Nightlife maven Meredith J. Cooper gives the lowdown on Chico watering holes
Chico’s got a bit of a party reputation. It’s kind of like the innocent shy girl during the day, but once she’s taken a few shots of Jager, anything goes. So, while there’s plenty to do here for outdoors junkies, sports fans and art connoisseurs, it pretty much goes without saying that night time is prime time in this little town.
Since I moved to Chico about a year ago, I’ve jumped around from hotspot to hotspot to, uh, not-so-hotspot. For the newcomer, the scene can be a bit daunting—bars on every corner of downtown, with others spattered about. Which one(s) will suit me? I decided to wander around and find out.
What I discovered: There is a hangout here for just about everyone. There are sports bars, frat bars, cowboy bars and chill-out bars. There are wine bars, pubs, music venues, beach-themed bars and pool halls.
So, there’s something for (almost) everyone … but, more accurately, there’s something for just about every mood. You’ll learn quickly that a night out in Chico rarely leaves you sitting in one place for very long.
So, what mood are you in?
Sometimes you just want to sip on (or chug) an ice-cold beer. You’re in luck here, the home of Sierra Nevada Brewery. Though you can find a $2 Pabst just about anywhere, higher-end brews (i.e. Sierra Nevada) won’t set you back too much more.
Whether you’re starting your night or ending it, Duffy’s is the place to be. It’s definitely the “in” bar in town.
Why you want to go: Because it’s the “in” bar in town. Duh! Seriously, it’s a cozy yet sociable place to chill for a beer or a cocktail (some of the strongest around). Oh, and you might see some local celebrities. Not really that exciting in the scheme of things, but, you know, we take what we can get.
Warning: It’s a regulars’ bar, so it has a tendency to be a bit snooty. Not the best place for a solo excursion.
Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St., 343-7718
Sometimes cheap beer is good beer. And sometimes, if we’re lucky, good beer is cheap. That’s where the U Bar (short for University Bar) comes in. Why you want to go: Good, cheap beer. Especially on Wednesday “buck night,” when tap beers set you back a whopping dollar. Plus, it’s got games—pool, air hockey, foosball, even a mini arcade. Fun!
Warning: It can take a while to secure a pool table, or any table for that matter.
University Bar, 191 E. Second St., 898-0630
For a cheap beer ($1.25 Pabsts) and pretty decent pub grub, check out Bella’s.
Why you want to go: Who are you kidding—you go for the dollar Pabsts. And maybe to do a Car Bomb. And maybe, just maybe, you go to watch a game on one of their flat-screen TVs.
Warning: Sometimes it smells. And it’s small.
Bella’s Sports Pub, 134 Broadway, 893-5253
Whip out your stick.
Pool stick that is. Sicko.
By far the best tables in town can be found below street level at Dino’s. Smooth stretches of blue and super-tight pockets. Who could ask for much more?
Why you want to go: This place is a pool-lover’s paradise. The bar stools even have notches for your cue. To top it off, there’s a huge-screen TV for sports fans, darts in the back room and kick-ass fried zucchini. Oh, and there are plenty of tournaments and leagues to join.
Warning: It can get a bit pricey, with a per-person, hourly rate. Tip: They offer memberships that can cut down the cost if you plan to go often.
Dino’s Billiards & Grill, 319 Main St. (downstairs), 895-3466
A bit off the beaten path, at least for downtown junkies, the Oasis Bar & Grill is a relaxing place to kick back with a beer for a game of pool.
Why you want to go: Because it’s Sunday and pool is free! That’s pretty much the only time I make it over there, but for students and others who live off Nord Avenue, the Oasis is in a primo location. Plus, for sharks out for a little competition, the main table in the front operates on quarters, so you can challenge more than the buddy you showed up with. And they make a killer burger.
Warning: It’s a seedier version of Dino’s. The tables aren’t as shiny and new (or blue), nor are the cues, but it’s been around longer, so we give ’em a break.
Oasis Bar & Grill, 1007 West First St., 343-4305
Get your groove on
Ever find yourself screaming, “I wanna dance!” at the top of your lungs? Yeah, I thought so. Well, Chico doesn’t have any full-on dance clubs, but there are a few spots to go to scratch that itch.
My personal favorite dance destination is Lost On Main on Thursday night—reggae night. Some weeks are better than others, but overall if you just want some fun, high-energy music to bump to, this is the place.
Why you want to go: Because it’s funky. The art on the walls adds a splash not all bars in town can boast. Plus, the plush booths make that after-dance feet rest worth it. Also, they have a coat room, which is particularly convenient during those wintry months when you don’t want to lug your parka onto the dance floor.
Warning: The drinks are a bit pricey. And getting them can be a chore. Oh, and there’s usually a cover.
Lost On Main, 319 Main St., 892-2445
If you like teas—along the lines of Long Island Iced Teas—and techno, head over to Panama’s.
Why you want to go: It’s a cool crowd and the drinks are kitchy (and strong!). Smokers will like the outdoor patio, which is also where the music’s at.
Warning: If you don’t have a glow stick, you might not fit in.
Panama Bar Café, 177 East Second St., 895-8817
Get your moves on
Few of us want to admit it, but everyone likes a little flirting now and again. Most of it’s harmless, of course, as long as you can put up with a drunk guy named Steve slobbering all over you.
To get a little character while on the prowl, The Bear is your answer.
Why you want to go: To see and be seen. Maybe that hottie in your Spanish class will see you slamming a kamikaze and ask you on a date (or home for breakfast). Beyond its reputation as a college bar, though, The Bear is also open during the day and serves up some mean burgers. For those who enjoy a lazy afternoon with a pitcher of Pale Ale, weekends on the patio can’t be beat.
Warning: Despite its colossal size, there’s almost always a line on weekend nights.
Madison Bear Garden, 316 West Second St., 891-1639
If you like a hot, sweaty meat market, head to Riley’s. I walked in once and walked right back out. But that’s just me.
Why you want to go: Because there are beautiful people there. And they’ll probably get drunk. And if you’re lucky they’ll act out their favorite scene from Girls Gone Wild: The Ultra-Crazy Drunken Party Edition.
Warning: If you don’t like frat guys, drunk girls in mini skirts and waiting a long, long time for a drink, stay away. Stay far, far away.
Riley’s, 702 West Fifth St., 343-7459
Get your live music fix
Chico has about a million bands, and on any given night multiple venues are probably jammin’. See page 16 for a rundown of the local music scene.
Inside or out, LaSalles has the live-music-venue thing down. The genre is usually along the lines of classic rock, with a few surprises thrown into the mix.
Why you want to go: Live music rocks. And LaSalles attracts some cool bands. My favorite so far has been Zepperella—an all-chick Zeppelin cover band. Kick ass. Plus, the place is huge and is divided into different zones for different, uh, tones. There’s the pool lounge near the entrance, the dance floor, the raised seating/viewing area and the patio. Something for everyone!
Warning: You might see your parents, or people who resemble your parents, boogeying down on the dance floor. It might disturb you.
LaSalles, 229 Broadway, 893-1891
For a rawer experience, check out Off Limits, on the south end of town. The genres most likely to play here are punk and rock.
Why you want to go: The bar is large and friendly, even when no one’s around. The bands that play here usually have a lot of raw energy to burn—so they do.
Warning: The smoking patio is more of a smoking cage than anything, and when the bar gets really full, it’s almost impossible for us shorties to see the stage.
Off Limits, 1414 Park Ave., 342-5202