The big Grilla

Henri ditches the Speedos and steps into Grilla Bites

IN FOR A BITE<br> Bonnie Koch and Peggy Lee and Edward Jasper take a moment to look over the menu at Grilla Bites on Cohasset. Behind them is an extensive salad bar

Bonnie Koch and Peggy Lee and Edward Jasper take a moment to look over the menu at Grilla Bites on Cohasset. Behind them is an extensive salad bar

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Grilla Bites
Garden Villa center at 196 Cohasset. Phone: 343-4876. The downtown restaurant is at 119 West Second Street. Phone: 894-2691. Both are open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. There are also Grilla Bites in Medford and Grants Pass, Oregon,as well as one opening in Ashland on April 22.

Grilla Bites

196 Cohasset Rd.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 343-4876

Spring cleaning. A time of warm sunshine, fresh breezes and Puccini arias playing through windows thrown open to mornings of glorious possibility. A time to clean out drawers and closets. At least in theory.

Actually, Henri’s not very good at spring cleaning, and in fact finds it rather depressing. While ordinarily quite fastidious, he has difficulty getting rid of old clothes. But this year, with some major shopping trips on the horizon, I was determined. So I made a little rule: Anything I hadn’t worn in the past 10 years would go. Au revoir!

Unfortunately, that included my Speedos. Naturally, of late I’ve been mindful of my more, well, generous dimensions and have attended to swimming attire more appropriate and discreet. But my Speedos! Could I really part with them?

I opened the drawer and laid them side by side on the bed. Beautiful. All seven, especially the tiger-striped one, a gift from a darling little ex-pat English teacher I was seeing on Ibiza in the summer of 1982.

But it was time. I folded them back up and took them out to the pile I’d started in the kitchen, where Colette was cleaning cupboards.

“Lunch break?” she asked, wiping her brow with a dish towel.

While a drink sounded better, I agreed. She suggested going to Grilla Bites’ newest location. I was in no mood to argue.

I actually felt better almost as soon as we walked in. It’s a lovely little restaurant, with an old-world feel—high ceilings, plants, murals and large windows looking out on the surrounding red-brick buildings.

Colette ordered half a sandwich (smoked turkey, soy bacon and avocado) and a cup of tomato-and-gorgonzola soup. I had a pastrami sandwich and the salad bar, loading my plate up with greens, bell pepper slices, artichoke hearts, bay shrimp, bleu cheese, sunflower seeds and a divine roasted red-pepper dressing. We sat outside on the patio—in the shade of the large canvas umbrellas—enjoying the warm spring air and the trickling fountain, which added a musical note to the afternoon.

Grilla Bites specializes in local, organic and healthful products, as well as fair-trade coffees and teas, and in supporting and contributing to a sustainable local community.

The restaurant’s lunch menu features a range of sandwiches ($8-$9), including curry tofu (from Chico), BST (soy bacon, spinach and tomato) and Thai tuna, all on bread from Chico’s Tin Roof Bakery (also available as wraps, on whole-wheat tortillas). Among the Grilla “burgers” are Portobello, tempeh and veggie cheeseburgers ($8.50), and bison and wild salmon ($9). The huge salad bar ($7.95/lb.) includes all organic produce, dressings and toppings.

Grilla Bites’ dinner menu, available Monday through Saturday, 5 to 8:30 p.m., also features organic and free-range entrees, including a bison rib-eye ($19.95) and vegan meatloaf ($8.95). All wines, too, are organic, including La Rocca chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon from Forest Ranch ($6/glass, $22/bottle).

Grilla Bites’ downtown Chico location features the same lunch menu, with “Zen dinners” available Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Items include veggie and brown rice bowls and wraps and various smoothies and organic raw juices.

Our lunches were absolutely delicious, the staff pleasant and helpful, and the wholesome feel of the restaurant lifted our spirits considerably. When we got home, we finished our spring cleaning and then drove over to the Salvation Army to drop off all the clothes I’d packed up. In fact, I felt so good that at the last minute I decided to keep one of the Speedos after all—Monsieur Tiger Stripe, of course. I’m even thinking of buying a Bowflex and some of those cute little gray working-out shorts.