Rebuilding, reminiscing

As bars and eateries open on the Ridge, they offer a place to reconnect

I find myself in Paradise, Magalia and the other areas affected by the Camp Fire less often as the months go by. If nothing else, my trips tend to be more focused—to attend meetings at the Paradise Alliance Church or interview folks at their homes—than exploratory. The transformation, from smoky, ashy ghost town to now has been both sad and inspiring. The spring sunshine that coaxed green to poke out of the otherwise dead landscape provided the first glimpses of hope—for me, at least—that the area could, and would, rebuild.

As new businesses open and reopen, I try to stop by while I’m in the area. So, a few weeks ago I popped in to Nic’s, the Ridge’s first completely new restaurant to open since the fire. Longtime businesswoman Nicki Jones already had reopened her popular Bobbi’s Boutique clothing store, in a new space on Skyway downtown, and she decided to transform the old Wine Room, which shares the building, into an eatery/bar.

I’ll attest to the warmth of the place—people were chatting, checking in on each other as the town was in the midst of a PG&E blackout (the restaurant was being powered by a generator). Next time I’ll stop in for a meal.

Just last week, after attending a morning-long summit on wildfire preparedness, I decided to check out another new business, Jen’s Place, also on Skyway. Opened by Jen White, who’d reimagined King’s Tavern into the White Water Saloon, which burned down, her spacious namesake bar took over space left vacant by a charter school, one patron told me. To look around, one would never guess it. The woodwork is amazing—I love the sliding barn door in the pool table room, and the bar stools are similarly rustic. There’s a large stage and even larger dance floor, plus a second game room behind it.

I recognized the bartender, Amy, from her time at Chico’s DownLo. She said she was happy to be back slinging drinks in Paradise, reconnecting with her people. Cheers to that.

Driving through Paradise, one only has to throw a rock to hit a food truck these days. Since Jen’s doesn’t serve food, I set out in search of a quick snack to munch on during my ride back to Chico. I almost missed the first one, literally across the street, in the spot previously home to Kalico Kitchen.

I felt compelled to stop for two reasons: the angus burgers advertised on the truck and the fact I’d just reminisced in my Camp Fire essay (see page 19) about this very location. Looking up, the melted Kalico sign is still there. So is the oddly intact patio, with new furniture for “dining in.” I ordered a cheeseburger from Robbie’s Paradise Burgers, to go, and while I’d prefer a bigger patty (they serve quarter-pounders), everything was delicious. The fries were perfection.

Shopping in Chico Don’t forget, for the next two Fridays (Dec. 13 and 20), meters in downtown Chico are free! So, shop locally. (Time limits still apply.)