An A-to-Z Food Tour of Butte County

An A-to-Z Food Tour of Butte County

Finding something deliciously memorable to eat in Butte County is as easy as A, B, C, but if you need some inspiration, let our alphabetical assortment be your guide.

From acidic to buttery to crispy, delicious, fresh, gooey, and beyond, we've got some of the most scrumptious spreads, sips, and spots—one for each letter of the alphabet—for your foodie tour of Butte County!

Jump to: B - D | E - G | H - J | K - M | N - P | Q - S | T - V | W - Z | Reels

A is for “Almendra Winery & Distillery’s Steakhouse Burger”

The distinction of being Butte County’s first combination winery-distillery belongs to Almendra Winery & Distillery, which hand-crafts its wines and serves up Monkey Face Spirits to thirsty customers on the regular. And no-reservation live music sets paired with a drink or two at sunset is a can’t-fail recipe.

But over the past few years, the Durham favorite has bolstered its offerings and stepped up its food game to represent some of the better gastropub-esque fare in the area. On offer are rustic pizzas and a tasty brunch menu, which features items such as locally sourced avocado toast and fresh berry Belgian waffle to accompany a mimosa flight, along with a number of great small plates. Roasted brussels sprouts, indulgent bacon-wrapped prawns, or even the appetizing favorite monkey bites—dippable herbed flatbread covered with cheese and garlic—are all popular draws. But the new star of the menu is Almendra’s Steakhouse Burger, introduced last summer to rave reviews—and, after you try one, you’ll get why.

As with all great burgers, the Steakhouse Burger starts with a flavorful, ⅓-pound premium local beef patty, served with tomato, red onion, and crisp lettuce on a Challa roll. And, perhaps a nod to another local burger favorite in town—or maybe just a nod to the fact that fried cheese makes burgers better—the Steakhouse Burger boasts a dramatic cheese skirt. Of course, no meal at Almendra is complete without a glass of wine, and the Steakhouse Burger just happens to pair well with the Almendra Luna.

It’s hard to understate what a big difference fresh, high-quality beef makes in a burger, but your taste buds will tell the difference. Almendra’s deliciously seasoned burger is hit with a lovely sear then cooked to a perfect temperature—right on the juicier side of medium. And unlike many burgers that focus too much on stacking an outrageous amount of items and going vertical, Almendra simply trusts the use of a softer bun and thoughtful construction to help create a consistent bite of each ingredient all the way through the Steakhouse Burger. Bravo.

B is for “Brilliant Beer Brittle from Joy Lyn’s Candies”

It’s no exaggeration to say that Joy Lyn’s Candies has been a treasure of the North State since its founding in Paradise in 1969. Internationally renowned by confectioners across the world and the recipient of multiple awards by industry experts, Joy Lyn’s is a true small-town success story with a giant reputation. Within town limits, of course, Paradise knows the candy-maker more intimately: simply put, they’re the go-to source for holiday gifts, special occasions, or simply a sweet-tooth hankering that calls for an expertly crafted treat.

But perhaps its most popular treat today is one that was first introduced in 2009: Joy Lyn’s incomparable Beer Brittle, a sweet-and-salty peanut brittle made with another local legend, Sierra Nevada Brewery’s Pale Ale. Pale Ale’s history famously began with arguably more naysayers than supporters—the unashamedly hoppy brew was an acquired taste for many until it became one of the most iconic brews in craft beer history. It’s safe to say Joy Lyn’s Beer Brittle didn’t struggle to get traction; it’s been a well-loved hit since the confectioner first introduced it to local shelves. Cooked in small batches the old-fashioned way (in a large copper kettle, then hand-poured and hand-spread on a warming table), Beer Brittle’s not-secret-at-all ingredient subtly shines through that familiar buttery crunch.

Tragically, Joy Lyn’s original building—along with the homes of the Hartley family that owns and operates the business—was lost to the destructive 2018 Camp Fire. But it takes more than that to keep a legend down, and less than two years later, the Hartleys purchased and painstakingly renovated a new building with a mission: “to begin the history of heavenly candies made in Paradise once again.” Back in business, Joy Lyn’s stands again as the go-to for Ridge residents (or even other Butte County locals who know the trip up the hill is well worth it). Joy Lyn’s has been hard at work to keep its vaunted legacy going, doling out as many Valentine’s Day chocolate-covered strawberries, delectable chocolate-crammed Easter baskets, and, yes, bags of Beer Brittle as it can.

C is for “Carnitas, Conchas, and More at Casa Lupe”

A restaurant, bakery, and taqueria in one, Casa Lupe is a Gridley institution, a living legend whose star has only grown over the years since the family-owned business put down roots in the late 1960s. The restaurant, run by sisters Lupe and Luz since they took it over for their father, operates next door to the immensely popular market of the same name. Residents from all over Butte County know that Casa Lupe’s fare is always fresh, flavorful, and authentic as it gets.

And on weekends, Casa Lupe is even more special. The kitchen lights flick on at 2am, when 15 to 20 forty-pound batches of fragrant, deliciously seasoned pork are prepped and then slow-cooked in enormous cauldrons all morning. Casa Lupe’s carnitas are perhaps Butte County’s worst-kept culinary secret, and served in all manner of exquisite, classic Mexican dishes—from succulent tacos to full plates with rice, beans, and homemade tortillas—on Saturdays and Sundays.

Beyond carnitas, the De La Torre family has brought a few philosophical mainstays over from Jalisco: white corn is best for tortillas, meat should be the star of each dish, and classic-style beans made with lard simply taste better (though you can order them without it, with a number of other vegan options available). Whether it’s the salty, crispy crunch of fresh chicharrones, the simple yet flavorful combination of a radish slice and jalapeno in a taco, or those outrageously tender carnitas, Casa Lupe always delivers on flavor, just as it has for more than 50 years.

