Best of Chico 2023: Editors’ Picks

CN&R staff picks their faves

The dog hour.

Best Bidwell Park regulation

The early morning hours are for the dogs

Although some city of Chico rules for Bidwell Park are in place to quash the party (“Alcohol is not permitted in any City Park”—except for during certain events in City Plaza), there’s one forgotten regulation that keeps things fun, for part of the day at least: “Dogs may be off leash from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. in Lower Park.”

You read that correctly. In Lower Park, your dog can run free during early morning walks. Of course, they have to be trained to be under voice control and are not allowed in the One-Mile or Five-Mile swimming areas, but if Rex is a good boy he can be sort of wild in Lower Park.

The few folks who take advantage of this are known to set up impromptu “dog parks” in grassy areas to allow for morning play dates and important socialization—for the pets and the people.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cup Cookie.

Best morning addiction

Oatmeal peanut butter cup cookies

Stoble Coffee, 418 Broadway

It feels good to be bad sometimes—no more than once a day, though. Well, maybe twice a day, if you skip lunch and run to the coffee shop and back.

Stoble’s huge house-made oatmeal peanut butter cup cookies are too good. The way the sugars, butter and toffee combine to caramelize with the nooks and crannies created by the flakes of oats is a marvel of cookie engineering. They are so irresistibly good, they don’t even need the peanut butter cups—which is something that no one has said about anything ever.

Banana for scale.

Best free revolution

Online anarchist free-shares

Tell certain people you’re part of an anarchist group and they’ll raise their eyebrows, but that’s only because they don’t realize that peaceful anarchists are radical about things like community, equality and mutual aid. To that end, there are a few local Facebook groups designed to allow their members to give away goods and services for free. The Anarchist Discount Center 530 was the first to form during the early part of the pandemic. Its membership is limited to 666 people, so the wait-list is long.

However, Actual Anarchists Offering Goods in Chico/Butte County came along shortly thereafter and doesn’t have a strict cap. The group has a few rules, but the basic gist is that everything must be given freely—no strings attached—and members must respect that it’s a safe space. What’s not to love? Now go forth, and be generous!

West Sacramento Avenue bird houses.

Best avian neighborhood

Birdhouses on West Sac

Make a left turn off of Nord Avenue onto West Sacramento, like you’re heading out to the river, and it looks as if you’re heading into a typical suburb in Chico. But wait, just past the intersection of Eighth Avenue you’ll start to notice small, colorful objects hanging on the tall, wooden fences lining the right side of the road. Grouped in clusters, the birdhouses are fashioned in an array of styles, some traditional, some representing well-known buildings in Chico.

Started as a simple project by local residents Bruce and Jodie Dillman and their grandchildren in 2019, the number of birdhouse has expanded to almost 300, mounted primarily on the fences between Colmena Drive and Mayette Drive. The Dillmans continue to build and repair the tiny homes today, while neighbors have joined in on the fun by contributing even more new birdhouses and other objects.

No official report yet of birds actually living in the houses, but humans can experience this outdoor art display by just walking down the sidewalk.

Phonograph at the Stansbury Home.

Best alternative to the Big House

Stansbury Home

307 W. Fifth St.

It’s impossible to discuss Chico’s historical architecture without mentioning the big, pink-ish elephant in the middle of town—the Bidwell Mansion. But if you’re bored by the Bidwells, there are other ways to appreciate Chico’s unique historical landscape and delve into the lives of its less well-known denizens.

One of the most fascinating and well-preserved is the Stansbury Home. Built in 1883 for the family of Dr. Oscar Stansbury and located at Fifth and Salem streets, the Italianate Victorian-style house is packed full of artifacts and oddities of earlier times, including a beautiful wooden statue of Hermes, the doctor’s Masonic regalia, and a spooky surprise lurking in the closet of the room where he practiced his trade.

The knowledgeable docents do a great job of honoring the home’s early residents and sharing details of their lives. It’s open for public tours on weekends and hosts two annual events: an ice cream social in the summer and a Victorian Christmas during the holidays. For more info, go to

Katsu Sando at PB & Jimmy’s.

Best elusive must-try meal

Pork Katsu Sando at PB & Jimmy’s

119 W. Second St., (209) 349-2241

The opening of PB & Jimmy’s last spring sparked a social media sensation in the local food community, with rave reviews and pictures of delectable dishes flooding Instagram feeds and Facebook groups like Foodies of Chico. The biggest buzz is about the eatery’s chicken, fish and pork Katsu Sandos—spicy, crispy, breaded meat garnished with cabbage and served on Japanese milk bread. But many have still not managed to get their hands and lips wrapped around this masterpiece, and not for lack of trying: The restaurant has limited hours; the sandwiches are a special and not part of the regular menu; and when they are featured, supplies go quick.

Camp Fire Pet and Wildlife Memorial.

Best memorial to overlooked victims

Camp Fire Pet and Wildlife Memorial

Bille Park, Paradise

Bille Park, a well-manicured and bucolic sanctuary in the town of Paradise, was mostly spared from the devastating Camp Fire, with the exception of some tall, still visibly singed pines that stand as evidence of that fateful event nearly five years ago. In the northwest corner of the park, in a beautiful spot overlooking Butte Creek Canyon, there is a more intentional reminder of the tragedy: the Camp Fire Pet and Wildlife Memorial. The large stone monument honors the thousands of “pets, working animals and wildlife” that suffered, perished or were otherwise lost to the blaze.

Even more touching than the impressive edifice are the photos, trinkets and dozens of hand-painted stones dedicated to individual cats, dogs, birds, fish, snakes and other creatures left by visitors to memorialize their beloved companions.

The view from Butte Hall.

Best way to get to the tree tops … fast!

Elevator at Butte Hall

Chico State campus

Don’t have time to drive up Highway 32 to get a view? No energy to hike to the top of Monkey Face in Upper Bidwell Park to be above the trees? Then take the easy way up: the elevator to the seventh floor of Butte Hall on the Chico State campus. This is the tallest building in Chico that has an elevator and is open to the public. (Yes, at nine stories Whitney Hall is taller, but its access is restricted to dorm residents, and besides it’s closed for the 2023-24 school year.)

Peek out the openings at the stairwells of Butte Hall and you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of campus and maybe the Sutter Buttes in the distance. Better yet, visit one of the professors with a corner office that includes big windows. Extra points for taking the stairs all the way up instead.

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