Best of Chico 2023: Food & Drinks

Devouring Chico’s bounty

The Commons Social Empourium

Asian Cuisine

FIRST Place: Ginger’s Restaurant
2201 Pillsbury Road, Ste. 100, 345-8862
Huge portions of traditional Chinese dishes, served by an attentive staff, make Ginger’s a local go-to spot.
SECOND Place: Cocodine Thai Cuisine
2845 Notre Dame Blvd., Ste. 250, 891-1800
THIRD Place: Happy Garden Restaurant
180 Cohasset Road, 893-2574


FIRST Place: Upper Crust Bakery & Cafe
130 Main St., 895-3866
Go to the Upper Crust Bakery & Cafe for the sweets—pastries, cakes, muffins, scones, coffee cake and cookies (try the lemon bars if you won’t be ashamed to moan loudly in public)—and stay for the vegetarian chili, which none other than Guy Fieri (of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) has given his seal of approval.
SECOND Place: Tin Roof Bakery & Cafe
637 Broadway, Ste. 170, 892-2893
THIRD Place: Lovely Layers Cakery
131 Meyers St., 828-9931


FIRST Place: Smokin’ Mo’s BBQ
131 Broadway, 891-6677
At Smokin’ Mo’s, the secret is in the sauces—four distinct signature flavors that can be slathered on just about anything on the menu, from mouth-watering pork ribs to shredded pork, beef or chicken sandwiches to the crave-worthy tri-tip salad.
SECOND Place: Kinder’s BBQ
1369 East Ave., 342-3354
THIRD Place: Bootleg BBQ
521-3284 (“Bootleg BBQ & Catering” on Facebook)


FIRST Place: Cafe Coda
265 Humboldt Ave., 566-9476
Cafe Coda has added a beautiful outdoor patio—where monthly markets and weekly music programs are going off—and it brings an all new look to the cafe and a fun, very Chico vibe to the local restaurant scene. Oh, and they still serve one of the most inventive menus of breakfast items in town. Try the Wise Guy, a plate of jasmine rice topped with slices of smoked pork belly, two eggs, marinated peppers, cilantro, radish and green onions.
SECOND Place: Deja Vu Breakfast Company
3221 Esplanade, 287-5660
THIRD Place: The Roost Cafe
817 Main St., 892-1281


FIRST Place: Nash’s Restaurant
1717 Esplanade, 896-1147
On the weekends, Nash’s Restaurant takes things up a notch with bottomless bubbly alongside its huge morning menu, featuring everything from Benedicts to chicken-and-waffles.
SECOND Place: Cafe Coda
265 Humboldt Ave., 566-9476
THIRD Place: Deja Vu Breakfast Company
3221 Esplanade, 287-5660


FIRST Place: Nobby’s
1444 Park Ave., 342-2285
Two words: Cheeeeeeeese skirrrrrrrrrt!!! It’s a crispy thing of beauty on an already gorgeous stack of beef and bun. A Chico icon.
SECOND Place: Burgers and Brew
301 Broadway, 879-9100
THIRD Place: Burger Hut
Two locations: 3211 Cohasset Road, 342-4555; 2451 Forest Ave., 891-1430



FIRST Place: Aca Taco
Two locations: 133 Broadway, 894-0191;
1000 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. D, 343-0909
In Chico, there are as many opinions about the best burritos and tacos as there are food trucks, taquerias and sit-down Mexican restaurants. Aca Taco makes a case against most comers, however, as its ridiculously oversized burritos hold onto the title for the ninth straight year.
SECOND Place: Gordo Burrito
1295 E. 8th St., 809-1211
THIRD Place: La Cocina Economica
905 Wall St., 809-0370


FIRST Place: Bacio Catering
1903 Park Ave., 345-7787
If you’ve attended a local wedding or work party, odds are Bacio was probably there. Owner Erika Montanez’s business is the go-to catering company in town, feeding Chico revelers with creative, fresh-made and beautifully presented spreads.
SECOND Place: Butte Creek BBQ
196 Cohasset Road, Ste. 150, 990-0023
THIRD Place: Italian Guy Catering
28 Bellarmine Court, 321-3456