The whole county knows it, too. Restaurateurs, home cooks, and taco trucks from all over Butte County buy their pre-seasoned meats and other specialty Mexican ingredients from the market, a bustling operation thanks to a wide shopping selection and seductive bakery and deli that serves up conchas, churros, burritos, tacos, and more in to-go fashion. They have trouble keeping their tortas, made with soft, delicious bolillo, in stock because of how quickly they sell.

Whether a regular or just passing through, Casa Lupe is a destination in and of itself, and worth a stop for carnitas, conchas, and more.

D is for “Dragon Potatoes at Sin of Cortez”

What is the quintessential Sin of Cortez meal? Is it the 2+2+2, which brings the comfort of a traditional diner breakfast but makes it Sinful with the inclusion of your choice of specialty pancakes? Maybe it’s their Breakfast Sandwich, starring the soft, aromatic rosemary bread that’s become nearly synonymous with the Chico breakfast hotspot. But if you consider everything that makes Sin of Cortez what it is—fresh ingredients, local focus, dedication to filling bellies and caffeinating minds, and, above all else, flavor—you must consider the Dragon Potatoes (which were once featured in Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives"!).

The name might be misleading. Though the crispy rosemary potatoes, hot and steamy on the plate, are certainly a welcome sensual feast for any groggy weekend morning, the star of this rib-sticking delight is its slow-roasted carnitas, juicy and flavorful. Complete with house-cooked black beans, jack cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, jalapenos, Roma tomatoes, and avocado sauce, the rosemary potato-carnitas combination is one that simply satisfies. Paired with a cup of Sin’s coffee—they go above and beyond in this department, too, with high-quality, Grand Cru-rated, single-origin beans—a plate of Dragon Potatoes just might be the ultimate dish that comes to mind when someone asks if you feel like Sinning for breakfast.

Sin of Cortez also features a bevy of delicious, diverse scrambles, each bringing something different to the table. Even more Latin-styled dishes await you, like the carnitas quesadilla or breakfast tamales. Those with a sweet tooth should absolutely consider Sin’s French toast, or any of their fruit-infused pancakes (here’s a tip: you can get specialty pancakes as part of their 2+2+2 meal). And we really can’t advise a trip without trying a coffee drink from their espresso bar. Sin’s mocha is a rich, towering double-shot of espresso swimming in melted chocolate (not syrup!) and steamed milk, topped with freshly whipped cream.

If you haven’t made the trip to Sin of Cortez, it’s worth it if you’re visiting town and need to grab breakfast, and it’s an absolute must if you’re a local. After all, you already know which dish to try first.

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E is for “English-inspired Dishes from The Allies Pub”

Once you cross the threshold into The Allies Pub in Downtown Chico, it doesn’t take a wild imagination for an American to take a mental voyage across the pond. Steve and Alison Kay—Chico transplants from England who made the move to the North State in 1995—have intentionally designed it that way, aiming for a warm, welcoming vibe. Finely crafted, flavorful beer is at the heart of The Allies. British Bulldog Brewery was the original passion project of Steve and, later, his son-in-law Justin Martin, and the two have been carefully brewing a wide range of more than 40 recipes since 2011. Taps rotate constantly, and Steve is adamant about storing and pouring at the correct temperatures, depending on the brew.

And what could pair better with a classic English-style beer (if it’s on tap, try a pint of Signalman and you’ll get a cool story about its origin and inspiration) than a traditional English-style meal? The star of The Allies’ menu is their Bangers & Mash, three hearty British banger sausages atop a generous bed of flavorful, fluffy mashed potatoes, served with a rich house onion gravy and minted peas on the side. Robust and juicy, the sausages provide that signature satisfying snap when cutting through the outside casing, and a side of mustard helps bring some balance for those who want a little extra tang in their bite. Though The Allies certainly has the chops to present the perfect atmosphere for an early Saturday afternoon spring football match (or “soccer,” if you’re not feeling particularly European), there is something undeniably familiar and comforting about a warm afternoon on their ample, shaded patio, complete with a cool ale and a sumptuous dish of delicious, hearty English fare. Add in live music to the equation—a regular occurrence out on that terrific patio—and it’s clear that The Allies Pub stands as a unique spot to grab a beer and a bite: lively yet comfortable, with a palpable sense of reverence for the brew.

We’ll definitely drink to that.

If anyone ever tells you that fried alligator “tastes just like chicken,” you could take it from us that it most certainly does not. Then again, why not find out for yourself?

Though fried alligator is certainly more of a delicacy in the South, where the giant reptiles roam rampant, the Tackle Box Bar & Grill—Chico’s only honkey-tonk bar, grill, and bait shop—has an extended appreciation for expanding one’s palate, specifically by introducing it to deep-fried morsels of alligator tail. Served with an assortment of dipping sauces and a bed of hot French fries, The Tackle Box’s fried alligator at first resembles exceptionally large chicken nuggets. A wonderful, golden-browned batter is nearly hush puppy-thick around the gator meat, which is not quite like chicken, and definitely not flaky or tender like fish. In fact, newcomers to alligator might find it more akin to a thick piece of calamari—on the chewier side with a relatively mild flavor. The novelty of eating alligator, though, should not detract from the fact that The Tackle Box serves up some excellent fries, too—a hot, fresh basket big enough for two people comes standard with an order of gator tail.

If you’re feeling brave and ready to just go for it, you can blindly bite into a piece. More inquisitive (or cautious) diners might have a go with a knife and fork first, though. A reminder that alligators are powerful, extremely sturdy wild animals, which can come to the forefront with the amount of gristle you may encounter. It’s not a matter of if, but when, you will come across a bite that’s tough to chew, but a little knife handiwork can solve that problem. The parts you will want to eat are firm but not tough, ranging in firmness between pork and calamari rings, and closer in flavor to quail than chicken—you might occasionally detect some slight fishy flavor as well. If you’re new to this dish, a smoother transition might involve dipping the fried gator in some ranch dressing, BBQ sauce, or the fan-favorite gator sauce.

