It’s strange how food can make you feel at home. I recently returned to St. Louis, where I grew up, to visit family. My mom had toasted ravioli waiting for me. A local “delicacy,” it’s comforting in a way few foods are.
I might not have been able to put my finger on a dish that strikes me similarly for Chico if not for this damn coronavirus. But I should have known it would be the almighty taco.
I returned to Chico the day before Gov. Gavin Newsom told us all to stay home, though many bars and restaurants had already shut their doors. With my last paycheck from the CN&R, I plowed through Winco and Safeway to stock up on essentials. After a trip to Northern Star Mills, my trusty Boston terrier, Oliver, and I were set for the apocalypse.
Fast-forward a week. I defrosted some shrimp in an effort to make my own Taco Tuesday. It went … fine. The shrimp were plump, the shells crispy. I even made a yummy sauce. The next day, however, I was driving down Highway 32 and a Pavlovian instinct made me pull into the Valero parking lot. Could Gordo Burrito possibly be open? Indeed, it was.
Like many other eateries around town, Gordo is doing curbside pickup. They prefer call-in orders, to limit interactions (809-1211). But their menu is the same. Sitting in the parking lot, I called in a chicken enchilada plate and a crispy shrimp taco. My go-tos.
I have a lot of friends in the service industry and most of them are out of work right now. Bartenders, servers, cooks—and even restaurant and bar owners—have been sidelined by this virus. Store clerks, hairstylists, you name it. They’re not alone by a long shot. Like many of them, I recently applied for unemployment. My days are long and lonely. I’m doing deep-cleaning and yard work. If it wasn’t for my pool table, I might go crazy.
I also, like a lot of people, have been Facebooking more than normal lately. And I love the creativity I’m seeing from some local restaurants, like The Foodie Cafe and Crush, which are creating family-style meals. The latter is partnering with Will Brady’s downtown restaurants (B Street Public House, The Banshee and Bill’s Towne Lounge) to raise money for their staffs. The teamwork is awesome.
Fifth Street Steakhouse is selling cuts of meat, complete with cooking instructions—check out the tutorial on Facebook. Sipho’s Jamaica is reopening to feed the people. Grana posts new menus regularly. Feather Falls Brewing Co. is offering curbside pickup for food and beer. (Plus, gas there is super cheap!) And more places than ever are delivering (look at the lists on Entree Express or Grubhub—they’re huge.).
If you have the means, please support the establishments that are still open. Our local economy needs you now more than ever.
I’m not too shy to say I’m a pretty good cook. But that grilled shrimp taco from Gordo Burrito was the best damn taco I think I’ve ever eaten. It tasted like home, reminded me of normal.
* If you are doing something innovative, or know of some place that is, please let me know at email@example.com.