A Sunday Surprise

I spend my Sundays like most Chicoans: with a mimosa and brunch at one of the wonderful restaurants around town. Sundays have a rhythm and timbre all their own. What I didn’t know was that the greatest brunch experience I’ve ever had was about to fall into my lap.

I had a contract to finish, so the standing breakfast at Café Coda — a wonderful little place, as many of you know — was put on pause. I emerged from my office around noon, content to mill away the day watching football (and writing my column, of course), but brunch was not to be deterred. A quick shower and shave had us in the car around noon. We cruised by Coda, distraught by the number of people crowded out front. Did we want to wait for a seat? Was the roar of the collected voices at Coda what we wanted today?

Declining to scratch the familiar itch of our favorite spot, we rolled on by and hopped on Esplanade. As we passed other Sunday folks, we began the inevitable rattling off of possible locations. As we neared Chico High School, Red Tavern emerged as the clear victor.

I don’t know about you, but I had never been to this hidden-away gem. It had been suggested to me by friends, but alas, I had not yet taken the time to try it for myself. As we approached the restaurant, we were disappointed by the lack of cars out front, worried that our window for brunching bliss had passed. As we parked, we realized that we saw no one inside. I resigned myself to them being closed, but Mary (my wife) would not be deterred. She approached the entrance and peered at their hours.

Much to our surprise, a waitress came running forward, pushing open the door and excitedly talking to my wife. I watched all of this mutely from the confines of the car, uncertain of what was going on. Had they just closed? Was something amiss?

Returning to the car, Mary informed me that it was just a slow Sunday and that they were indeed open. Once inside, I was immediately drawn in. It had the look of a Bay-Area bistro you might frequent before heading over to peruse the selection at City Lights. The grateful waitress, Holly, asked if we would like to sit outside; as it was a spectacular day, we quickly acquiesced. It turns out that they had a musician (a wonderfully talented young man named Max Minardi) playing this day — and apparently every Sunday, weather permitting.

As we took our seats, we realized we were the only ones there. Our normal Sunday outing had turned into an intimate Sunday brunch, the likes of which normally have to be planned far in advance. Max was kind enough to take our requests and we were treated to a private concert of sorts. The food was exquisite and the service was fantastic. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

So the next time you aren’t sure where you want to spend your Sunday, take a chance on the Red Tavern. When you go, be sure to tell them that tattooed writer-guy sent you.

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Dan O’Brien wrote more than a dozen novels (all before the age of 30), including the bestselling Bitten, which was featured on Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. In addition, he has spent over a decade in the publishing industry as a freelance editor. He currently teaches psychology at CSU, Chico. You can learn more about Amalgam by visiting his website at: www.amalgamconsulting.com.