If you’re looking for something in Butte County to eat just to say you tried it, The Tackle Box is a great place to start!

G is for “Grilled Cheese-y Goodness from Hudson's Gastropub”

Hudson’s Gastropub prides itself on homemade, elevated comfort food made from scratch, and few things scream comfort food the way a grilled cheese sandwich does. But with a kitchen staffed with experienced chefs and a taste for finer things, this isn’t your grandma’s regular American-on-Wonder bread grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of Campbell’s soup. Hudson’s has leveled it up, melting a sumptuous blend of mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, and pepper jack cheeses between slices of buttery, house-made focaccia toast. And because a grilled cheese wouldn’t quite be the same without soup, Hudson’s serves up a hearty tomato jalapeño soup with so much body it borders on being bisque-like. Nobody’s ordering this and leaving hungry.

But that’s not the only grilled cheese dish on the menu. Hudson’s has converted this hearty sandwich into a burger for the dinner crowd, adding a juicy hamburger patty, a tasty garlic aioli, and classic burger toppings of lettuce and tomato to the mix. Instead of soup, the grilled cheese burger comes with a basket of hot, crispy French fries, lightly topped with parmesan and garlic—enough for flavor but not enough to overpower them.

Hudson’s is a great place when you’re feeling like keeping the vibe, but not the food, low-key. A full bar and wide selection of craft beers, specialty cocktails, and wines complement everything you might pick on the menu; the grilled cheese cries out for a cold, hoppy IPA to help balance the sandwich (or burger) out, what with its deep, rich flavors.

Nostalgia is a funny thing—it reminds us how great simple pleasures used to be. Hudson’s tries to capture that feeling, take what makes it classic, and level it up to gastropub status, where fresh, high-quality ingredients elevate a dish from a kid’s favorite into a meal right at home during happy hour. Hudson’s takes a timeless sandwich, puts a modern twist on it, and in doing so pleases the adult palate—and cures all hunger pangs.

H is for “Homemade Sweets from Shubert's”

Most Chico locals know that Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy is a Butte County institution, and all it takes to realize why is one visit to the venerable ice cream parlor and confectioner. Voted as the second-best ice cream in America in a 2008 national contest by Good Morning America (thanks to its beloved “Chico Mint” flavor), Shubert’s has operated in the same building, using the original machines, since 1938. It may be true that any ice cream is a welcome treat on a hot summer day, but the homemade quality and high-quality ingredients found in Shubert’s goods are what help this local favorite set the bar. The sweet aroma of ice cream cones and chocolate that greets you as you enter the front door is enough to momentarily turn anyone back into a kid again.

Over the course of the year, Shubert’s will offer more than 30 flavors of ice cream, ranging from classics like rocky road and vanilla to flavors that emphasize local flair by using nuts, cream, honey, and other ingredients sourced from area producers. Shubert’s “Almondoodle,” for example, is made with snickerdoodle almond butter from Sohnrey Family Foods. Whether you find joy in trying a new scoop with each visit, or prefer trying to find a perfect pairing between multiple flavors, you are guaranteed to enjoy fresh, high-quality ice cream. If you find yourself in the mood to go big, you can select your favorite flavors for a sundae, banana split, malt, milkshake, freeze, brown cow, or a number of seasonal specials.

And all of this is to say nothing about the shop’s ample selection of chocolates and candies. For decades, Shubert’s has been a Chico go-to for gift baskets and special treats thanks to its beckoning display case of tempting confections. Chocolate-covered mints, peanut chews, orange creams, honey comb, and a dozen and a half more options round out an impressive chocolate lineup. Or, you could opt for some famous Shubert’s mints, English toffee, or peanut brittle.

No matter what you pick, you know it will be made fresh, by hand, on site, in the same homemade fashion it was made back in 1938.

I is for “Italian Fare at Sicilian Cafe”

A Downtown Chico classic since 1984, Sicilian Cafe brings fine Italian dining to Butte County with little pretension and lots of love by crafting homemade pasta, using farm-fresh vegetables and high-quality seafood, and coming up with inventive surprises to refresh classic southern Italian cuisine on a regular basis. But don’t let the “fine dining” label throw you off when imagining the dining experience—Sicilian Cafe’s vibe is warm and familial, their portions are generous, and their dishes are not shy about bringing the flavor. Their fried calamari works just as well as an entrée as it does an appetizer, with a variety of perfectly breaded and browned pieces served with a zesty marinara, all made from scratch. Vegetarians will find that Sicilian Cafe not only includes options for them, but celebrates such dishes by putting hearty mushrooms or tender eggplant at the heart of the meal quite often. And with more than 150 wines to choose from, there is no dish on the menu that won’t have a delicious pairing.

All of this has been served in their intimate Main Street location since 1990, with views of Little Chico Creek. But never one to rest on their laurels, Sicilian Cafe will be moving to a bigger location on E. 3rd in the Fall of 2022. There, diners will enjoy all their regular favorites along with a full bar and other new amenities.

Of course, you can find your favorites here: a wide range of pasta dishes, from linguine to tortellini; seafood including oysters, prawns, calamari, clams and mussels; and a host of sauces and flavors inspired by old-world recipes that have endured for generations.

With a combination of exciting specials joining the rotation of long-time favorites, the offerings at Sicilian Cafe represent everything we’ve come to love about Italian cuisine: an embrace of simple yet complementary ingredients; a liberal yet balanced application of herbs and natural flavors; and a touch of elegance that can transform a humble tomato into the foundation of an entire meal.

It’s easy to lose sight of flavor when we think of the fine dining experience. Sicilian Cafe doesn’t let us forget it.

J is for “Jiffy Burger from Madison Bear Garden”

Perhaps no menu item in Chico is as synonymous with its restaurant as the Jiffy Burger is to Madison Bear Garden—or simply The Bear, as locals call it— and with so many iconic Chico classics out there, that’s saying something.