Cheap Eats

FIRST Place: La Comida
954 Mangrove Ave., 345-2254
For more than 50 years, this institution of institutions has served generous plates of Mexican food to generations of Chico families at very affordable prices. The lines out the door don’t lie.
SECOND Place: Aca Taco
Two locations: 133 Broadway, 894-0191; 1000 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. D, 343-0909
THIRD Place: La Cocina Economica
905 Wall St., 809-0370


FIRST Place: Ann Leon (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., 1075 E. 20th St., 893-3520
Chef Ann Leon is a Chico institution who has run the kitchens at some of the most popular places in town, starting with her own former downtown spot, Leon Bistro, and including everything from the Burban Kitchen in Meriam Park to the Canyon Oaks County Club. Earlier this year, she took over possibly the busiest spot in Chico, the Tap Room at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
SECOND Place: John Dean (Drunken Dumpling)
Drunken Dumpling, 1414 Park Ave., 774-2173
THIRD Place: James Taylor (Sicilian Cafe)
Sicilian Cafe, 240 Wall St, 345-2233

Craft Beer Selection

FIRST Place: The Commons Social Empourium
2412 Park Ave., 774-2999
The Commons Social Empourium’s pour-your-own model is ideal for trying out a bunch of different craft brews. The electronic key-card system allows for quick sips of everything on tap—28 choices total, with wines and kombuchas in addition to a wide range of beers—before settling on the night’s selections. The bar also serves food—pizzas and Sunday brunch items—and features live music inside or on the patio.
SECOND Place: The Chico Taproom
2201 Pillsbury Road, Ste. 114, 774-2943
THIRD Place: The Handle Bar
2070 E. 20th St., Ste. 160, 894-2337


FIRST Place: Petra Penunuri – Entree Express
Entree Express,
Petra Penunuri has made such an impression on customers that Chicoans voted for the Entre Express driver by name!
SECOND Place: Door Dash
THIRD Place: Michael Castaldi – Christian & Johnson
Christian & Johnson, 1098 E. First Ave., 891-1881


FIRST Place: Cozy Diner
1695 Mangrove Ave., 895-1195
Whether it’s breakfast at suppertime or a broasted chicken at lunch, Cozy Diner serves an extensive menu of down-home comfort food 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
SECOND Place: Morning Thunder Cafe
352 Vallombrosa Ave., 342-9717
THIRD Place: The Roost Cafe
817 Main St., 892-1281

Fine Dining

FIRST Place: 5th Street Steakhouse
345 W. Fifth St., 891-6328
A perennial fine dining champ, 5th Street Steakhouse is a local icon, and the destination for special-occasion splurges and regular-occasion beef hankerings. There’s a full bar, a fantastic wine selection, a new patio and of course, USDA Prime rib-eye steaks that will make your toes curl.
SECOND Place: Red Tavern
1250 Esplanade, 894-3463
THIRD Place: Crush
201 Broadway, Ste. 200, 342-7000

Cafe Coda

Food Server

FIRST Place: Amanda Blankenship – Deja Vu Breakfast Company
Deja Vu Breakfast Company,
3221 Esplanade, 287-5660
Take a quick scroll through the online reviews for Deja Vu, and “our server Amanda” starts popping up everywhere: “She was top notch. It was busy but she was very attentive to us.” “Overall, service was amazing, super friendly staff especially our server Amanda, was great.” “Amanda is more than a server at the end of your meal. How about friend!?”
SECOND Place: Krystin Harvey – The Roost Cafe
The Roost Cafe, 817 Main St., 892-1281
THIRD Place: Angel Hagen – Big Tuna Sushi Bistro
Big Tuna Sushi Bistro, 1722 Mangrove Ave., Ste. 18, 345-4571

Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt

FIRST Place: Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy
178 E. Seventh St., 342-7163
When it’s still 100 degrees after the sun goes down, nothing takes the edge off the heat like a scoop of Shubert’s. On most summer eves, the benches and sidewalk out front are filled with locals cooling off and capping their day with a little something sweet from the locally owned ice cream and candy shop that’s been in business since 1938.
SECOND Place: Savor Ice Cream
1905 Notre Dame Blvd., Ste. 100, 399-3686
THIRD Place: Jon & Bon’s Yogurt Shoppe
Multiple locations

International Cuisine

FIRST Place: Priya Indian Cuisine
2574 Esplanade, 899-1055
To say that Priya is a staple of the local food scene is an understatement. The impressive menu features both north and south Indian dishes, and the exceedingly popular lunch buffet is irresistible.
SECOND Place: Cocodine Thai Cuisine
2845 Notre Dame Blvd., Ste. 250, 891-1800
THIRD Place: Sofi’z Kitchen and Bar
134 Broadway, 592-3969

Italian Cuisine

FIRST Place: Sicilian Cafe
240 Wall St., 345-2233
Part of what makes the Sicilian Cafe’s food so perfect is consistency. Chef James Taylor has been at the stove in south Chico for 39 years! Starting this year, his local favorites—Calamari Originale, Chicken Americana—are being created in a bigger downtown location (with a full bar!).
SECOND Place: Crush
201 Broadway, Ste. 200, 342-7000
THIRD Place: Italian Cottage
2234 Esplanade, 343-7000

Local Brewery – Regional

FIRST Place: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
1075 E. 20th St., 893-3520
Chicoans adore Sierra Nevada and its community-minded approach to creating great beers that are considered among the best in the world. The “mother ship” on 20th street—where you can take tours to see how the treats are made—is like a Willy Wonka experience for beer lovers, with its immensely popular tap room, the new Brewhouse Bar next to the gift shop, and regular concerts and special events like the upcoming Oktoberfest celebration, Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 6-7.
SECOND Place: Secret Trail Brewing Co.
132 Meyers St., Ste. 120, 487-8151
THIRD Place: Farmers Brewing Co.
1950 Market Place, 399-7374

Local Coffee House

FIRST Place: Stoble Coffee
418 Broadway, 513-5547
Stoble has made a name for itself quickly, serving up fine house-roasted coffee and wonderful baked goodies (courtesy of Camina Bakery) in a gorgeous, expansive space that includes a rooftop patio.
SECOND Place: Daycamp Coffee
1925 Market Place, Ste. 150, 636-4283
THIRD Place: Bidwell Perk
664 W. First Ave., 899-1500

Local Restaurant – Chico

FIRST Place: Grana Wood Fired Foods
198 E. Second St., 809-23048
The scene at Grana is nearly perfect: Dine inside or sit on the lovely shaded patio and enjoy wine and antipasta as the chef removes your Neapolitan pizza from the huge wood-fired oven in the corner of the restaurant. Seasonal offerings, friendly servers and great ambiance make for a memorable night in downtown Chico.
SECOND Place: Drunken Dumpling
1414 Park Ave., 774-2173
THIRD Place: Red Tavern
1250 Esplanade, 894-3643

Local Restaurant – Oroville

FIRST Place: Union Patio Bar & Grill
2053 Montgomery St., Oroville, 693-4388
The Union’s spot in historic downtown Oroville, featuring one of the most beautiful patios in the county, serves up decadent elevated pub fare, cocktails and a wide variety of live music.
SECOND Place: Tong Fong Low
2051 Robinson St., Oroville, 441-0876
THIRD Place: Ethan’s Eatery
2275 Myers St., Oroville, 854-4348

Priya Indian Cuisine (photo courtesy of Explore Butte County)

Local Winery – Regional

FIRST Place: New Clairvaux Vineyard
26240 Seventh St., Vina, 839-2200
At the recent Blessing of the Grapes ceremony at the winery/vineyard inside the Vina monastery, New Clairvaux shared that its James Block Assyrtiko scored 100 points at the recent California State Fair, making it the best white wine in the state. The winery also recently announced that its longtime winemaker, Amy Sunseri, was chosen as Best Woman Winemaker at the 2023 International Women’s Wine Competition.
SECOND Place: Almendra Winery & Distillery
9275 Midway, Durham, 343-6893
THIRD Place: LaRocca Vineyards
12360 Doe Mill Road, Forest Ranch, 899-9463

