Best of Chico 2021: Nightlife & The Arts

All the fun—virtual or otherwise—getting us through a tumultuous year

Astronaut Ice Cream

Art Space

FIRST Place: 1078 Gallery
1710 Park Ave., 630-7522
Now celebrating its 40th year, this nonprofit gallery has managed to maintain its firm focus on community through COVID-era restrictions on indoor gatherings by getting creative. That includes using exterior space at its Park Avenue location to showcase murals, hosting events in the parking lot and branching out to virtual spaces
SECOND Place: Museum of Northern California Art (MONCA)
900 Esplanade, 487-7272
THIRD Place: Chico Art Center
540 Orange St., Ste. 6, 895-8726


FIRST Place: Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main St., 343-7718
See Watering Hole for Townies.
SECOND Place: Argus Bar + Patio
212 W. Second St., 332-9914
THIRD Place: Riley’s Bar & Grill
702 W. Fifth St., 343-7459

Bloody Mary

FIRST Place: Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main St., 343-7718
Some urban legends name Ernest Hemingway as the creator of the Bloody Mary. That is likely hogwash, but the famed, dipsomaniacal writer was an avowed fan, and for that reason he’d likely enjoy a Sunday morning sipping one or five of Duffy’s renowned renderings of the classic cocktail.
SECOND Place: Mom’s Restaurant
209 Salem St., 893-3447
THIRD Place: Joe’s Bar
749 W. Fifth St., 894-3612

Casino – Regional

FIRST Place: Feather Falls Casino & Lodge
3 Alverda Dr., Oroville, 533-3885
In addition to slot machines and gaming tables, there’s plenty of other fun to be had at Feather Falls. The on-site brewery and live entertainment are draws, as is the opportunity for locals to make an easy weekend escape via the casino’s luxurious lodge or more rustic KOA RV Park.
SECOND Place: Rolling Hills Casino & Resort
2655 Everett Freeman Way, Corning, 528-3500
THIRD Place: Gold Country Casino Resort
4020 Olive Hwy, Oroville, 334-9400

Duffy’s Tavern’s Bloody Mary.

Happy Hour

FIRST Place: Pour House
855 East Ave., Ste. 270, 893-3000
A good thing about most “happy hours” is they generally last more than an hour. The Pour House not only embraces this tradition by offering discounted drinks and appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m. daily but one-ups it with a second happy hour from 9 p.m. to closing.
SECOND Place: Crush Italian Cuisine & Lounge
201 Broadway, Ste. 200, 342-7000
THIRD Place: La Salles
229 Broadway, 487-7207

Local Music Act

FIRST Place: Smokey the Groove
Smokey the Groove’s Facebook bio bills the band as “California’s premiere Rage Funk Experience.” It’s a title the six-piece ensemble earned with a tireless live schedule—including online livestream gigs during COVID— and a fresh, young, dance-band sound for local fans of booty-shaking.
SECOND Place: Hot Flash
THIRD Place (tie): Decades
THIRD Place (tie): Max Minardi

Local Visual Artist

FIRST Place: Janet Lombardi Blixt
In addition to her own bright, colorful paintings (her favored method is working “en plein air,” or on location), Janet Lombardi Blixt is known for sharing her talent and passion for art. Since 2009, she’s offered classes to children and adults at the Chico Art School and Gallery (261 E. Third St.).
SECOND Place: Ama Posey
THIRD Place: Christine Mac Shane


FIRST Place: Tres Hombres Long Bar & Grill
100 Broadway, 342-0425
“Meet me at Tres!” is a local rallying cry when Margaritas are in order. The downtown landmark offers the classic chilly concoctions in a wide range of flavors including peach, pineapple, blackberry and seasonal fresh fruits. Additionally, Tres Hombres features more than 120 types of tequila.
SECOND Place: La Hacienda
2635 Esplanade, 893-8270
THIRD Place: Sol Mexican Grill
3269 Esplanade, 342-4616

Mixologist (name and location)

FIRST Place: Scott Barwick, Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main St., 343-7718
Scott Barwick is manager and chief mixologist at Duffy’s Tavern, though his influence extends to other local bars, where he’s served or for whom he’s created cocktails. A real renaissance man, Barwick regularly shares his favorite cocktail recipes alongside videos of his synth compositions (as Push Button Bobby) on social media.
SECOND Place: Stephanie Sosa, Argus Bar + Patio
212 W. Second St., 332-9914
THIRD Place: Wendy Reid, Studio Inn Lounge
2582 Esplanade, 343-0662


FIRST Place: Museum of Northern California Art (MONCA)
900 Esplanade, 487-7272
The largest gem in Chico’s art crown, MONCA houses a magnificent permanent collection of works by artists from the region, excellent special exhibitions and community events in a beautiful space—the reinvigorated Veterans Memorial Hall, originally built in 1927.
SECOND Place: Gateway Science Museum
625 Esplanade, 898-4121
THIRD Place: Chico Children’s Museum
325 Main St., 809-1492