Adding bacon to a classic Bear Burger is one thing, but doing that and then slathering it with creamy peanut butter, mayonnaise, and jack cheese is simply one of those mind-boggling combinations that works so much better than it feels like it should. Someone once said, “If you haven’t had a Jiffy Burger, you haven’t been to The Bear.” That feels accurate.

Make no mistake: You will need something to wash this down with. The Jiffy Burger doesn’t tower to insane heights, or boast an absurdly large beef patty. Famously, The Bear even promises that it won’t stick to the roof of your mouth. But, nevertheless, the Jiffy Burger—not Jif, not Skippy—is nobody’s idea of a “light” cheeseburger. A perfectly rich and juicy companion to a beer, the Jiffy Burger comes with a basket of fries and a pickle slice that does heavy duty by providing some needed acidic balance to some rather indulgent bites.

“But,” you might be asking, “what is peanut butter doing on a burger, anyway?” Maybe, once upon a time, a Bear cook accidentally dipped a spatula in the peanut butter when they reached for the mayo. Or, maybe they just realized that adding peanut butter and bacon to things simply makes them better. It’s unclear. However this concoction came to exist, though, is less important than the fact that it’s here now—to stick to our ribs, satiate our cravings, and satisfy our cheat meals when we feel like splurging on some extra calories. Yes, there is some novelty to eating a bacon cheeseburger topped with peanut butter, but beyond that, there truly is something borderline magical about the alchemy at work for this Chico culinary star.

So get a pitcher of beer and grab a lot of napkins. The Jiffy Burger is not to be taken lightly.

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K is for “Knockout Bao from Drunken Dumpling”

When you walk into Drunken Dumpling, it'll be into a dining room full of people visibly enjoying themselves. And it’s no wonder why: In the presence of high-quality food made with care—with a focus on local, organic ingredients and the embrace of the time it takes to prepare such dishes—it’s easy to be happy. Here, meals are meant to be savored, and that applies not only to the eating experience, but also to the creation philosophy employed at Drunken Dumpling, where cooks aren’t hassled to churn out food just to turn over your table.

Even the humble bao—Chinese steamed buns, for the uninitiated, and a staple of Asian street food—is elevated to a sit-down meal at Drunken Dumpling. You’ll want to take your time with the soft, pillowy bun, overflowing with a bountiful combination of the brightly acidic house pickles or crunchy slaw and savory pulled pork or glazed pork belly.

And it’s not only pork-lovers who will be satisfied with Drunken Dumpling’s bao. Along with The Kasian and the Kimchi Bao (both pulled pork), vegans have several tofu options to choose from, each as carefully crafted and flavorful as their meat-containing counterparts: the Vegan Mary boasts hoisin, crushed peanuts, and cilantro, while No Pork in my Belly is a delicious combination of those acidic house pickles and marinated tofu.

These are worth the wait it takes to make them, and worth taking your time to eat them—along with everything else on their menu, from, of course, a variety of dumplings to larger plates. And Drunken Dumpling’s house fermentation—from kimchi to pickles to the popular pickled green beans—is just one example of how time and flavor balance play key roles in everything on the menu.

It’s all farm-to-fork Asian-fusion, but beyond any kind of culinary category, Drunken Dumpling is really a manifestation of culinary passion. Across the entire menu, recipes are wrestled with, argued over, and lovingly crafted from ingredients no more than a few zip codes away. With humble roots as a food cart, it has since burgeoned into a destination for discerning diners with a taste for creativity and elevated fare.

L is for “Loaded Bloody Marys at Ethan’s Eatery"

Your first question upon gazing upon the unique creation atop your Bloody Mary will very likely start with, “What the ….?” And truthfully, we can’t tell you exactly what it will be—the Loaded Bloody Mary is, like Oroville's Ethan’s Eatery itself, a moment-to-moment experience.

A mini-meal on a stick is one way to describe what’s going on atop the skewer; ours had olives, pepperoncini, several chunks of various cheeses, sliced pepperoni and salami, a couple of donut holes, and a mini brownie—topped with a mini cupcake—all piled atop each other, with two deliciously browned onion rings and tater tots garnishing the whole setup. Random? Absolutely. But intentionally so. Other than the just-spicy-enough Bloody Mary itself, which is on the thicker side, there is no real “recipe” for what happens here—other than fun. It captures the whimsical yet flavor-forward feel of Ethan’s as a whole.

On one hand, it’s a modern farmhouse-styled breakfast and brunch place with all the fare you’d expect—egg dishes, sandwiches, bottomless mimosas on weekends, breakfast burritos, burgers, and the like.

On the other hand, it’s so clearly focused on getting away from the greasy spoon vibe so prevalent among classic diners that it truly can’t be considered one: full wall-length windows dump in natural light, the interior decor is a neat blend of antique and funky, and almost every plate offers up some kind of visual appeal. Customizable avocado toast is on the menu, as are pancakes and waffles for those with a sweet tooth, and the lunch menu provides a classic offering of grilled burgers and hot sandwiches.

Vibrant greens here, an inviting drizzle of peanut sauce there—everywhere you look, Ethan’s is showing you something you ought to try. And, of course, if you are at the table with the Loaded Bloody Mary on it, well, you’re where people are looking. It’s not just a meal starter, but a conversation starter. If you like attention, leave the mimosas to the rest of your group. This is your drink.

M is for "Mississippi-Style Barbecue from Big Momma’s #1 BBQ”

From the moment you pull up to Big Momma’s #1 BBQ in Biggs and smell the scent of slow-cooking meats from the trailer smoker out front, you know that you are partaking in not just a meal, but a culinary event honed by decades of experience and plenty of love. If you can’t tell when you’re effortlessly pulling the bones out of the tender, smoked rib meat—which has been slowly cooking over hickory for three, sometimes four hours in that smoker—you will be when you have your first bite of the authentic Mississippi-style fare.

