Readers’ Picks

Your favorites for 2006

Goods and Services


1st place:

Little Red Hen Therapeutic Plant Nursery
189 E. Eighth Street; 891-9100
This nonprofit nursery on the periphery of downtown Chico is a great source of both landscaping and indoor plants. The location keeps getting more beautiful and inviting every year, with its cute barn-red buildings and profusion of luxuriant plant life covering the large lot. Well-tended pathways lead past and around tiered display tables and groves of small potted trees, bushes and shrubs. The nursery’s profits go to aid disabled children, and the nursery employs disabled people, one of its stated goals being to help build self-confidence and independence in its employees.

2nd place: Mendon’s Nursery 5424 Foster Road, Paradise; 877-7341

3rd place: Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse of Chico 2350 Forest Avenue; 895-5130

Hardware Store

1st place:

Collier Hardware
105 Broadway; 342-0195
A visit to Collier Hardware can be like a treasure hunt. You never know what you’ll find wandering the aisles of well-stocked shelves. At first glance, you might think the inventory has been piling up since the doors opened in 1871, but there is method to the madness. Collier stocks all the things you’d expect to find in a good hardware store, plus many hard-to-find items and unique wedding and house-warming gifts.

2nd place: Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse 2350 Forest Avenue; 895-5130

3rd place: The Home Depot 2580 Notre Dame Boulevard; 342-0477


1st place:
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
2031 Whitman Avenue #2; 894-1494
What could be better than a good book, a comfy chair and a cup of coffee? Even as a huge chain superstore, Barnes & Noble manages to create a cozy environment. The selection doesn’t hurt, either. Need a vegan dessert cookbook? B&N’s got it. Harry Potter on tape? Got that, too. Just be careful—this place can suck your day away.

2nd place: Lyon Books & Learning Center 121 W. Fifth Street; 891-3338

3rd place: The Bookstore 118 Main Street; 345-7441

Music/Record Store

1st place:

Tower Records
215 Main Street; 345-8582
Smack-dab in the middle of downtown Chico, Tower has it all, with well-stocked sections of metal, hip-hop, top 40, indie, classic rock and classical music, and a vast collection of regional and ethnic music. Oh yeah, and soundtracks and a whole room full of used CDs and vinyl albums. (They buy used stuff, too.) And posters. Not to mention a vast selection of DVDs. And for those who like to flip through a magazine while listening to new tunes, Tower has a great newsstand with periodicals covering every conceivable topic and subculture. And books. But mostly it’s all about music. And stuff.

2nd place: Melody Records 341 Main Street; 895-8196

3rd place: Best Buy 2005 Forest Avenue; 566-1012

Place to Buy Music Supplies

1st place:
Herreid Music
824 Oroville Avenue; 894-7777
Housed on the former site of some of the best live-music venues in Chico (Cabos, The Blue Max, The Mystery Palms), Herried now uses the former stage for a drum display riser, the back booths for guitar displays (including an acoustic room), the bar for the retail counter and the dance floor for all kinds of accessories. Strings, straps, chords, sticks, sheet music and display cases brimming with stomp boxes and digital signal processors all vie for your attention in the spot where you may have once danced, up close and personal, to Tommy Tutone, Los Lobos or Primus.

2nd place: The Music Connection 973 East Avenue; 898-0110

3rd place: The Underground 325 Main Street; 342-3500

Place to Buy Flowers

1st place:
Farmers Markets
Downtown Chico
Saturday’s Farmers Market really is a wonderful place to buy big bouquets of beautiful fresh flowers—especially if you’re going to use them as a centerpiece for your dining room table when you serve a feast featuring the absolutely divine produce (ranging from organic fruits and veggies to free-range eggs, scrumptious candies, prime beef and artisan breads) also offered for sale each week at this Second-and-Flume institution. And if getting up on Saturday morning to shop for flowers and produce isn’t your bag, check out Thursday Night Market, which goes on downtown in the early evening and features musical acts as well as other performers and many crafts vendors along with the fantastic produce and flower vendors.

2nd place: San Francisco Flowers 116 Broadway; 895-3116

3rd place: Christian & Johnson Co. 250 Vallombrosa Avenue #100 891-1881

Gift Store

1st place:
Bird in Hand
320 Broadway; 893-0545
A Chico staple as well as a joy to explore, Bird in Hand is known for high-quality, unique gifts and toys, as well as being the home of the National Yo-Yo Museum and its famed 250-pound yo-yo. While the store has something for all ages, its selection of toys is so fun and extensive that even adults may find themselves playing with them.

2nd place (tie): Grace Jr 331 W. Fifth Street; 342-1369

2nd place (tie): Hubbs Stationery 956 Mangrove Avenue; 892-4940

Antiques Store

1st place:
Eighth & Main Antique Center
745 Main Street; 893-5534
Looking for that special something for that special someone? Or just hoping to spruce up the place with an interesting artifact, knickknack or unique piece of furniture? Need an enameled metal Lost in Space lunch box? Ditto. Just want to browse around for an hour or two looking at stuff ranging from obsidian Indian arrowheads to soapstone statues of the elephant-headed Hindu god of luck Ganeesh to hob-nailed, green milk glass candy dishes? Again, ditto. And make sure you go all the way through and check out the outback annex, crammed with furniture, ancient Coke machines and the aroma of distant times and places.

2nd place: Attic Treasures Chico 240 Main Street; 343-0129

3rd place: Sandy Gulch Furniture Co. 1916 Oleander Avenue; 345-4617

Home Furnishings Store

1st place:
Ashley Furniture HomeStore
2101 Whitman Avenue; 345-2616
This furniture superstore is gaining a ubiquitous status in Chico. With the pending closure of Austin’s, a local furniture store and our second-place finisher, Ashley’s has become the go-to place for a sofa (or a chaise, or a loveseat…) and everything else for home-interior enhancement.

2nd place: Austin’s Home Furnishers 2480 Notre Dame Boulevard; 893-3903

3rd place: Nantucket Home Furnishings 127 W. Third Street; 895-1038

Place to buy a vehicle

1st place:
Wittmeier Auto Center
2288 Forest Avenue; 895-8181
Hondas and Chevys and Fords, oh my. And don’t forget about Lincolns, Mercurys, used vehicles and the commercial fleet. Wittmeier Auto Center has an impressive selection. That must be what drives our readers to vote for this family-owned business year after year.

