Al pastor, Crazy Taco
1205 Park Ave.
For at least two decades, my greatest Chico food craving has been the al pastor from Crazy Taco, the walk-up taqueria connected to Duke’s Bottle Shop. During times of peak fiending, I’d measure my amount of pork ingested—sitting on the curb outside the liquor store—in pounds per month.
The pork is prepared in adobada fashion, with a semisweet marinade of chilis (guajillo is the star), vinegar, oregeno and (maybe?) cinnamon. It’s all grilled with onions before being finished in oil on the flat-top, creating a reddish-orange river dripping from the corn tortillas or, better yet, pooling at the bottom of the burrito for that truly best last bite.
Prawns scampi, Sicilian Cafe
1020 Main St.
Lemon Brick Chicken at the Sierra Nevada Taproom. Hamachi Sunrise at Rawbar. Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta at Grana. I could go on—this town boasts so many kitchens creating a bounty of flavors that leave indelible impressions.
If I’m choosing one, however, I’ll go with a dish my wife and I love to start our celebrations at a Chico mainstay we choose for our most special occasions. Sicilian Cafe chef-owner James Taylor has perfected his recipes and preparations over decades. His scampi appetizer is sublime: Prawns always perfect, sauce always rich yet somehow delicate, not heavy. A mysterious masterpiece. You can get it as a main dish, but as a starter, it’s the perfect few bites to tantalize. Magnifico!
Shahi paneer, Taj Fine Indian Cuisine
995 Nord Ave.
There’s something about the shahi paneer at Taj that inspires a craving so intense that even when I’m at my most hermetic, I will venture way across town and even (eek!) into the busy Nord Avenue college neighborhood to taste it. The mild paneer cheese cubes swim in a warm and creamy spiced tomato sauce, pairing perfectly with butter naan and rice. On any day, it’s delicious—but especially after a hard day when comfort food is a necessity, the shahi paneer hits the spot.
Cheese skirt, Nobby’s
1444 Park Ave.
The salty, crunchy-yet-gooey fried cheese skirt surrounding its burgers is Nobby’s signature move, putting it in the conversation for the best of Chico’s burgers.
But here’s a secret: Cheese skirts aren’t just for burgers. For an even more skirt-heavy experience, check out Nobby’s downright decadent steak taco. It’s marinated steak with tomatoes piled into a mid-sized corn tortilla, but separating the filling from the wrap is a cheddar cheese skirt that often outsizes the tortilla itself. If you’re watching carbs or just prefer your fried cheese flavor front and center, ditch the wrap for a hardcore, unadulterated dose of yummy meat and cheese.
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