Locally Produced Food – Regional

11630 Dairy Road, 680-4543
There are a lot of good culinary products made in this area, but can anything outdo a freshly harvested head of cauliflower that’s bigger than your head? GRUB grows food locally and sells to locals—either at the markets around town or via the weekly boxes of the Community Supported Agriculture membership program.
SECOND Place: Live Life Juice Co.
Two locations: 220 Broadway, 566-3346; 2279 Springfield Drive, Ste. 150, 809-2635
THIRD Place: Burns Blossom Farm


FIRST Place: Tea Bar & Fusion Cafe
Two locations: 250 Vallombrosa Ave., 895-8100; 555 Flying V St., Ste. 1, 809-1545
Both Chico locations of Tea Bar (also in Sacramento and Redding) are regularly packed for lunch by folks who want hearty, healthful meals, which the menu of wraps and bowls provides. Oh, and there’s tea! Lots of teas!
SECOND Place: Broadway Heights
300 Broadway, 899-8075
THIRD Place: Spiteri’s Deli
971 East Ave., 891-4797

Mexican Cuisine

FIRST Place: El Guayacan Mexican Restaurant
2201 Pillsbury Road, Ste. 124, 893-3777
El Guayacan is the place for sit-down Mexican food in north Chico. Nestled in the heart of the Almond Orchard shopping center, it has a relaxed vibe and big plates of nearly every classic dish available.
SECOND Place: Aca Taco
Two locations: 133 Broadway, 894-0191; 1000 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. D, 343-0909
THIRD Place: La Hacienda
2635 Esplanade, 893-8270


FIRST Place: Midnite Munchies
234 W. Third St.,
Midnite Munchies started in 2010 as a late-night snack-delivery service, moved into the kiosk in the Nord Safeway center in 2019, and is now slinging its cookies, cheesecakes and other treats from a new spot in downtown Chico.
SECOND Place: Aca Taco
Two locations: 133 Broadway, 894-0191; 1000 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. D, 343-0909
THIRD Place: Crumbl Cookies
855 East Ave., Ste. 220, 230-9361

New Eatery (opened in the last year)

FIRST Place: Farmers Brewing Restaurant and Taproom
1950 Market Place, 399-7374
The much anticipated debut of Farmers Brewing Restaurant and Taproom finally happened last summer. The Princeton-based brewery set up a spacious Chico base with a huge outdoor patio in the Meriam Park neighborhood. It has quickly become a go-to spot for a cold brew and hearty pub fare—burgers, sandwiches, salads and more.
SECOND Place: Discovery Bar
250 Cohasset Road, Ste. 10, 399-0564
THIRD Place: Sofi’z Kitchen and Bar
134 Broadway, 592-3969

Farmers Brewing Co.


FIRST Place: The Pour House
855 East Ave., Ste. 270, 893-3000
With its Jumbotron-sized TV and outdoor bar, the lively Pour House patio is the place to be when a big game is on.
SECOND Place: Grana Wood Fired Foods
198 E. Second St., 809-23048
THIRD Place (tie): Red Tavern
1250 Esplanade, 894-3463
THIRD Place (tie): The Allies Pub
426 Broadway, Ste. 130, 809-1650


FIRST Place: Pho C&C
3211 Cohasset Road, Ste. 110, 892-1415.
Pho—the Vietnamese noodle soup of broth, meat, vegetables and herbs—is a thing of beauty. The gorgeous, fresh ingredients at Pho C&C are especially fetching, aromatic and tasty, a great complement to the rest of the simple menu of grilled meats and egg rolls.
SECOND Place: Vietnam Bistro
788 East Ave., 433-7108
THIRD Place: The Banshee
134 W. Second St., 895-9670