2nd place: Chuck Patterson Auto World 200 East Avenue; 895-1771
3rd place: Chico Volkswagen-Suzuki 902 Main Street; 891-6275

Place to Get a Vehicle Serviced

1st place:
Chuck Patterson Auto World
200 East Avenue; 895-4768
This all-service facility will not only maintain your vehicle at factory specs, it will sell you a new or used car or truck if you’re in the market for one. If you need to drop off your vehicle and get to your job while it’s being worked on, Patterson’s provides a shuttle service that includes a return trip once the maintenance is complete. There’s coffee in the waiting room, too.

2nd place: Wittmeier Collision Center 1070 E. 20th Street; 895-3048

3rd place: C&M Automotive 1188 E. Lassen Avenue; 343-5613

Auto Supply Store

1st place:

Pep Boys Automotive Supercenter
1555 Mangrove Avenue 895-1336
If you’re peppy enough to fix your own car, or even if you’re not, Pep Boys has a position of trust in the community. The company dates to 1921 and prides itself on its employee code of ethics. Certified technicians in the customer-service center will do everything from flushing radiators to installing shocks and struts. Do-it-yourselfers will find a wide range of auto products—the reason Pep Boys rules this category.

2nd place: Kragen Auto Parts 485 Notre Dame Blvd; 345-2782 1618 Mangrove Avenue; 893-8525

3rd place: Riebe’s Auto Parts 175 E. 20th Street; 342-4261 982 East Avenue; 343-3524

Sporting Goods Store

1st place: Chico Sports Ltd
698 Mangrove Avenue; 894-1110
If bigger truly is better, then it’s no wonder our readers voted Sports Ltd Best Sporting Goods Store. This place is as big as an airplane hangar! With the massive Bidwell Park mural on the wall, you almost feel like you are outdoors. This store doesn’t cater to ball sports, but if you lead an active life, Sports Ltd has things for you, such as a full-service bike shop and a climbing wall that’s free and open to the public.

2nd place: Big 5 Sporting Goods 1717 Mangrove Avenue; 891-1545

3rd place: Copeland’s Sports 1950 E. 20th Street—inside Chico Mall; 894-5366

Bike Shop

1st place:

Pullins Cyclery
801 Main Street; 342-1055
Pullins Cyclery doesn’t look much different today than it did when J. V. Pullins opened up shop in 1918. Rows of shiny bikes still line the wood floors, and the shop is still owner-operated. In the 22 years since Steve O’Bryan bought the shop from Mr. Pullins, he and his crew have kept current with the rapid advancements in the cycling industry. In addition to a wide range of bikes for sale, this repeat Best Bike Shop winner also has a complete service department.

2nd place: Campus Bicycles 330 Main Street; 345-2081

3rd place: Chico Sports Ltd 698 Mangrove Avenue; 894-1110

Thrift Store

1st place:
ARC Thrift Store
2020 Park Avenue; 343-3666
Shopping at ARC combines two of the best feelings in the world: giving to others and getting a good deal. It’s a win-win. As with any thrift-store shopping, a successful visit requires patience and a good eye, but you’ll always find something. ARC is more than a thrift store, however; it is a wonderful local program that serves the disabled in our community. Socially conscious shopping on a tight budget—genius!

2nd place: The Salvation Army Various locations

3rd place: Thrifty Bargain 2432 Esplanade; 899-3360

Men’s Clothing Store

1st place:
Men’s Wearhouse
1960 E. 20th Street; 343-2685
You might not know it from the casual look downtown, but Chico men have their dressy side. How else to explain the success of Men’s Wearhouse? The chain’s store in the mall complex carries clothes ranging from business casual to formal. Need a tie with that suit? You’ll find 3,000 here. If you don’t see something you like, you’d better make your own.

2nd place: Trucker 232 Broadway; 343-1073

3rd place: Old Navy 2023 Forest Avenue; 892-0203

Women’s Clothing Store

1st place:
Lulu’s Fashion Lounge
212 Main Street; 343-3545
LuLu’s is a girly girl’s playland, complete with baubles and sparkles, glitz and glimmer, hot heels and cool purses—not to mention a fabulous $1 accessories bowl. It hasn’t been voted Best of Chico over and over for nothing—when Chico girls (and women!) want something hot to wear, they know where to go. Plus, all the trendy “Lulu’s girls” are very helpful, giving small-town service to go with the store’s big-city fashion. What could be better?

2nd place (tie): Artifax 247 Main Street; 343-7577

2nd place (tie): Gottschalks 1962 E. 20th Street; 893-3000

Kid’s Clothing Store

1st place:
For Kids Only (FKO)
365 East Avenue; 893-3454
If you’ve been living here for any length of time and listen to the radio at all, you probably relate For Kids Only with “Rihanna and Abby,” the slightly annoying but always memorable spokespeople for the store. They tell you that FKO carries all sorts of name-brand clothing and shoes, and has great sales.

2nd place (tie): Kat’s Meow 138 W. Third Street; 899-8811

2nd place (tie): Mervyn’s 801 East Avenue; 343-8800

Place to Buy Outdoor Gear

1st place:
Mountain Sports
176 E. Third Street; 345-5011
Whether you’re a novice or an expert outdoorsperson, Mountain Sports can outfit you and help make your excursions more comfortable. The downtown store carries all the basics, plus a wide variety of specialty items and gadgets. When the staff isn’t helping you find the right camping, hiking, backpacking, skiing or climbing equipment, they’re out using those same products.

2nd place: Gates Resale— Army Surplus 1152 Park Avenue; 342-2309

3rd place: Chico Sports Ltd 698 Mangrove Avenue; 894-1110

Place to Buy Pet Supplies

1st place:
2005 Whitman Avenue 899-1422
Need a 20-foot braided nylon training leash for your retriever pup? How about a bottle of yeast-and-garlic tablets for a healthful cat treat? A bag of hamster chow? You’ll find them all here, along with whole aisles of food and about a zillion toys ranging from simple, catnip-stuffed sisal mice to rawhide bones big enough to use for a baseball bat. The jam-packed store also carries all manner of pet houses, cages and cat towers. And if you’re looking for a new pet, check here for cat and dog adoption offers as well as lots of fish, reptiles, hermit crabs and birds.

