Tastes like kindness

Barbecue at Haydock’s is worth the drive

Owner/chef John Haydock displays his smoked wares—tri-tip, pork and turkey.

Owner/chef John Haydock displays his smoked wares—tri-tip, pork and turkey.

Photo By jeb draper

2954 Highway 32, Suite 200, 343-7181, www.haydocks.us
Hours: Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m.


2954 Highway 32
Chico, CA 95973

(530) 343-7181

At a recent public event, some friends and I tried to overpower the previous night’s reverie by foolishly—and predictably—blowing all our money at the beer booth, leaving us still hungry, hung over and half-buzzed. The hunger, in particular, was amplified by the smell of delicious barbecue wafting from the Haydock’s catering table a mere 50 feet or so from where we sat. In passing, one of my companions lamented to the woman behind the table his last few bucks would have been better spent on a sandwich.

Ten minutes later and completely unexpectedly, she came out with a large barbecued tri-tip sandwich conveniently quartered for the four of us. She just set it at our table with a smile and said, “The boss said this is for you guys.”

There’s no possible way these particular friends and I could under-appreciate anything free or barbecued. That being said, we had no expectations beyond the fact that it was barbecued steak, and therefore would be good.

I looked around as we chewed in silence, the reactions on their faces—and no doubt my own—describing how we felt better than words. Surprise and confusion came first—could it really be this good?—followed by the almost scary realization that it was. Then came concentration as we savored every bite, with flashes of grief knowing it would too soon be over. Such sorrow was overcome by sublime, giddy satisfaction. We sat there dumbfounded for a full minute before my friend Brad—a notorious misanthrope (seriously, he hates The Giving Tree)—gushed that it was some of the best barbecue he’d ever had. We unanimously agreed.

Haydock’s tri-tip sandwich is not just good, it’s go-home-and-tell-your-friends, e-mail-your-editor-about-a-story, can’t-wait-’til-tomorrow-to-try-it-again good. I had no choice but to do all of those things: One quarter-sandwich and I was enslaved to Haydock’s heavenly blend of savory, sweet and spicy barbecued beef. I went the very next day and several times thereafter, and the thrill has yet to diminish.

Haydock’s relative low profile in the local barbecue/deli scene is due largely to its location, on Highway 32 on the outskirts of town. It’s found in a storefront surrounded by small businesses, the lucky employees of which are more in the know about this gem than the denizens of downtown. In all my visits, it’s never been less than packed full of local lunch-goers, largely regulars on a first-name basis with owners John and Rita Haydock and their attentive, enthusiastic staff.

My first visit, I asked John to make it just like he did before—a dash of mayo and mustard, some pepper-jack cheese, peppers, pickles, onions, and a heaping helping of Haydock’s own homemade barbecue sauce. It was every bit as good, and this time the large sandwich on a fresh-baked roll ($6.99, or $4.99 for half) was very filling.

The homemade potato salad ($2.50) is a perfect accompaniment. I’ve heard it said that everyone likes their mom’s potato salad best, and maybe we share some common ancestry because Haydock’s is the closest thing I’ve found to my own mother’s; bits of egg and black olives, white and red onions masterfully chopped to provide the perfect amount of crunch, not sweet like some prefer. Their macaroni salad is similarly splendid.

John insisted I try the pulled pork on my next visit. It’s likewise fantastic but, unless we’re talking sausage, I’m more of a beef guy when it comes to barbecue. They also offer turkey and ham sandwiches. John explained the meats are hand-rubbed and slow-barrel smoked, instilling distinct and delectable flavor quite different from any other place in town.

There’s something special about Haydock’s beyond their smoking barrels, special sauce and perfect salads—a warmness and care in the food and service best summed up on their website (www.haydocks.us): “It is our core belief that ‘Cooking is an act of kindness.’” As a firsthand beneficiary, I gotta say that kindness tastes delicious.