Big Momma’s offers a focused lunch menu of BBQ favorites, including fall-off-the-bone ribs, juicy hamburgers (including a veggie version for those so inclined), and flavorful sandwiches, including pulled pork and the customer-favorite hot link sandwich. Southern flavors dominate the combo plates, too: whether you’re feeding the entire family with a full rack of ribs to indulging at lunch with a fried chicken or catfish combo, each bite is full of Southern authenticity. Of course, no Southern meal would be complete without the proper sides, and Big Momma’s cooks up cornbread, collard greens, coleslaw, green beans, and more to round out every meal.

Owner Melvin Strong has distilled a lifetime of learning how to barbecue into a finely tuned process that always hits the spot. Melvin puts his heart into serving the Biggs community with hearty, flame-cooked fare, passing on the skills and recipes he learned from his mother, who taught him how to generate big, Mississippi-style flavor. Named after Melvin’s mother, Big Momma’s is unassuming yet bright and cozy, and its people make you feel right at home. For many folks in Biggs, this is a go-to spot not only to grab a meal, but to connect with the community, with Melvin always ready with generous portions and a friendly smile.

Whether you find yourself passing through Biggs around lunchtime on a drive through the county, or if you’re feeling up to making a dedicated barbecue trip, Big Momma’s No. 1 BBQ is where you’ll go if authenticity matters most.

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N is for “Nic’s Charcuterie With a Side of Community”

There’s something for everyone at Nic’s, whether the nourishment is in the form of food or company. For a place serving up such a wide range of offerings—from delicately balanced charcuterie boards, salads, and flatbreads to hearty sandwiches—it’s arguable that Nic’s main appeal is that it’s simply a cool, comfortable place for Paradise Ridge residents and passers-through alike to gather and bond. As you nosh on whatever delicious deli item that strikes your fancy at Nic’s, your people-watching will soon reveal that there is no specific “type” of person that finds themselves there. Hungry outdoor workers on their lunch break looking for a robust meal eat side-by-side with patrons enjoying a light side of pasta salad with a glass of wine and a book. As Paradise continues its recovery from 2018’s Camp Fire, Nic’s continues to build its reputation as the Ridge’s hip, low-key hangout on the town’s main thoroughfare.

Somehow, Nic’s manages to expertly ride a fine line between accessible, familiar deli favorites and its more “bougie” offerings. A healthy assortment of wines, cheese plates, and charcuterie are the main draws in that respect, while hungrier folks can enjoy heartier elevated fare, such as a phenomenal grilled peach, prosciutto, and brie flatbread bursting with fresh flavors. If a filling sandwich is more appealing, you can build your own from a large variety of meats, cheeses, produce, and bread, or choose from Nic’s specialty hot-pressed paninis or cold sandwiches. Nic’s even offers two “tribute” sandwiches, created to honor CalFire and the local police department for their support of the community during its rebuild.

Mainly, Nic’s culinary offerings are all centered around togetherness, from its inviting outdoor patio to its focus on bringing people together for events and conversations. Regular wine tastings, live music performances, and trivia nights are all part of the community-building vibe Nic’s is hoping to capture, with a full menu of shareable, tasty treats and beverages at the ready.

More than just food, beer, and wine, Nic’s is an invitation to connect with others.

O is for “Only Sustainable Sushi From Aonami”

It isn’t hard to find sushi, but it’s VERY hard to find sustainably sourced sushi. Luckily for Butte County, Chico is home to just the 10th sustainable sushi restaurant in the country: Aonami. Taking the lead from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch,” which provides guidance toward sustainable fishing practices, Aonami exclusively serves wild-caught or sustainably farmed seafood that does not appear on the Seafood Watch “Avoid” list. This is critical because although sushi is a beloved cuisine worldwide—with over 4,000 restaurants in the United States alone—a large percentage of the fish used for sushi is caught and consumed at a rate that threatens some key species and the health of the marine food chain.

The noble purpose is compelling enough of a reason to visit Aonami, but at the end of the day, the quality of the sushi matters, too—and Aonami excels there, too. One pleasant result of their focus on using sustainable seafood is that their sourcing practices provides them with high-quality tuna, steelhead, scallops, albacore, shrimp, and more,and their talented kitchen staff takes it to new heights with tasty, creative rolls—like the Park roll, made with spicy tuna, cream cheese, asparagus, daikon sprouts, avocado, steelhead, and a combination of glazes and sauces—and other dishes. Aonami also has a sizable menu of vegan rolls, replacing animal proteins with tofu, tempura yam, pumpkin, asparagus, and avocado, providing plenty of easy options for those who don’t eat meat or who simply would like to try something new. More adventurous diners can always opt to try “omakase”—the chef’s choice, in which Aonami’s sushi chefs will create a unique roll just for you (and this, too, is available as a vegan roll).

No matter what your group is craving, there is something for everyone at Aonami. Whether your preference is a classic, simple roll featuring a high-quality piece of fish or an innovative, flavor-packed creation, your tastebuds will be rewarded.

P is for “Priya’s Perfectly Curried Cuisine”

Butte County visitors searching for authentic, tasty Indian fare who stumble upon Priya Indian Cuisine will soon discover what Chico has known since 2008: It’s awfully difficult to find anyone else doing it better in this area. From the minute one enters the restaurant, it’s sensory overload—quiet Indian music and colorful décor complement an immediate aromatic explosion, with the wafting fragrances of rich curries and butter chicken, flavorful jasmine rice dishes, and fresh naan.

Meat-eaters and vegetarians alike will find no shortage of delicious options, no matter if you’re ordering a la carte or a full thali dinner, which comes with an assortment of traditional sides and a dessert. You can’t go wrong starting a meal with Priya’s pakoras (sliced vegetables such as spinach, onion, potato, and eggplant coated with lentil batter and deep fried), served with a variety of house-made sauces. Other Indian favorites are of course available, too, including sambar and a variety of vindaloos and paneers for the veggie crowd, plus chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, and multiple meat variations of Priya’s saag, featuring spinach in a mild sauce.