2nd place: Northern Star Mills 510 Esplanade; 342-7661

3rd place: Wal-Mart 2044 Forest Avenue; 899-8760

Computer/Electronics Store

1st place:
Best Buy
2005 Forest Avenue; 566-1012
True to its name, Best Buy got the nod from readers as the best place to buy electronics. A stroll in Chico’s maze-like store is entertaining in itself—like a high-tech Disneyland without the rides, unless you count the large black leather chairs where you can sit and try out the XBox 360 on high-definition television. You’ll find build-’em-yourself robots, audio equipment, big-screen TVs, electronic games and everything imaginable in the realm of home computers. And don’t forget the Geek Squad!

2nd place: Circuit City 2041 Whitman Avenue; 892-1010

3rd place: PCI Computer Services 225 Main Street, Ste. L; 891-4152

Place to Rent a Movie

1st place:

All the Best Video
Various locations
All the Best is another home-entertainment chain that lives up to its name—and this one is local! Your best bet is the five-for-five deal, which allows you to rent five of anything—movies or games—for five nights and only 10 bucks. Pretty good, eh? Another thing that’s great about All the Best is that you can find games and movies that you might not find elsewhere, including a great selection of foreign films and older games.

2nd place: Blockbuster Video Various locations

3rd place: Hollywood Video Various locations

Place to Get Video Games

1st place:
All the Best Video
Various locations

2nd place (tie): Blockbuster Video; Various locations

2nd place (tie): Hollywood Video Various locations

Place to Buy Specialty Foods

1st place:
Trader Joe’s
801 East Avenue, Ste. 110; 343-9920
Sure, you can find several dozen varieties of cheese here. But have you tried the cracked-pepper-coated cashews? Not all Balsamic vinegar is the same, and you can prove it by trying several of the varieties offered on TJ’s shelves. If you want to invite a dozen people over and serve each a different variety of miniature cookie, you should check out the baked goods. Organic plantain chips are available for the discriminating shopper, as are microwave packs of organic jasmine basmati or brown rice (the store’s most popular product, we’re told by an inside source).

2nd place: S&S Organic Produce & Natural Foods 1924 Mangrove Avenue; 343-4930

3rd place: Chico Natural Foods 818 Main Street; 891-1713

Grocery Store

1st place:
WinCo Foods
2060 E. 20th Street; 342-1599
A trip to WinCo is more than just a grocery run—it’s an experience. The most seasoned WinCo-ers know never to go on Saturdays, because this place gets crazy. The store has something of everything, for low prices, as well as an eclectic mix of people to watch. Just make sure to wear good walking shoes—this place is huge, and you’ll be hauling a very full cart.

2nd place: Trader Joe’s 801 East Avenue, Ste. 110; 343-9920

3rd place: Safeway Various locations


1st place:

Instant Nails
2 Williamsburg Lane; 899-0553
Why would people think of a nail place when picking the best salon? Perhaps because of Intant Nails’ remarkable art-designing machine. The Imaginail allows customers to choose a piece of artwork from the program or bring in their own picture CD, then have the piece applied during the manicure. So if you’re tired of carrying photos in your wallet, just have them put on your fingertips!

2nd place: Poison Apple Salon and Spa; 131 Meyers Street, Ste. 10; 899-7875

3rd place: Supercuts 680 Mangrove Avenue; 893-0808 2009 Forest Avenue #30; 893-2727


1st place:

Hotel Diamond
220 W. Fourth Street; 893-3100
Hotel Diamond represents the best of Chico’s distinct past, lively present and bright future. Developer Wayne Cook completely renovated the historic but decrepit Diamond Hotel, while retaining the original character. Antique furniture, etched glass, fine woodwork and elegant amenities adorn the rooms and lobby of this luxury hotel located in the heart of downtown. The decor may be upscale, but the atmosphere is classic Chico casual.

2nd place: Courtyard By Marriott 2485 Carmichael Drive; 894-6699

3rd place: Oxford Suites 2035 Business Lane; 899-9090


1st place:
Tri Counties Bank
Various locations
Tri Counties Bank offers products and services you’ll find at national banks, combined with the convenience of expanded hours. Tri Counties has nine branches in the Chico area, including supermarket branches that are open seven days a week and until 8 p.m. on weeknights for people who can’t take a banking break during normal business hours.

2nd place: Bank of America Various locations

3rd place: Washington Mutual Various locations

Food and Drinks

Overall Restaurant

1st place:

5th Street Steakhouse
345 W. Fifth Street; 891-6328
Sumptuous food. Congenial but highly professional service. Comfortably rustic but elegant ambience. Full bar and premium wine list. This is the ideal setting for dinner with visiting parents, convivial friends or a date you want to be remembered by, as well as a great place to retire to after a big business meeting. The salads are cool, refreshing and light, but it’s called a steakhouse for a reason. You might hear some live jazz as you’re savoring the flavors of your meal, and you will certainly come away with the feeling that you have been well and properly served.

2nd place: 33 Steaks Booze & Jazz 305 Main Street; 893-1903

3rd place: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Taproom & Restaurant 1075 E. 20th Street; 345-2739

Local Restaurant

1st place:
5th Street Steakhouse
345 W. Fifth Street; 891-6328
2nd place: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Taproom & Restaurant 1075 E. 20th Street; 345-2739

3rd place: Jedidiah’s Neighborhood Grill 817 Main Street; 899-1105

Chain Restaurant

1st place:
Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill
2030 Business Lane; 343-6888
This choice could have something to do with sheer variety. Locals’ favorites are the Crispy Orange Chicken Bowl, Chicken Pasta Alfredo, Grilled Teriyaki and the fish and chips. Desserts include Triple Chocolate Meltdown and Raspberry Rapture Cheesecake—the names alone are tantalizing.

