Savoring simple sandwiches
Chico Locker & Sausage Co. has a fresh outlook
While Henri is unabashedly fond of many exotic cuisines—foods that less adventurous diners might in fact find unpalatable—he draws the line at cockroach chow mein and moo goo gai rat. And merde de anything. They’re just not for moi. In fact, Henri felt more than a little bit queasy the other day after reading in a local “newspaper” about the China Star Super Buffet’s fare, and while he admires culinary experimentation, he has decided to leave the consequences of such enterprise to the more courageous.
So a simple, back-to-basics sandwich sounded pretty good the other day. And though Henri makes several exquisite bread-and-meat concoctions himself (including his favorite, bay shrimp and avocado on a sourdough roll), I decided to head down to Chico Locker & Sausage, where I’d heard that the deli-served sandwiches were huge, fresh and delicious. True on all three counts. I had an absolutely divine hot pastrami sandwich that day, and it was so good—and prepared and served by such a delightful staff—that I’ve been back three times since, for a Reuben, a tri-tip and the smoked turkey. All were excellent and made with such dispatch that I barely had my wallet out before my lunch was ready.
Founded in 1965 as a slaughterhouse and processing plant, Chico Locker and Sausage expanded its operations over the years and today is highly regarded for its deli and retail meat shop, with more than 20 different sausages, including kielbasa, bratwurst, chorizo, linguisa, hot links, British bangers as well as Cajun, chicken-broccoli, apple and Swedish potato sausages. You can also get smoked turkey, honey-cured ham, bacon, tri-tip or buffalo. Specialty items include sauerkraut, mustards and horse radish, and even smoked beef bones for your dog—most of which were nearly as large as Miss Marilyn herself.
Obviously, keeping food fresh is an ongoing problem for restaurants and other food purveyors, and meat is particularly tricky. Left unrefrigerated, it quickly spoils and can lead to serious health problems. On the other hand, the meat industry is highly regulated, by the USDA, the FDA, OSHA, the EPA, FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) and other regulatory groups, in addition to local agencies—lots of laws and regulations to contend with and to make sure the meat is fresh and safe.
The American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) exists, in part, to assist small meat companies such as Chico Locker & Sausage in making sense of existing regulations and to keep them apprised of new developments in the industry. Chico Locker is a member of both the AAMP and the California Associations of Meat Processors (CAMP) and has won numerous awards from both organizations.
It turns out that your little town of Chico played a very important role in the history of cold-meat storage and preservation. Documents from the headquarters of the AAMP, located in Elizabethtown, Pa., and Dr. Elizabeth Boyle, of the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University, both single out Chico Ice and Cold Storage Company, owned by E.K. Eames, as one of the first plants in the nation to rent out cold-storage space, in 1903. It wasn’t until the 1930s that other plants around the country were offering such space to the public.
Sandwiches at Chico Locker & Sausage come in three sizes (about $4-$6) on seven types of bread, and even the mini is enough for a hearty lunch. There’s also a daily sandwich special, including prime rib on Wednesday and tri-tip on Friday, and a different homemade soup each day—the chicken gumbo was excellent. You can also get a variety of pasta, bean, potato salads and other side dishes.
The catering menu includes veggie and meat-and-cheese trays ($28.95 to $47.50), sub sandwiches, tri-tip, ham, smoked turkey, and potato, bean and pasta salads.