Place to Buy Art

FIRST Place: Chico Paper Company
345 Broadway, 891-0900
This downtown art shop is well stocked with original pieces and prints by local and more far-flung artists for established and burgeoning art collectors. Chico Paper Company also offers custom framing and is the exclusive seller of prints of Jake Early’s iconic renditions of local landmarks.
SECOND Place (tie): 1078 Gallery
1710 Park Ave., 630-7522
SECOND Place (tie): Chico Art Center
540 Orange St., Ste. 6, 895-8726

Museum of Northern California Art (MONCA)

Place to Dance

FIRST Place: The Beach
191 E. Second St., 898-9898
When college-aged Chicoans go in search of a club atmosphere, they hit The Beach. Open only on weekends, The Beach features multiple dance floors with local and out-of-town DJs serving up a wide range of music for moving.
SECOND Place: Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main St., 343-7718
THIRD Place: Madison Bear Garden
316 W. Second St., 891-1639

Place to Drink a Glass of Wine

FIRST Place: Wine Time
26 Lost Dutchman Dr., 899-9250
Wine lovers in search of a relaxing place to sip and find new flavors can get their fix at Wine Time. The north Chico restaurant serves a full menu of dishes designed by chef Lisa Sereda that are intended to be shared as well as paired with your favorite vintage.
SECOND Place: Unwined Kitchen & Bar
980 Mangrove Ave., 809-2634
THIRD Place: Grana Wood Fired Foods
198 E. Second St., 809-2304

Sports Bar

FIRST Place: Bella’s Sports Pub
231 Main St., 893-5253
Killer wings, a full bar, an exuberant clientele—all of the trappings of a winning game-day experience can be found at this fan-friendly downtown mainstay. It’s easy to find when a game is on: Just follow the sounds of cheering (or angry jeering) ringing out over Main Street.
SECOND Place (tie): Buffalo Wild Wings
845 East Ave., 592-3251
SECOND Place (tie): Riley’s Bar & Grill
702 W. Fifth St., 343-7459

Theater Company

FIRST Place: Chico Theater Company
166 Eaton Road, Ste. F, 894-3282
Chico Theater Company may be way out on edge of town, but it’s in the center of the hearts of local theater lovers. The past year’s productions—some of which were presented outdoors due to COVID—included The Foursome and Daddy Long Legs.
SECOND Place: California Regional Theatre
139 W. First St., 722-4522
THIRD Place: Theatre on the Ridge
3735 Neal Road, Paradise, 877-5760

To-Go Cocktail or Bar Service

FIRST Place: Argus Bar + Patio
212 W. Second St., 332-9914,
As some bars adopted delivery services merely to survive COVID restrictions, Argus Bar + Patio owner Scott Baldwin went the distance and established a cocktail subscription service called Argus Monster Crates. Now that the bar has reopened, the boxes continue to be mailed monthly to a growing list of subscribers.
SECOND Place: Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main St., 343-7718
THIRD Place: Tres Hombres
100 Broadway, 342-0425

Venue for Live Music

FIRST Place: Sierra Nevada Big Room
1075 E. 20th St., 893-3250
No bands have graced the stage at the Big Room since the initial COVID-19 shutdown, and the popular concert venue remains “closed until further notice.” Regardless, Chicoans relying on fond memories of the before times and dreaming of the day when the doors re-open still named it the best venue in town.
SECOND Place: Secret Trail Brewing Co.
132 Meyers St., Ste. 120, 487-8151
THIRD Place: Argus Bar + Patio
212 W. Second St., 332-9914

Virtual Local Show (during COVID)

FIRST Place: Astronaut Ice Cream
No artist in Chico filled the hole created by the loss of live gatherings during COVID more than Astronaut Ice Cream. The disco-pop duo created several online extravaganzas featuring music, crafts, comedy and more wrapped up in the band’s signature kitsch.
SECOND Place: The Yule Logs (Chico Virtual Voices at Laxson Auditorium & Log-O-Vision at Chico Women’s Club)
THIRD Place: Stonewall Chico Pride 2020

Watering Hole for Townies

★FIRST Place and Living Legend (five-year winning streak): Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main St., 343-7718
Dark interior; aged, familiar decorations; air conditioning; stiff drinks and smiling local faces. It’s a simple combination, beautifully executed in this hallowed downtown dive, that makes Duffy’s Tavern a perennial favorite and keeps generations of Chicoans stepping through that swinging door.
SECOND Place: The Handle Bar
2070 E. 20th St., Ste. 160, 894-2337
THIRD Place: Studio Inn Lounge
2582 Esplanade, 343-0662

More Best of Chico 2021:
Best of Chico 2021: The Comeback
Best of Chico 2021: Readers’ Choice winners: Goods & Services
Best of Chico 2021: Readers’ Choice winners: Food & Drinks
Best of Chico 2021: Readers’ Choice winners: Health & Wellness
Best of Chico 2021: Readers’ Choice winners: Community
Best of Chico 2021: Critics’ Choice winners

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