2nd place: Outback Steakhouse 1990 E. 20th Street; 899-8112

3rd place: Pluto’s 201 Main Street; 343-0165

Fine Dining

1st place:

Red Tavern
1250 Esplanade; 894-3463
The Red Tavern, headed by owner and award-winning chef Craig Thomas, brings a unique fine-dining experience to Chico. The simple but superb menu changes every two weeks and features fresh, local, and organic ingredients. In another distinctive twist, the establishment boasts a bocce ball court on the patio. Another plus: attentive waiters who know the extensive and interesting wine list inside and out.

2nd place: 5th Street Steakhouse 345 W. Fifth Street; 891-6328

3rd place: Christian Michael’s Ristorante 192 E. Third Street; 894-4005

Dessert Place

1st place:

Jon & Bon’s Yogurt Shoppe
Various locations
Jon & Bon’s is the essence of Chico, neatly displayed in a soft-serve cup. With countless frozen yogurt flavors and toppings, smiley workers, and kitschy art on the walls, Jon & Bon’s exudes that good local vibe. Visit on any weekend night—especially Thursdays downtown, when market night is right outside the door—and you’re sure to find the creamery crowded with groups of teens, families, and everyone in between. Make sure to taste the peanut butter frozen yogurt—it’s the best. And throw on some peanut-butter-carob granola while you’re at it.

2nd place: Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy 178 E. Seventh Street; 342-7163

3rd place: Upper Crust Bakery 130 Main Street; 895-3866

Cheap Eats

1st place:
La Comida
954 Mangrove Avenue; 345-2254
When you want a tasty meal but you don’t have much cash, the answer is simple: Head for La Comida. Folks of all ages from all walks of life stand side by side and order ridiculously cheap Mexican-food favorites. They then take their number, find a table and munch as much free chips and salsa as possible before their number is called. This one really is a Chico tradition, and in the five years we’ve had this category, La Comida has won all five times.

2nd place: Taco Bell Various locations

3rd place: Aca Taco 133 Broadway; 894-0191 1000 W. Sacramento Ave. #D; 343-0909

New Restaurant

1st place:
Big Chico Burger
1550 East Avenue; 891-6100
Home of the one-pounder, Big Chico Burger is the place to get your fill of ground beef. Special buns hold these oversized edibles; if you’re not that hungry, go for third- and quarter-pound burgers. Personalize your sandwich at the condiment bar, which includes a variety of cheeses and toppings such as mushrooms, bacon, grilled onions and pepperoncinis. Herbivores can indulge in a garden burger, though you don’t have to actually eat it in the garden.

2nd place: 33 Steaks Booze & Jazz 305 Main Street; 893-1903

3rd place: Jedidiah’s Neighborhood Grill 817 Main Street; 899-1105

Coffee House

1st place

: Starbucks Coffee
Various locations
Ever wonder about that insignia on your Starbucks cup? The siren is a two-tailed mermaid (or melusine) named after Starbuck, a character from the book Moby Dick, and after a mining camp on Mount Rainier. The Frappuccino/mocha/latte generation is obviously addicted to coffee and tea beverages; add a tasty scone or brownie for an irresistible combination. There are more than 11,000 Starbucks locations worldwide, making it the world’s largest multinational coffee shop chain. No, they aren’t all in Chico, though it does seem like there’s one on every corner …

2nd place: The Naked Lounge 118 W. Second Avenue; 895-0676

3rd place: Bidwell Perk 664 E. First Avenue; 899-1500


1st place:

Jack’s Family Restaurant
540 Main Street; 343-8383
Jack’s is the kind of place where you never know who you’re going to see but you always know what you’re going to get. It is open 24/7 and always has customers—from blue-collar guys at the counter to music scenesters to hordes of high-schoolers getting milkshakes after prom or football games. The waitresses always impress with amazing juggling skills and very speedy service. The food? What you would probably expect from any diner—tons of delicious greasy American fare with some white bread on the side.

2nd place: Cozy Diner 1695 Mangrove Avenue; 895-1195

3rd place: Morning Thunder Cafe 352 Vallombrosa Avenue; 342-9717

Breakfast Place

1st place:
Morning Thunder Cafe
352 Vallombrosa Avenue; 342-9717
No person, place or thing has dominated our Best of Chico readers’ poll quite like Morning Thunder. The record speaks for itself: 13 straight years as the winner in this category. Due to its obvious popularity, you may have to wait for a table, but it’s well worth it. Known for its generous portions, Morning Thunder serves all the breakfast standards. For a little later in the day, there is a variety of burgers, sandwiches and salads.

2nd place: Sin of Cortez 2290 Esplanade; 879-9200

3rd place: Italian Cottage Restaurant 2234 Esplanade; 343-7000 2525 Dominic Drive (off the Skyway); 342-7771

Lunch Place

1st place:
Grayatip Thai Cuisine
2574 Esplanade; 899-1055
Whether in the restaurant or for take-out (see below), CN&R readers love Grayatip. It may be located at the north end of town, but enough readers have ventured far enough past East Avenue to discover it and sing its praises. Last year, it won Best of Chico honors in the Best Thai Food category, which we retired.

2nd place: Grilla Bites 119 W. Second Street; 894-2691 196 Cohasset Road #150; 343-4876

3rd place: Pluto’s 201 Main Street; 343-0165


1st place:

Grayatip Thai Cuisine
2574 Esplanade; 899-1055
2nd place: Happy Garden Restaurant 180 Cohasset Road; 893-2574 7188 Skyway, Paradise; 877-41683rd place: Egg Roll King 659 Palmetto Avenue; 893-1838

Italian Food

1st place:
Italian Cottage Restaurant
2234 Esplanade; 343-7000 2525 Dominic Drive (off the Skyway); 342-7771
Remembered for the sawdust on the floor, the Italian Cottage has been around for ages. Its two locations serve up pasta and pizza and everything else Italian, as well as a wonderful green salad with their special blue cheese dressing. Italian Cottage is great for families or for a date. If you are there for the latter, though, avoid the roasted garlic appetizer, which comes with crumbled blue cheese, fresh basil and toastettes. Yum.