But Priya is best-known for its curries, and takes pride in the flavors it has developed over the years. Almost all of Priya’s curry lean toward the milder side, but with a full complement of sauces available, you can quickly elevate the heat level if you so desire. And as those at Priya will tell you, curry is not a particular spice, but rather a combination of a variety of spices and ingredients, distinctive from dish to dish, with no two curries identical. That is certainly on display at Priya, whether selecting a single curry as a meal or ordering from their popular lunch buffet, which always has a vegetable curry option available, such as the dal curry (lentils, spinach and tomato) or eggplant, as well as chicken, lamb, goat, fish and shrimp.

No matter which curry you choose, you can expect full, rich flavor in every bite. Whether you are looking for an introduction to Indian food or finding a new go-to for international cuisine, Priya is always a good bet.

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Q is for “Quesatacos from Carniceria Mis Reinas"

Part butcher shop, part convenience store, part taqueria—all operated with the love and care that only a family-run business like Carniceria Mis Reinas can provide. With a multifaceted location designed to replicate a shopping and eating experience similar to what one might find in the Heredia family’s native Michoacán, Carniceria Mis Reinas has carved out its own corner of Mexican authenticity on Oro Dam Boulevard in Oroville. With the business’ roots tied inseparably to its meat farm in Colusa, the farm-to-fork experience is vital to Mis Reinas’ success as a popular stop for hot plates and a cold cerveza.

While many traditional plates and dishes are available at Mis Reinas, including tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tortas, and more, one of their more inventive and popular dishes is the quesataco—the “shell” is fried cheese, with no tortilla at all, originally made up on the fly for customers who wanted something keto-friendly while still being able to indulge. The result is a melty, savory envelope of cheese surrounding your meat of choice—we had ours with tender carne asada—with onions and salsa. If you’re feeling daring, you can try eating the quesataco, which is crispy on the outside, with your hands like a taco. Just be prepared to go through plenty of napkins!

Mis Reinas is a busy spot for its small grocery and convenience store, too. You'll find authentic Mexican bakery items, snacks, candy, drinks, and grocery items on the shelves here, along with plenty of party supplies, like streamers and pinatas. But there’s no doubt that the main appeal is the farm freshness of the kitchen’s meat dishes, and operator Miguel “Mikey” Heredia is at the forefront of helping bring those classic family recipes to the Oroville community. Mexican dishes can be quite diverse depending on the region they come from, and the Heredias are focused on staying true to the meaningful recipes from their family. Since they officially opened the kitchen in 2021, they have trusted that the community will embrace their flavors—and so far, they’ve been right.

R is for “Rasta Pasta from Sipho’s Jamaica”

Sipho’s Jamaica is the embodiment of good vibes only. A relaxed atmosphere complete with Jamaican cultural curios, decorations and colors, the restaurant—naturally lit, quiet, and relaxed—is what a newcomer to Jamaican dining might imagine. Stepping into Sipho’s is a calming experience, and thus should not be tried in a hurry on your lunch break. Don’t rush. Instead, take some time to chill, enjoy some quiet time or some company, and partake in some traditional Caribbean favorites or some of Sipho’s original dishes.

Drawing inspiration from Spanish, African, French, and British cuisine, Jamaican fare is a versatile and flavorful combination of natural sweetness and spice that is usually most easily identified in island favorites, like jerk marinades. But Sipho (pronounced SEE-po), the restaurant’s owner and chef, has long had a mission of sharing not only the traditional flavors of Jamaica with Butte County, but some of his own personalized variations as well. One of those is the Rasta Pasta, a hearty vegetarian noodle dish made with a rich, gravy-like tomato sauce available in varying levels of heat. Made with fried dry tofu, it adds a terrific, flavorful bite to the dish, along with broccoli and tri-color peppers. Sipho does not rush this process, giving his flavors ample time to develop so he can deliver the freshest, most flavorful dish possible. The result is something that feels very much like comfort food. It’s not a traditional Jamaican dish, per se, but rather a personalized inspiration from Sipho himself.

Sipho’s menu, like Jamaican food in general, features a variety of options that range from the more familiar, like jerk and curried chicken, to some more island-specific favorites, such as stewed oxtail in gravy or escovitch fish—traditionally, red snapper served with peppers, scotch bonnets, and onions. Everything at Sipho’s is imbued with his own sense of tradition, fulfilling his desire to share not only the culinary history of Jamaica, but some of his own personal inspirations, too.

S is for “Super Fresh Juice (and More) from Live Life Juice Co."

Live Life Juice Co. has been a fixture of Chico since its inception, and it provides a wholly unique food experience powerful enough to fuel any adventure. The stars of the show are its fresh juices, which are cold-pressed to retain not only the most potent flavor but maximum nutritional value as well. Each juice is crafted with delicious, deliberate intent, from helping to fight off seasonal illness to stimulating the mind or balancing the spirit. Wellness shots like the Honey Drop—which offers vitality through local Wofchuck honey, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, ginseng, and cinnamon—work to protect the body. For those looking to savor their drinks, full juices, like the Veggie Mary (packing in carrot, celery, garden peppers, beets, and more) invigorate and empower. There's something to suit every need and every palate, and you really haven’t enjoyed juices until you’ve had them this fresh.

Not content to limit themselves to wellness shots and fresh juices, this woman-owned, sister-driven business also provides a variety of other culinary delights. Almond milk (house-made!) and coconut milk-based drinks like the mushroom-infused Earth Brew coffee and goij berry-laden Goji Rose round out the drink selection, but there’s far more to the menu. Cold and hot soups are available, along with sumptuous desserts, from cheesecakes to fudges, and, of course, plenty of healthy yet delicious sides.