FIRST Place: Celestino’s New York Pizza
101 Salem St., 896-1234; and 1354 East Ave., Ste. 5, 345-7700
Celestino’s New York Pizza’s original location in downtown Chico opened in 1997, and the restaurant’s thin crust, Big Apple-style pies have been a local favorite ever since. Popular pizzas—sold by the slice or whole pie—include the meaty Tom Jones, the vegetarian Godfather and Celestino’s jalapeno-adorned take on a classic Hawaiian, Oscar’s Spicy Luau.
SECOND Place: Farm Star Pizza
2359 Esplanade, 343-2056
THIRD Place: Woodstock’s Pizza
240 Main St., 893-1500


FIRST Place: Spiteri’s Deli
971 East Ave., 891-4797
Spiteri’s might be kind of a “hidden gem,” tucked into an out-of-the-way strip mall on the north side of Highway 99, but the longstanding local icon has been around for 45 years. Huge, traditional sandwiches served with a wide selection of deli sides have made this shop a Chico institution.
SECOND Place: Fast Eddie’s Sandwich Shop
1175 East Ave., 342-8558
THIRD Place: The Redwood Sandwich Co.
1354 East Ave., Ste. U, 965-5293

Street Food

FIRST Place: Gordo Burrito
Eighth & Pine streets
Before street food was a Best of Chico category, there were the taco trucks. They’re still here, and they still own the scene. Gordo Burrito is part of the local foundation, offering tasty Mexican fare under the awning in the parking lot of Downtown Liquor & Market.
SECOND Place (tie): Tacos El Tapatio
1359 Longfellow Ave., 828-2449
SECOND Place (tie): Tacos Super Tonaya
1456 Mangrove Ave., 519-2212

Big Tuna Sushi Bistro


FIRST Place: Big Tuna Sushi Bistro
1722 Mangrove Ave., Ste. 18, 345-4571
Yes, Big Tuna is a sushi joint, and the award here is for Best Sushi, but feast on this: the Japanese taco, with a choice of crab mix, spicy tuna, avocado or tofu in a tempura eggplant shell with sriracha, spicy mayo and cheese. Of course, Big Tuna has all the nigiri, rolls and sashimi anyone could want, with chefs who love to get creative.
SECOND Place: The Raw Bar
346 Broadway, 897-0626
THIRD Place (tie): Aonami Sustainable Sushi
128 W. Second St., 774-2981
THIRD Place (tie): Izakaya Ichiban
2072 E. 20th St., 342-8501


FIRST Place: Aca Taco
Two locations: 133 Broadway, 894-0191; 1000 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. D, 343-0909
See Best Burrito.
SECOND Place: Aztlan
Two locations: 1645 Park Ave., 487-7062; 2599 Esplanade, 965-5984
THIRD Place: Gordo Burrito
Corner of Eighth and Pine streets


FIRST Place: Happy Garden Restaurant
180 Cohasset Road, 893-2574
When “What’s everyone want for dinner?” gets five different responses, Happy Garden is the answer to the problem. With its legendary enormous menu of Chinese classics, there are enough choices for everyone and always plenty to share.
SECOND Place: Aca Taco
Two locations: 133 Broadway, 894-0191; 1000 W. Sacramento Ave., Ste. D, 343-0909
THIRD Place: La Hacienda
2635 Esplanade, 893-8270

Vegetarian Cuisine

FIRST Place: Drunken Dumpling
1414 Park Ave., 774-2173
Slow down. Plan your meal for a night when you’re in no hurry. Put your phone in “cell phone jail” (and get 5 percent off your bill), and take your time to enjoy the big flavors and the locally sourced produce from a menu that’s roughly 50 percent vegetarian-friendly—from vegan baos and shroom dumplings to Sexy Spicy Noodle and seasonal salads and other vegetables.
SECOND Place: Live Life Juice Co.
Two locations: 220 Broadway, 566-3346;
2279 Springfield Drive, Ste. 150, 809-2635
THIRD Place: Pizza Riot

Click here for more Best of Chico 2023.

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