2nd place: Sicilian Cafe 1020 Main Street; 345-2233

3rd place: Franky’s 506 Ivy Street; 898-9948

Mexican Food

1st place:
Casa Ramos
216 W. East Avenue; 894-0119 2490 Park Avenue; 893-5050
Casa Ramos is a friendly place, which is probably why it is so popular. Another reason may be the huge portions of delicious, greasy Mexican fare. ¡Que delicioso! The eatery has a huge menu filled with all sorts of Mexican favorites as well as some American food (but who wants that?). Casa Ramos also delivers for a $6 fee if you’re so inclined.

2nd place: La Hacienda Restaurant 2635 Esplanade; 893-8270

3rd place: Tres Hombres Long Bar & Grill 100 Broadway; 342-0425

Taco Truck

1st place:

El Paisa
Eighth and Pine streets at Downtown Liquor & Market
Ah, the taco truck—the cheapest, tastiest lunch you can get in Chico. But which one? There are lots to choose from, and serious debates have raged over which one takes the pickled-jalapeño-and-carrot crown. But Paisa—more of a “stand” than a “truck"—tends to reign supreme. Speaking of “supreme,” the Supreme Chicken Burrito is killer. Add a lime wedge, and you have the perfect lunch. Bueno.

2nd place: Tacos Tonaya 409 Nord Avenue at Nord Market; 519-2118

3rd place: Crazy Taco 1205 Park Avenue at Duke’s Cork-N’-Bottle Shop; 879-9665

Asian Food

1st place:
Happy Garden Restaurant
180 Cohasset Road; 893-2574

7188 Skyway, Paradise; 877-4168
Happy Garden used to be one of Chico’s best-kept secrets. But with a fifth-straight first-place finish in our poll, it seems the secret is out on this two-town phenomenon. Happy Garden may be the best, but high prices are not part of the package. Most items run between $5 and $10.

2nd place: Grayatip Thai Cuisine 2574 Esplanade; 899-1055

3rd place: Cocodine Thai Cuisine 2485 Notre Dame Boulevard #250; 891-1800


1st place:
346 Broadway; 897-0626
Few meals pack the nutritional punch of a slice or four of fresh raw tombo (albacore) tuna served on top of a cylinder of sticky rice wrapped with a bit of subtly flavorful nori (seaweed). Rawbar combines the elegance of fine dining with the convenience and practicality of a local bistro. Lunches can be quick and to-the-point, dinners can be elongated works-in-progress as you work you way down the list of sashimi, rolls and nigiri. This intimate mainstay of downtown restaurants also offers a fine list of sakes, wines and beers.

2nd place: Gen Kai Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar 2201 Pillsbury Road #E1; 345-7226

3rd place: Katsu’s Japanese Restaurant & Market 1008 W. Sacramento Avenue #G; 899-0644

Vegetarian Food

1st place:

Grilla Bites
119 W. Second Street; 894-2691 196 Cohasset Road #150; 343-4876
Now with two locations in Chico, Grilla Bites is owner Fred Marken’s delicious and healthful gift to the supporters of the slow-food movement. Dedicated to supporting local growers of organic produce and presenting meals that will satisfy the heartiest appetites with the most nutritious foods available, Grilla Bites is a great place to drop into for an energizing lunch, or—at the beautifully appointed new location on Cohasset—a dinner that will revive the spirit and refresh the mind with a plethora of organically and ethically pure foodstuffs. Both locations serve great breakfasts and coffee drinks, too.

2nd place: Grayatip Thai Cuisine 2574 Esplanade; 899-1055

3rd place: Kramore Inn 1903 Park Avenue; 343-3701


1st place:

Kona’s Sandwiches
138 Main Street; 893-4344 965 Nord Avenue; 894-1635
The starving-student crowd knows this place offers the cheapest, tastiest sub in Chico—especially when you split a 12-inch with a friend. The atmosphere isn’t bad, either, especially at the downtown location, which has some pretty sweet murals and faux-island theme décor. Kona’s also has anything you could want on a sandwich available—and some extras, such as sprouts and pickles, are free!

2nd place: Quizno’s Subs Various locations

3rd place (tie): Spiteri’s Delicatessen 971 East Avenue; 891-4797

3rd place (tie): Great Harvest Bread Co. 1141 Forest Avenue #60; 345-7155 1223 Mangrove Avenue; 899-7273


1st place:
101 Salem Street #1; 896-1234 1354 East Avenue; 345-7700
Oh, that lovely New York-style pizza. The crust is thin and toasty, with a nice, satisfying little crunch when you bite through it. If you’re really hungry and feeling a bit carnivorous go for the Godfather. The simple pepperoni is a classic that really requires no frills or embellishments, but don’t let that stop you from shaking on some red pepper flakes, Italian spices and grated Parmesan anyway; after all, it’s sitting right there waiting for you, so why not?

2nd place: Woodstock’s Pizza 166 E. Second Street; 893-1500

3rd place: Round Table Pizza Various locations


1st place:
Burger Hut
Various locations
Once retired as Best of Chico Living Legend, Burger Hut is again proving to be a favorite by racking up first-place finishes in our Best Burger category. “The Hut” grills up your patty of choice to order. It’s up to you to customize the sandwich at the condiment bar. Family-owned and -operated since 1978, Burger Hut now serves its award-winning burgers at three locations in Chico and one in Yuba City.

2nd place: Nobby’s 1444 Park Avenue; 342-2285

3rd place: Big Chico Burger 1550 East Avenue; 891-6100


1st place:
Aca Taco
133 Broadway; 894-0191 1000 W. Sacramento Avenue #D; 343-0909
Aca Taco is probably best known for being open until the wee hours of the night (except for Sunday—a religious reason). The huge, delicious Acapulco-style burritos hit the spot at 12:00—whether it’s lunchtime or the middle of the night. Aca Taco will wrap one up for you any way you like, in two different sizes.

