On a hot July day Femme de Joie and Amice del Signore took Highway 99 toward Chico, blithely ignoring the “expect 20 minute delays” signs. After what seemed like two weeks in a hot oven, they popped up in Los Molinos – irritable, sweaty, and hungry. It was 1:00 pm and Chico was still at least an hour away; realizing that Celestino’s Pizza for lunch wasn’t an option anytime soon, they decided to take a chance on the offerings available.
Los Molinos has never been known for being a hotbed of nouvelle cuisine, or any kind of cuisine for that matter, but they were willing to down a gut bomb to fuel the rest of the trip. A bright red building with a sign out front advertising barbecue seemed the most likely prospect, and indeed the smell of wood smoked beef drew them into Roxie’s Deli & BBQ. There were the usual deli sandwiches offered, but the counterman recommended the special tri-tip sandwich. He knew what he was talking about.
Roxie’s owner made our sandwiches – loads of smoked thin-sliced tri-tip on large Dutch crunch rolls, piled with our choice of condiments – $6.99 for a sandwich made in heaven. The outer edges of the beef were crisp, near-burnt lacy shards of barbecue goodness, smoke flavor permeating the entire piece of beef. True barbecue taste shone through the sauce and condiments. Good God, how fine those sandwiches were. We still dream about them.
We spoke with the owner a bit. His ambition is to open a 50-seat restaurant in Redding. We assured him with this kind of food, he’d have no problem packing in the customers.
On the return to Redding, Femme de Joie still hungered for barbecue, so she gave Fatboy’s a try, first checking out the location next to Need to Speed. It’s an industrial interior with red walls, a black-and-white checked floor, and the door open to the racetrack. On a weekday at noon, Femme de Joie pretty much had the place all to herself, which was a distressing sign. She ordered pulled pork – a Fatboy bun, served on a Kaiser roll, $6.49, as well as a trip through the salad bar ($2.00).
The salad bar was bagged spring mix that wasn’t quite fresh. Most of the toppings -beets, carrots, beans – were from water-pack cans or pre-shredded. Dressings were industrially-produced including a viscous glue-thick honey-raspberry. The Italian dressing was the least scary; it was watery and flavorless.
Unfortunately, the salad bar was not the low point. The pulled pork had been pot-roasted with no seasoning or flavoring except perhaps a minute pinch of salt. It simply had no taste at all and was on the dry side. It was like eating damp drywall on a Kaiser roll. Barbecue sauce was brought to the table in a squeeze bottle, but it only gave the drywall a sweet fake-hickory taste. After eating half the sandwich, M. de Joie had to make a decision. She surely did not want to eat any more and she knew Amico del Signore wasn’t going to like that sandwich any more than she did. Neither of them has a dog that would be happy to eat it. The other half of the sandwich went in the trash.
But how could this be? The location on Twin View was successful enough to open this satellite shop. Maybe, she thought, the tri-tip will be better.
So on her next visit, Femme de Joie ordered the tri-tip bun. She was offered choice of toppings – lettuce tomato, pickles, onions, cheese (80 cents)- why was this option not offered for the pulled pork? The tri-tip was cooked medium by some method – steaming, perhaps? – that added no taste. Sliced very thinly, there was about 2 or 3 ounces on the bun plus toppings. It was better than the pork but not any better than a deli roast beef sandwich. A side of potato salad, made with red-skinned new potatoes, was house-made and adequate but nothing really stood out about it.
Well, M. de Joie thought, maybe it’s the location. She made a trek up to the Fatboy’s on Twin View Boulevard, the old Midway Inn. Walk in, order at the counter, they give you a number; take a seat and they’ll bring out your food. There is a salad bar but also an extensive condiments bar with all kinds of spreads and garnishes.
Once more she gave the tri-tip bun a try to see if it was any better – asking first if it was barbecued there and receiving an affirmative answer. It was modestly more smoky, but the medium-rareness indicated it was not barbecued for very long. Topped off with sauces and condiments it was tasty but not really outstanding and not worthy of the name barbecue. Crunchy coleslaw with tart vinegary dressing, however, was really quite good.
On her final visit to the Twin View Fatboy’s, Femme de Joie ordered the chicken pesto sandwich with a side of house-made baked beans. A Dutch crunch roll was filled with sliced grilled chicken breast, then slathered with pesto. To be fair, Femme de Joie finds chicken breasts to be the least tasty part of the bird: bland, dry, usually overcooked. In fuller fairness, though, this chicken was dry, bland, and overcooked. Adding some sauce and condiments helped, but not a lot.The second half of this sandwich was discarded like the pulled pork. A brown-sugary sauce made the baked beans stand out.
Apparently Fatboy’s fans see something in the food that Femme de Joie does not. You do get an appropriate amount of food for the money, service is friendly and fast, and the restaurants are clean. But the next time you get a craving for barbecue, head down Highway 99 to Los Molinos for Roxie’s special of the day.
Roxie’s Deli & BBQ, 7810 Highway 99, Los Molinos, CA 96055. 530-384-1455. Open every day. Cards, no checks. Limited parking in front or around on the side.
Fatboy’s Rotisserie and Sandwiches, 829 Twin View Boulevard, Redding, CA 530-244-7754, also 1501 Market Street (in the Promenade), 530-247-1676. Twin View open daily for lunch and dinner; Market Street open for lunch. Cards, no checks. Twin View location has a parking lot; Market location has Mall parking. www.fatboysredding.com
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at email@example.com.
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