feel at home” is how one co-worker describes Joy Johnson, who works at both Cocodine Thai Cuisine and The Kitchen Table. Johnson often remembers customers' names, as well as what they're likely to order. Her personality is “extremely friendly, fun and outgoing,” and she's known for providing all-around top service to diners.

2ND PLACE: Tommy Bradford (Grana)

198 E. Second St., 809-2304

3RD PLACE: Wayne Mattson (Christian Michaels Ristorante)

192 E. Third St., 894-4005