2nd place: Tacos de Acapulco Various locations

3rd place: Speedy Burrito 1031 Nord Avenue; 896-0141

Hot Dog

1st place:
2100 Whitman Avenue; 342-6494
While fast-food chains have value menus that promise to fill your belly on the cheap, Costco’s in-house walk-up window barely even has a menu. But if you are looking for more gut for your buck, there is no competition. It’s a simple deal: one giant hot dog (or Polish dog) with self-serve condiments and a fountain soda (with free refills) for $1.50 plus tax. Can’t beat it, not even with a burrito.

2nd place: Zot’s Hot Dogs 225 Main Street #A; 345-2820

3rd place: Dog House 1008 W. Sacramento Avenue; 894-3641

Place to Get Ice Cream

1st place:

Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy
178 E. Seventh Street; 342-7163
Nothing makes you feel like a kid again like ice cream. That cold, sweet, creamy goodness just seems to melt your cares away. And it doesn’t get any better than Shubert’s, which has been producing some of the finest ice cream and confections anywhere for more than 65 years. If you stop by for a first try, we bet you’ll be back again and again.

2nd place: Jon & Bon’s Yogurt Shoppe Various locations

3rd place: Cold Stone Creamery 146 Broadway; 891-3331

Place to Get a Smoothie

1st place:
Jamba Juice
Various locations
The smoothie has joined the sandwich, the slice and the burrito as a legitimate lunch-break option. Downtown, the line inside Jamba Juice can be as long as any eatery’s. Despite the giant vacant shell of a Chevy’s with which it shares the corner of Second and Broadway, Jamba Juice has thrived with its wide selection of blended fruits, juices, sherberts, and vitamin and energy supplements. Try the dairy-free or all-fruit varieties.

2nd place: Juice Whirled 1722 Mangrove Avenue; 893-2169

3rd place: Jon & Bon’s Yogurt Shoppe Various locations

Nightlife/ Entertainment


1st place:
Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main Street; 343-7718
With a clientele that ranges from millionaire lawyers to semi-employed carpenters to exuberant debutantes to rowdy rock musicians, Duffy’s encompasses every subculture and microcosm that has ever held congress in a drinking establishment. It is the quintessential neighborhood tavern, if your neighborhood is the Milky Way galaxy. The Friday happy hour Irish music sessions are legendary; the randomly annual Duffy’s Gong Show is a pillar of civilization as we know it, and the afternoon reading room offers succor to many a harried journalist. Best group of bartenders and least boneheaded bouncers ever.

2nd place (tie): LaSalles 229 Broadway; 893-1891

2nd place (tie): Crazy Horse Saloon & Brewery 303 Main Street; 342-7299

Sports Bar

1st place:
The Graduate
344 W. Eighth Street; 343-2790
The sports-bar and pool-playing categories just seem to go hand-in-hand. What good sports-bar patron doesn’t like to shoot a little pool? With an array of more than a dozen televisions, four well-lit pool tables, a full bar and a selection of 50 beers on tap, it’s no wonder The Grad is a double winner. The establishment also serves burgers, sandwiches, salads, a variety of finger food and daily specials.

2nd place: Bella’s Sports Pub 134 Broadway; 893-5253

3rd place: Riley’s 702 W. Fifth Street; 343-7459

Place to Play Pool

1st place:

The Graduate
344 W. Eighth Street; 343-2790
2nd place: Oasis Bar & Grill 1007 W. First Street; 343-4305

3rd place: Towne Lounge 327 Main Street; 896-0235

Place to Dance

1st place:
229 Broadway; 893-1891
With regular DJ nights and a steady stream of local and touring bands, LaSalles is another double winner when it comes to dancing and seeing live music. The dance floor next to the stage in the main bar area can get pretty packed, but there’s plenty of room in the club for those who just want to listen. There’s also a stage out back under the trees, the spot for happy hour jams every Thursday. LaSalles primarily draws a college crowd, but depending on the time of year and who’s playing, you might see some gray hair, Birkenstocks and tie-dyes on the dance floor.

2nd place: Crazy Horse Saloon & Brewery 303 Main Street; 342-7299

3rd place: Madison Bear Garden 316 W. Second Street; 891-1639

Place to See Live Music

1st place:

229 Broadway; 893-1891
2nd place: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Big Room 1075 E. 20th Street; 345-2739

3rd place: Crazy Horse Saloon & Brewery 303 Main Street; 342-7299


1st place:

Lisa Cooke— 33 Steaks Booze & Jazz
305 Main Street; 893-1903
In town just a year, 33 Steaks Booze & Jazz offers a great incentive to down a few. Bartender and co-owner Lisa Cooke, plus the incredible martini bar, is a winning combination. She shakes things up, and the customers keep drinking. With varieties like Jack Dempsey, ScarFace, Babe Ruth and the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, who can resist trying all 60 different vodkas? Lisa and the other bartenders keep track of your martini capacity; after you have had 33 (not in one night, please), you get a plaque with your name on it and a martini named after you. If you’re wondering how the 33 in the name came about, Prohibition ended in 1933. Bottoms up!

2nd place: Terry Jarrett— Crazy Horse Saloon & Brewery 303 Main Street; 342-7299

3rd place: Colleen Brandt— Panama Bar Café & California Grill 177 E. Second Street; 895-8817


1st place:
Tony Cox— KHSL (The Blaze)/ Crazy Horse Saloon & Brewery
This Southern boy’s done good ’round here. A Little Rock, Ark., native, Tony Cox moved to Chico a decade ago, and he now has the city’s country music scene covered, both on 103.5 FM weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. (and on the weekends when he’s not out doing a live remote broadcast) and every Friday night at the Crazy Horse for “Finally Fridays.” Way to git ‘er done, cowboy.

2nd place: Tad Shackles— KLRS (Colors)/ LaSalles

3rd place: The Vibe Alliance—LaSalles

Local Music Act

1st place (tie):
Red With Envy
Pub Scouts
If you followed the CN&R’s inaugural CAMMIES awards, this comes as no surprise. People’s Choice winners of the best Metal and World music categories, respectively, Red With Envy and The Pub Scouts are appropriate bookends for Chico’s energetic and wildly varied music scene. Red With Envy have been on a break for the summer, but when in the rotation at LaSalles, their screaming, melodic metal is the biggest draw at the most popular downtown stage. The Pub Scouts are, of course, a Chico mainstay, with a rotating cast of players celebrating the end of the work week with traditional Irish music every Friday at Duffy’s Tavern.