There are also delicious grab-and-go lunch items like the Creamy Curry Sweet Potato Salad or the local favorite Gojuchang Tofu Bowl that make it easy to pack in a healthy, vital lunch or snack into your day. The vast majority of the menu, both drinks and food, is also vegan-friendly, and everything available is 100% organic!

Live Life Juice Co. has two physical locations that you can visit—Downtown Chico, just a few blocks from the CSU Chico campus, and in Meriam Park—and is regularly at the Chico Saturday and Wednesday farmers markets, so you can get what you need no matter where in town you are. Whether you want a full meal or a quick stop to pick up some fuel for a hike, Live Life Juice Co. has you covered.

T is for “Tasty Authentic Thai Cuisine of Paradise”

The most important part of good Thai cuisine is flavor. Yes, freshness matters and yes, heat counts, but there is ultimately no replacement for taste when it comes to Thai food. Ridge residents have known this since 2005, when Authentic Thai Cuisine of Paradise first opened its doors (as Sophia’s Thai) and began serving flavorful Thai classics. Now, the family-owned eatery is an integral part of the Paradise revitalization effort post-Camp Fire with its new Skyway location in the center of town.

Serving generous portions of delicious Thai classics, Authentic Thai of Paradise offers up the favorites you know and love—curry, pad Thai, pad see ew, laht nah–but also a wide variety of traditional, lesser-known dishes, all of which are old family recipes. From noodles and fried rice to stir fry, barbecue, seafood, soups, salads, satay, and chef specials, everything is freshly sourced, expertly prepared, and lovingly served by a family rooted in Paradise and committed to giving Butte County the best Thai it can.

If you’re a noodle lover, you will certainly find happiness at Authentic Thai. No matter if your favorite Thai dish features rice noodles, pan-fried wide noodles, or stir-fried egg noodles, you’ll find a tasty combination of rich sauces, sweet basil, fresh, tender vegetables, and satisfying proteins of your choice across the board. If you’re less familiar with Thai cuisine, have no fear about its reputation for insane heat—Authentic Thai leans toward serving Western palates that favor milder tastes, so their “medium” is much more bearable than some more hardcore mediums out there. Be warned, however: Their “Thai hot” spice level is not messing around. Many a challenger to this heat level has been humbled! If that’s what you’re craving, however, Authentic Thai is ready to bring the heat—and they’re always ready to bring the flavor.

U is for “Union’s Italian Crack Bread”

Sharing is caring, but nobody said it’s always easy. That's abundantly true in the case of the Italian Crack Bread “share plate” at Union, the popular Downtown Oroville restaurant built on the foundations of the historic Union Hotel. The Italian Crack Bread is not your run-of-the-mill appetizer loaf for the table—if one attempts to go it alone, it can be an entree in and of itself. This plate is designed to satisfy indulgent tastes: a split loaf of house-made bread, stuffed and overflowing with a blend of herb cream cheese and parmesan, then toasted to a golden brown and oozing with cheese, served with house-made marinara sauce for dipping. It’s a hearty bite that you’ll appreciate being able to divvy up with friends…maybe. Probably. But you couldn’t be blamed for enjoying it on your own, either.

In some ways, this shareable plate is what Union is all about: community. With a huge, open-air patio that offers a view of Downtown Oroville (and serves as an invitation for passers-by to join in the food and fun), Union is one of the highlights of a downtown revitalization project that’s been underway the last few years.

A spot for live music and big get-togethers, the patio at the Union is meant to be enjoyed by all—but even if you’re there alone to simply enjoy a quality meal, you'll be more than satisfied. The Italian Crack Bread is one of several high-quality, meal-sized appetizers, along with a hot and crispy fry basket, Bavarian street pretzel with beer cheese, pulled pork sliders, ahi tuna with wonton chips, and others. Of course, it’s not just all about apps at Union, which has a California gastropub feel and features a rotating, seasonal menu filled with high-quality ingredients and inventive takes on old favorites, such as burgers, bowls, hearty salads, seafood specialties, and more.

Whether you come to indulge in the Italian Crack Bread on your own, share with friends, or try one of their other delicious menu items, there’s seemingly a dish for every occasion at Union—and with its ample space and creative atmosphere, it is especially well-suited for any and all celebrations.

V is for “Very Thin and Crispy Pancakes from Debbie’s”

The local legend of Debbie’s ultra-thin, crispy-edged pancakes dates back two generations and actually begins in the Midwest. At the time of the pancake recipe’s invention in Kansas, the family decided that thick, fluffy pancakes were missing just a little something from bite to bite. One tweak in the recipe changed everything, and today, Paradise’s Skyway diner still features those terrific cakes (not to be confused with crepes)!

Something magical happens to pancakes when they’re served this thin—a less-thick cake with a crispier edge means less syrup and butter saturation but somehow better distribution. Each bite provides a little bit of everything from start to finish: a subtle crispy crunch on the edge, a pillow-soft inside texture, and a not-too-sweet flavor that holds up whatever you decide to spread, pour, or sprinkle atop your short stack. And, because they’re thinner, a short stack has the added benefit of being finishable—where traditional pancakes are notorious for being ultra-filling, one can reasonably expect to enjoy every last bite of Debbie’s thin cakes.

On the best way to dress up a stack of these super-thin pancakes, the Debbie’s diners (and even the staff) are somewhat divided. Some prefer the traditional, plain variation with classic butter and maple syrup. Others swear by the blueberry cakes, which, unlike many of their fluffier cousins’ blueberry versions, offer a berry in every bite (try it with the berry syrup to double down on the flavor). Honestly, though, you can’t go wrong with either choice—though we might suggest going with a friend so you can try both!

There is, of course, more to Debbie’s than just their pancakes. A full breakfast and lunch menu boasts a large selection of traditional breakfast favorites, like huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and chicken fried steak, as well as lunch classics, like the turkey melts, club sandwiches, and freshly made burgers.

