Multiple Cities

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 jalapeño 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!

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 Café”

A Down­town Chico clas­sic since 1984, Sicil­ian Café 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 Café’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 Café 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 Café 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 Café 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 Café 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 décor 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 à 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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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 entrée 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 Café Coda”

Yesterday’s hid­den gems inevitably become today’s worst-kept secrets, and such is the won­der­ful curse that has befallen/​graced Café Coda. Once a spunky lit­tle upstart restau­rant serv­ing high-qual­i­ty break­fast and brunch fare with excel­lent cof­fee and tea, Café 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 Café 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 — Café 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 Café 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 Café 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.

Z is for Zeal­ous­ly Veg­an Bites from Piz­za Riot”

Piz­za Riot is where you should get piz­za for veg­ans. Piz­za Riot is also where you should get piz­za for peo­ple who love piz­za. Whether you’ve decid­ed ani­mal prod­ucts do or don’t belong in your diet, the point is moot: with its ded­i­ca­tion to fresh, organ­ic ingre­di­ents local­ly sourced when­ev­er pos­si­ble, and inven­tive, tasty pies made with love, omni­vores, veg­ans, and veg­e­tar­i­ans alike will all like­ly agree on Piz­za Riot.

Tak­ing pride in being North­ern California’s only 100-per­cent veg­an pizze­ria, Piz­za Riot cur­rent­ly oper­ates out of a shared kitchen so they can stock local shops, includ­ing the Chico Nat­ur­al Foods Coop­er­a­tive and S& Pro­duce and Nat­ur­al Foods, and host to-go pop-up events (fol­low them on Face­book for announce­ments their lat­est pop-up). 

Com­mit­ted to a hip-yet-rus­tic approach to cook­ing their piz­zas, Piz­za Riot for­goes all microwaves, alu­minum, BPA, and propane, opt­ing for a(n insane­ly cool) Forno Bra­vo wood-fire oven, scratch-made ingre­di­ents and top­pings, and unique com­bi­na­tions to make their piz­zas one-of-a-kind. Did you know you could get a sun­flower-shaped piz­za-cal­zone hybrid, topped with basil and parme­san and stuffed with ricot­ta? Well, you can, and you should.

Per­haps the star of all their piz­zas is their fer­ment­ed dough, which not only makes it lighter, fluffi­er, and more digestible than typ­i­cal doughs, but also evokes a bready fla­vor and tex­ture that makes each slice delight­ful­ly fill­ing — for first-time veg­an piz­za eaters, per­haps even sur­pris­ing­ly so. This deli­cious dough is com­bined with home­made mari­nara, a vari­ety of cheeze” — from light and extra-light moz­zarel­la to house­made ricot­ta and oth­er deli­cious plant-based cheese alter­na­tives that could con­vince even the snooti­est of piz­za snobs — and tasty meat replace­ments like Beyond beef and Ital­ian sausage, non-GMO Bacun, and house­made Piz­za Riot pep­per­oni, among oth­er deli­cious top­pings. And this doesn’t even include their deli­cious (and still all veg­an) sides and desserts, such as hearty drum­sticks and indul­gent peanut but­ter balls.

Sim­ply put, whether you’re very veg­an or a pas­sion­ate car­ni­vore, you’ll taste the qual­i­ty and pas­sion baked into every pie from Piz­za Riot

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A‑Z: Food Reels