I enjoyed Nancy Lindahl’s article reminiscing about Karen’s Restaurant – an iconic Chico eatery as ever there was. Dining at Karen’s was like a family meal at grandma’s house. The lively sounds, the hand-made napkins, the ever-present and ever-pleasant aromas wafting from the kitchen. Everything was homemade, delicious and served in a classic “Chico-funky” setting, right alongside the railroad tracks.
The restaurant was an extension of Karen herself, eclectic, energetic, welcoming and fun. After one visit there was a better than average chance you and she would become fast friends. Karen ran every aspect of the place, creating the recipes, and cooking each and every day.
In the 1980s I worked in local media. Every ad rep in town bartered advertising for food, which made Karen’s the “go to spot” for client lunch meetings. Let the city folks have their three-martini lunches, in Chico we’d wine and dine local business owners over home-cooked chicken noodle soup, fresh-roasted turkey sandwich smothered in homemade gravy and cranberry sauce, and then … the pie. Karen’s Mile High Apple Pie was indeed legendary.
I remember one particular old shopkeeper’s response to my lunch invitation, “What! That namby-pamby hippy place down by the tracks?” After lunch, and for months after, his tune changed to, “Best damn apple pie I’ve ever tasted, period!”
Karen’s tops my list of classic, locally-owned Chico restaurants I wish were still around.
Thanks for the memories, Nancy, and for sharing Karen’s Mile High Apple Pie recipe. I’ll try to replicate the glory this Thanksgiving.
— John Mattera, Chico