But when it comes to pancakes, the world is definitely big enough for all kinds. Even if your favorites are usually thick and fluffy, it’s worth a visit to Debbie’s to taste for yourself what thin and crispy pancakes have to offer.

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W is for “Worth-the-wait Anything from Cafe Coda”

Yesterday’s hidden gems inevitably become today’s worst-kept secrets, and such is the wonderful curse that has befallen/graced Cafe Coda. Once a spunky little upstart restaurant serving high-quality breakfast and brunch fare with excellent coffee and tea, Cafe Coda is now regularly recognized as one of the most popular dining spots in Chico for those early (and not-so early) risers. Despite their success, though, they’ve remained a small, family-run operation, with an emphasis and focus on quality. Sometimes, that means a longer wait—but at Cafe Coda, it’s always worth it.

A line full of weekend-morning, caffeine-craving hangry zombies might scare you off initially, but they know what’s up. What’s an extra few minutes of waiting when the promise of maple bacon French toast—candied walnuts and maple-bacon pan sauce over battered brioche—is the reward? Time is precious, but so, too, are chilaquiles and breakfast burritos, both of which are available in vegan versions. The ultra-hungry can feast on the hearty Fat Boy, complete with filling black beans, bacon, two eggs, avocado, and cheesy tortillas. Those who might be tired of traditional, diner-style breakfasts have some enticing options, too, like a Thai chili glazed organic tofu bowl. And nobody ever went wrong ordering the Coda Benedict, which many locals claim might just be the county’s best—Cafe Coda serves up its benny on parmesan-crusted focaccia.

There’s also a popular happy hour Monday-Friday from 10 to Noon, featuring $3 mimosas, because brunch only on the weekends is a social construct that Cafe Coda is all too happy to deconstruct. One by-product of consistently putting out some of the best espresso drinks, breakfast entrees, and specialty beverages out there is that it’ll be hard to serve everyone all at once. If you’re considering a trip to Cafe Coda, give yourself some time to wait in line. Make a destination of it, because it certainly is one.

Yes, there will probably be a wait. And yes, it will be worth it.

X is for “Xmas Cupcakes (and More) from Upper Crust Bakery”

One of Butte County’s most beloved bakeries, Upper Crust Bakery offers the full gamut of delectable baked goods. If a morning treat is your speed, then Upper Crust has all you could want across a wide range of pastries, breakfast sandwiches, croissants, homemade breads, scones, muffins, danishes, strudels, bear claws, sticky buns, rolls, and cinnamon snails. Looking to be more in the dessert lane? You’ll be spoiled for choice among brownies, tea cakes, tortes, cookies, macaroons (and macarons), eclairs, trifles, coconut bars, biscotti, and more.

And those are all just the individual offerings! When Chicoans need to entertain—in other words, when they need some showcase-level sweets and baked goods for friends, family, and events—they know Upper Crust is always ready to deliver with specialty cakes and pies. In particular, Upper Crust always has an eye on seasonal menu changes, and that’s especially true for their desserts—specifically cupcakes. While the year-round chocolate and vanilla combinations are all mouthwatering (take, for example, their chocolate Grand Marnier, lemon curd-filled vanilla, or cookies and cream), the holiday season’s flavors will make you the MVP of any Christmas party when you show up with cupcakes from Upper Crust.

With candy cane cake and “yule logs” available throughout December (and the ever-popular pumpkin spice treats on the menu from October through New Year’s Eve), Upper Crust brings the goods when it comes to nailing holiday flavors for dessert, providing some artistic flavor as well—their fall options have featured such decorations as Thanksgiving-themed cupcakes (cupcakes frosted to look like apple and pumpkin pie, turkeys, and even mashed potatoes with gravy). And creative iterations of Upper Crust’s festive Christmas cupcakes have included green-and-red sprinkles along with elf stockings, Santa hats, reindeer, and snowman (all edible) decorations! With rich, creamy icing and moist cake full of flavor, Upper Crust’s cupcakes are always a holiday hit, whether you are staying on-point with your holiday flavors and designs or you choose to indulge in year-round local favorites.

Y is for “You'll Go Nuts for Donuts from The Donut Nook”

Whether you’re asking the internet or a friend where the best place to buy donuts in Chico is, you are likely to be directed toThe Donut Nook, a city institution in its own right. It’s debatable as to whether or not “no donut is a bad donut,” but it’s absolutely true that no Donut Nook donut is. Made fresh from scratch daily, the Nook is famous for its pitch-perfect classics, with soft, pillowy raised and glazed donuts, moist and spongy cake donuts, and delectable old-fashioned ones. There is something simply beautiful about absolutely nailing the basics, and the Donut Nook does it with aplomb. From donut holes to maple bars, one could easily fill a box—or two—with a baker’s dozen of classics only and still manage to delight an entire office, birthday party, or surprise family breakfast.

Doing only the basics can be boring, so the Donut Nook builds on this solid foundation to also go a little bit nuts. Custard- and jam-filled donuts seem tame compared to some of the sweet-tooth offerings at the Nook, like their decadent Butterfinger chocolate donuts, candy cane (or candy corn!) donuts for the holiday season, Oreo-crumble glazeds, and of course, their signature donut, the chocolate chip square—filled with chocolate chips and glazed with chocolate—and perhaps the single-likeliest donut to make you utter that one donut is enough…maybe.

The bakery itself has a bit of a throwback vibe, with some classic diner-style coffee, a friendly and attentive crew, and a tidy, well-lit dining area, but the big draw is a large window that allows you to see the donuts being made, where you can get a better appreciation for the whole process.

No matter your preference—be it old-fashioned, cake, raised, glazed, chocolate, maple, or even stacked with a Cookie Shoppe chocolate chip cookie (yes, that is a real thing that exists)—there is something delicious for you at the Donut Nook.

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