Five & Eye has everything students could want in a restaurant right at the campus epicenter
Five and Eye648 W. Fifth St.
Chico, CA 95928
Location is a key ingredient for a restaurant—especially in a college town. Find a well-traversed corner where students walk, ride and stumble, and you have a sure recipe for success. Of course, the downside to a place having a prime locale is that “quality of product” isn’t necessarily … well … necessary.
Located on the corner of the student mecca of Fifth and Ivy, Five & Eye is surrounded by frat houses and bars—and with frat houses and bars come the intoxicated inhabitants. It would be easy enough to drop some frozen goodies into the Fry Daddy, serve ’em up and call it a night.
So it was shocking—shocking—to discover that Five & Eye, coined after the nickname given to the intersection by students, actually serves up some good grub at reasonable prices.
Of course, those who have been around Chico for a while know the corner as the place where students have cleaned their dirty laundry for decades. The Fifth and Ivy Laundromat opened back in 1967 and closed its doors in 2004. Dave Clayton, whose family has owned the property since the late ‘70s, moved back to Chico after years of working as a grip for shows like CSI: Miami and Ally McBeal and set up shop in February.
Five & Eye’s atmosphere is perfect for the college crowd. Gone are the pasty white walls and the low hum of washers and dryers, and the only suds you’ll find now are the ones in your pint glass. After a lengthy overhaul, the place resembles the deck of a cruise ship—plastic palm trees, fake parrots and paintings of tropical beaches—I was waiting for Jimmy Buffett to pop out of nowhere and start strumming the opening chords to “Margaritaville.”
I’m glad that didn’t happen.
Five & Eye’s menu is also perfect for the college crowd—expansive and inexpensive. The restaurant is also open till 2:30 a.m. on the weekends, and pints of Sierra Nevada, Bud Light and Butte Creek cost only a buck all day, every day with food purchases.
I kept it simple and went with the “Student Special": a burger, fries and small soft drink for only $4.95. Such a deal. The 1/3-pound burger came decked out in Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles between hearty focaccia buns that are delivered fresh daily from Chico’s own Delightfully Delicious bakery. The french fries, though of the frozen variety, were hot and crispy—all washed down with a Dr. Pepper, it was a perfect lunch.
On my previous visit, I tried the Alpine Chick sandwich ($5.55), a grilled chicken breast slathered with sautéed mushrooms and topped with onions, lettuce, tomatoes and Swiss cheese, while my dining partner went with one of the wraps ($4.95-$5.95). Be warned that fries aren’t included with the burgers, sandwiches and wraps, but you can add a side of small fries and a small soda for $1.95.
If you’re looking to go the healthier route, Five & Eye also dishes out salads, including the standard house ($2.95) and a grilled chicken Caesar ($5.95), as well as teriyaki bowls for just under five bucks. I haven’t tried any of them, but one patron said the teriyaki bowl at Five & Eye is “the best in town.”
Five & Eye also has a breakfast menu with omelets ($5.95-$7.95), pancakes and French toast for under $5, and breakfast burritos that are served all day ($3.95-$4.95).
Clayton has assembled himself a staff of veteran cooks who have logged decades of experience in local restaurants such as Basque Norte and Sierra Nevada. One of those is Uncle Russ, who refers to himself as the “line-cook cowboy,” explaining, “I come in and do the job.” Ol’ Uncle Russ makes no secret as to what they’re trying to accomplish at Five & Eye—running a classic student joint that gives the college crowd more bang for their buck. No argument here.