3rd place (tie): Chingus

3rd place (tie): Hooliganz

Art Gallery

1st place:
1078 Gallery
820 Broadway; 343-1973
Just beginning to settle into its new, bigger-and-better location, the 1078 promises to contend in the Best Place to See Live Music category next year. In terms of visual arts, the 25-year-old gallery features monthly shows of contemporary and avant garde art from local and visiting artists. Recently, 1078 began producing music shows focusing on the same underground aesthetic as the art.

2nd place: Avenue 9 Gallery 180 E. Ninth Avenue #3; 879-1821

3rd place: Crux 7 Commerce Court #11D; 892-2354

Performing Arts Company

1st place:

Chico Cabaret
2201 Pillsbury Road #C1; 895-0245
The Cabaret has brought some great theater to Chico. It is run by Phil and Sue Ruttenburg, and has a steady group of very talented players, including the Ruttenburg kids, who do every type of play and musical—romps like You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Seussical, the Musical (both of which were fantastic), more serious plays such as Last Train to Nibroc, and everything in between. Of course, the Cabaret is most known for its rollicking productions of Rocky Horror Live, which has been brought back for the fourth time this year due to undying popularity. It’s playing this month—go check it out.

2nd place: The Blue Room Theatre 139 W. First Street; 895-3749

3rd place: Chico Theater Co. 166 W. Eaton Road; 894-3282

Place to See a Play

1st place:

The Blue Room Theatre
139 W. First Street; 895-3749
The Blue Room offers some serious plays in an intimate atmosphere, and never fails to impress. It is the perfect place for a date, as the plays are often more adult in nature or theme and the theater is located near several good restaurants downtown. Sitting in the front row is risking getting spat on—that’s how intimate this place is—but that’s a good thing. The actors are some of Chico’s best and best-known, and are very talented at making you feel part of their experience on stage.

2nd place: Chico Cabaret 2201 Pillsbury Road #C1; 895-0245

3rd place: Chico State

Movie Theater

1st place:
801 East Avenue; 879-9612
Movie-goers chose the Cinemark theater as their pick for watching their favorite flicks. Tinseltown has 14 big screens to view your beloved movie stars. Munch on the popcorn and down some soda while your ears throb with Dolby digital surround sound that practically rocks the floor.

2nd place: Pageant Theatre 351 E. Sixth Street; 343-0663

Place for Happy Hour

1st place:

229 Broadway; 893-1891
To win Best Happy Hour in this town, you have to beat some pretty stiff competition. Stiff drinks, that is. Let’s face it, Chicoans tend to like their booze and like it cheap. LaSalles’ happy hour has that, as well as unique drink specials, a lively atmosphere, veteran bartenders and live music on the patio on Thursdays. It doesn’t hurt that LaSalles is in the middle of downtown. Add it all up, and it’s no wonder our readers gave LaSalles the nod.

2nd place: Duffy’s Tavern 337 Main Street; 343-7718

3rd place: Riley’s 702 W. Fifth Street; 343-7459

Place to Get a Beer

1st place:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Taproom & Restaurant
1075 E. 20th Street; 345-2739
If you want the best, go to the source. Not only does our local brewery offer some of the finest beers made in this country, it serves them in one of the most gorgeous settings ever to see a condensation ring wiped up by a friendly waitperson. Oh, and while you’re sampling the beer, you just might want to order some grub—the restaurant is superb.

2nd place: Duffy’s Tavern 337 Main Street; 343-7718

3rd place: The Graduate 344 W. Eighth Street; 343-2790

Place to Get a Glass of Wine

1st place:

Monks Bistro Wine Lounge
128 W. Second Street; 343-3408
Monks is a perfect place to start or end your evening. Of course, it wouldn’t be unusual for a patron to spend the entire evening there, sampling wine and appetizers. The extensive wine list includes more than 100 selections, including more than 50 by the glass. Monks also serves sumptuous desserts and a selection of craft beer.

2nd place: Christian Michael’s Ristorante 192 E. Third Street; 894-4005

3rd place: Creekside Cellars 250 Vallombrosa Avenue #500 894-7696

Place to Get a Margarita

1st place:
Tres Hombres Long Bar & Grill
100 Broadway; 342-0425
The long bar here stretches into the distance, but luckily the bartenders are attentive and quick on their feet, and you’ll spend more time gazing pleasantly around the big brick-lined dining room and sipping your drink than tapping your feet with impatience. If you decide to supplement your mixed drink with something less adulterated than fruit juice, you’ll find a large selection of premium tequilas—but if you do decide on a shot or two, you’d also be wise to partake of an item or two from the handy, quick and delicious taco bar.

2nd place: La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill 855 East Avenue #270; 891-9595

3rd place: Casa Ramos 1. 216 W. East Avenue; 894-0119 2. 2490 Park Avenue; 893-5050


Place to Work Out

1st place:

In Motion Fitness
1293 E. First Avenue; 343-5678
Whether you want to be in fast or slow motion, In Motion Fitness wins as the best place to work out. The gym offers free weights and cardio equipment, of course. Those preferring slower exercise modes can try pilates or yoga. To pick up the pace, bounce over to the indoor, regulation size basketball court—readers chose In Motion as the best place to play basketball, too. After you dunk a few basketballs, go take a dip in one of the four swimming pools—yes, In Motion also got voted as the best place to go swimming. More is on the way, including a butterfly atrium inside the upcoming building addition.

2nd place: Fit One Athletic Club 1026 Skyway; 898-8348

3rd place: Chico Sports Club 260 Cohasset Road; 345-9427

Place to Play Basketball

1st place:
In Motion Fitness
1293 E. First Avenue; 343-5678
2nd place: Chico Sports Club 260 Cohasset Road; 345-9427

3rd place: Chico State

Place to Swim

1st place:

In Motion Fitness
1293 E. First Avenue; 343-5678

2nd place: Sycamore Pool at One Mile Lower Bidwell Park(pictured)

3rd place (tie): Fit One Athletic Club 1026 Skyway; 898-8348

3rd place (tie): Bear Hole, Upper Bidwell Park

Golf Course

1st place:

Bidwell Park Golf Course
3199 Golf Course Road; 891-8417
This 18-hole public course, set in Big Chico Creek Canyon at the beginning of Upper Bidwell Park, offers a combination of beautiful scenery, reasonable green fees and challenging design. It has a pro shop, snack bar and putting green, and is open every day except Christmas.

