Some kind of Oasis

Henri enjoys ‘Chico’s Oldest Beer Joint’ despite its lack of palm fronds

HERE’S THE BEEF Analisa Curlett steers another burger toward the hungry masses at the Oasis.

HERE’S THE BEEF Analisa Curlett steers another burger toward the hungry masses at the Oasis.

Photo By Tom Angel

Tie up your camel:
The Oasis Bar and Grill (343-4305) is located at 1007 W. First St. and is open daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. The kitchen closes at 9 p.m., after which no minors are

Chico summers are hard on Henri! I know, I know—you’ve got some lovely swimming holes in Upper Park, and Sycamore Pool at One-Mile can be wonderfully refraichissant on a warm summer evening after a movie at the Pageant or a play at the Blue Room. But, sacre bleu! C’est chaud in this valley in the summer.

Last time I remember being this hot I was traveling through Spain with a cute little English teacher from Barcelona. We tried to cool off in the afternoons with sangria and siestas but finally couldn’t take it any longer and booked a ferry for Ibiza. There we rode rented bicycles every day to an adorable little white-sand plage naturel and spent our afternoons cooling off in the sparkling-blue Mediterranean. We also drank lots more sangria, which we bought from a boy named Lorenzo, who sold drinks from a tray and walked up and down the beach in a little blue Speedo.

Which is sort of what I had in mind as Miss Marilyn and I wallowed in the Chico heat last week and why I was thrilled the other evening—after having spent the day at the Chico State library researching apron patterns—when I happened upon the Oasis just a few blocks from the campus. Parfait, I thought, imagining weary-world travelers sharing philosophical conversation over tall glasses of iced mint tea as palm-frond fans circled overhead.

Well, it wasn’t that, but it was a delightful little discovery, and the hamburger was the best I’ve had in Chico. In fact, when I learned that I couldn’t get a decent-vintage Bordeaux to go with my dinner, I decided to get into the spirit of the place and ordered a beer, which tasted so good that I ordered another. And—pourquoi no?—another. Turned into one crazy nuit as Henri played both pool and Ping-Pong for the first time in his life, and some nice boys from a local baseball team tried to explain to him what “designated hitter” meant.

The Oasis Bar and Grill advertises itself as “Chico’s Oldest Beer Joint” and first opened at the corner of Fifth and Cedar in 1961. Ten years later, the original Oasis burned down and shortly after re-opened at its current location.

The place is fairly cavernous inside—rather dark, lit mostly by neon beer signs—and is decorated with banners of sports teams and beer brands. There are seven pool tables, a Ping-Pong table, a shuffleboard and video games, and behind the bar are dozens of huge sports trophies. The ceiling beams are lined with fraternity and sorority photos of Little Nells and Sheriffs from the old Pioneer Week, about which I also learned that night. Charming, though painfully provincial.

Burgers at the Oasis are $3.25, steak sandwiches $5.95, chicken-breast sandwiches $4.25, French fries $1.50 and jalapeño poppers and mozzarella sticks $3.75. A basket of peanuts is $1.25. Specials include two-for-one burgers Monday (5-9 p.m.) and other deals—mostly on drinks—throughout the week.

If Henri has any complaints about the Oasis at all, they’re small ones. First, the jukebox. Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Jimmy Buffett, James Brown, George Thoroughgood, Hall and Oates, Billy Joel—all fine. But ou sont Barbra and Liza? It would also be nice if just one of the televisions were tuned to the Food Network. That night there were four different baseball games on, professional poker, golf, some kind of mountain-bike race, car racing, a show with four large men in suits talking about something sportsy and a fishing show. I think Emeril would be a wonderful addition.

I’m not sure exactly when I left, but it was well after midnight. The stroll home was pleasant—it had cooled down considerably by then—and I was asleep on the couch within a couple of minutes of walking through the door. That night I dreamt about fraternity boys with beards and Ping-Pong paddles.