The 2017 Tuckers
Best of Chico eating (IMHO)
With this Best of Chico issue, I proudly announce this year’s Tucker Awards for Local Food Excellence on a Budget, an annual Chico event since 2017. Warning: We’re talking low-brow here. I’m not a fancy restaurant kind of person, so let’s just move on to things I actually eat.
Best taqueria: Tacos Mary. An authentic Acapulco-style taqueria magically set down in our midst.
Best sit-down Mexican: La Hacienda. I usually consider waiter-and-table-setting Mexican a contradiction in terms, like tuxedo overalls. But La Hacienda sells me on the concept every time I go.
Best buffet: Priya Indian Cuisine. Still occupying that Goldilocks Zone between over-spiced and boring. If you luck out, there are samosas.
Best dessert: Forcella Italian Bistro’s panna cotta. Yeah, I know they closed, but I’m in denial. Actually, there are a number of worthy successors, notably the root beer float at Farm Star Pizza and the mini-dessert baked goods at Upper Crust Bakery & Cafe. For my birthday I like to get about eight different UC minis, quarter them, and share them with three friends.
Best pie: Since Sweet Cottage downtown closed, the only serious player is the Sweet Cottage trailer at the farmers’ market. It means you have to eat pie at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, but if I must I must.
Best pita: The Pita Pit. I know, it’s a chain without a trace of ethnicity and their chicken tastes like it’s all GMOs and hormones, but if you put all of that out of your mind and just go, it’s a friendly, vibrant place and the food is cheap and killer. Remember to ask them to grill your shrooms, green peppers and onions as soon as you order.
Best hot chocolate: The Foodie Café. Good hot chocolate is almost impossible to find. The Foodie Café does it right, with a hint of Mexican spices and a viscosity thick enough you can almost stand the spoon up in it.
Best french fries: Sol Mexican Grill. These are thin, crispy on the outside yet still-potato-y on the inside, cut fresh and cooked in a sweet rice oil with a hint of cayenne.
Best rice: Café Petra. Rice can carry a meal when it’s this good.
Best crêpe: Bisou Bisou. There are two primary sources of crêpe in Chico. In one, the crêpe is made back in the kitchen out of your sight by nameless drones while you sit in a room designed by corporate market research; in the other, the crêpe is made at a cute little cart in front of your nose by the owner/chef while she chats you up. Thus BB’s crêpe is 30 seconds old when you bite into it. As it should be.
Hottest food: Sipho’s Restaurant & Cafe’s jerk chicken. Rumor has it that North Korea is close to duplicating the formula, and the Free World is trembling.
Best all-round plate of food: Ali Baba’s chicken kabob plate with pita bread. Delicious, ample, healthy and cheap, with five different items on the plate and subtle flavors that don’t overwhelm.
Best atmo: Fresh Twisted Café. The place always feels like the kitchen of a large, happy family getting ready for school. This is the only eatery in Chico where, when I go, I schedule things so I can hang around for a while after eating.