2nd place: Canyon Oaks Country Club 999 Yosemite Drive; 343-2582

3rd place: Tuscan Ridge Golf Club 3100 Skyway; 343-3862


1st place:
Upper Bidwell Park
Some voters named specific paths and some just mentioned the park, so we thought we’d go over some of the best routes. First, North Rim in Upper Park—it provides a spectacular view of the canyon and city and provides a good workout as well. For a more scenic route, try the Yahi Trail, also in Upper Park, which runs along the creek. It is shaded and easy to walk and gets you to some of the best swimming holes in Chico. A less well-known but equally beautiful trail is South Rim, which runs along the other side of the canyon.

2nd place: Feather Falls

3rd place: Mount Lassen

Bike Path

1st place:
Bidwell Park
Rugged trails abound throughout the park. For a nice Sunday family bike ride, try Lower Park’s paved loop trail, which is easy and beautiful.

2nd place: Durham-Chico path

3rd place: Chico Airport path

Place to Play Softball

1st place:
Hooker Oak Recreation Area
1928 Manzanita Avenue
The Hooker Oak Recreation Area in Bidwell Park is located on Manzanita Avenue, between Hooker Oak and Vallombrosa. It’s a nice family spot, with a playground, barbecues, a basketball court, horseshoe pits and of course the creek, but mild recreation is not what it’s most used for. Just follow the “pings” of aluminum bats in the summertime, and you’ll find the three-field complex where Chico Area Recreation District’s adult softball and baseball leagues and American Legion teams have games running constantly. If there are no games scheduled, the fields are available for public play.

2nd place: Community Park East 20th Street at Whitman Avenue

3rd place: Sycamore Field at One Mile Area Lower Bidwell Park

Sporting Event

1st place:
Chico Outlaws baseball games
Munching on a hot dog, sipping a cold beverage and cheering for the home team is a great way to spend a warm summer night. With the start of the independent Golden Baseball League in 2005, the Chico Outlaws filled the void left when the Chico Heat folded after the 2002 season. It didn’t take long to get the fans back to Nettleton Stadium, a beautiful ballpark located on the Chico State campus, or for readers to recognize the Outlaws with a Best of Chico honor.

2nd place: Chico Rooks soccer games

3rd place: The Almond Bowl


Public Servant

1st place:

Scott Gruendl
Regardless of whether you agree with his politics, it’s hard to dispute Scott Gruendl’s dedication to the people he serves. By day, he oversees public health services in Glenn County. By night—and weekend, and other assorted stray moments—he is Chico’s mayor, and he strives to push the boundaries of a largely ceremonial position. He is running for a third term on City Council; if his popularity with CN&R readers is an accurate indication, he should be a contender for this honor for four more years.

2nd place: Maureen Kirk

3rd place (tie): Dan Herbert (tie): Andy Holcombe (tie): Larry Wahl

Local Media Personality

1st place:

Dave Vanore— KHSL/KNVN TV
Dave Vanore brings something a little extra to the local weather report. Is it his fishing forecast? Is it his pot-bellied pig, Winnie? His slight drawl? Whatever it is, he’s just a fun guy to watch. Even if the weather changes and we end up wearing shorts in a storm, Vanore has Chico’s hearts.

2nd place: Tad Shackles — KLRS radio

3rd place: Kelli Saam — KHSL/KNVN TV

Radio Station

1st place:
KZFR—90.1 FM
KZFR is one Chico’s best auditory assets. It has something for everyone—reggae, jazz, blues, classical and talk shows, as well as shows for kids and teenagers. If you’re feeling a little tired of consumerism, listening to this ad-free station is a welcome break, and things are always fresh and interesting. Give it a go.

2nd place: KCHO—91.7 FM

3rd place: KLRS— Colors 92.7 FM

Public Art

1st place:

“Our Hands”
Chico Municipal CenterPublic art means not just that the art is displayed in public, but also that the public paid for it in the form of grants derived from taxes and developer fees and such. So naturally it’s controversial. But it’s also essential to creating an ambience accessible to everyone who passes through or lives in town. As such, the hands near the downtown city administration building offer a fitting tribute to the people whose work contributed to their existence. The fingers are not as exquisitely proportioned as the original scale model submitted to the city and displayed to the public at the Chico Museum, but the intention is good, and standing in between them provides a wonderful sense of place.

2nd place: Chico Open Board Art project

3rd place: Downtown art benches

Charitable Cause

1st place:

Boys and Girls Club of Chico
601 Wall Street; 899-0335
Our children are our future. Perhaps that’s why our readers chose the Boys and Girls Club as Best Charitable Cause again this year. The Boys and Girls Club enjoys tremendous community support, with donations of time and money coming from the most prominent members of our community to single parents struggling to make ends meet. This support is vital for the club to continue to inspire and enable all young people to reach their full potential as caring, productive and responsible citizens.

2nd place: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butte County 358 E. Sixth Street; 343-8407

3rd place: Jesus Center 1297 Park Avenue; 345-2640

Community Event

1st place:
Farmers Markets
Whether Thursday nights through the heart of downtown or Saturday mornings on the edge of it, Chico’s market events bring people together. If you haven’t sampled the sights, smells, sounds and flavors, you must be a newcomer in need of initiation.

2nd place: Taste of Chico

3rd place: Friday Night Concerts in the Park

Thing About Chico

1st place:
Bidwell Park
What would Chico be without Bidwell Park? It wins several categories every year, and for good reason—it is Chico’s most beautiful asset and a treasure for all nature-lovers. It is so huge that it would take forever to explore all of it. The most important things are that the park be taken advantage of—it is a wonderful place for so many activities—and that it also be taken care of.

2nd place: Trees

3rd place: The people