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April 2017

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LUNCH AT CR GIBBS

CR Gibbs opened, way, way back in the 1970's as a sort of sophisticated pub-for-Americans. Back then the never-ending shrimp bowl was the attraction - a large bowl with a mound of cracked ice, topped with shrimp in the shell. It was presented as the amuse-bouche at every dinner. Presumably the shell was to slow down those diners with the constitution of a shrew.

Over the years Gibbs has changed to keep up with evolving fashions in food - pub, then sports bar-cum-restaurant, and now California cuisine, complete with open kitchen. This to M. de Joie's mind is the most successful of the incarnations thus far, especially with the pleasant patio dining area. Behind the vine-covered fence, one can (almost) forget they are steps away from Hilltop Drive. Service is always friendly and helpful, though sometimes a bit rushed - be sure to ask what the specials are, as they sometimes forget to tell you.

M. de Joie enjoys an occasional lunch at CR Gibbs; they seem to her to be a better value than the dinners. She would altogether rather forget the time she enticed Amico del Signore to Sunday brunch there; it reminded them of an episode of Wild Kingdom that featured a pack of dingoes dining on wildebeest at the watering hole.

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On not-too-extreme days and in the evenings, the patio is enjoyable and more casual than the dining room. Misters keep the heat tamped down to a bearable level.
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California Club Wrap - turkey, bacon, fresh salad greens, ranch dressing, avocado, tomato and grated cheese, in a spinach flour tortilla - with side of Cajun fries, $10.95. One great thing about CR Gibbs: waitstaff are happy to make substitutions. Normally the Club Wrap comes with multi-colored tortilla chips and an addictive-but-fiery Serrano pico de gallo; but when M. de Joie ordered a side of fries, they were substituted for the chips at no extra cost. The Wrap is perhaps M. de Joie's favorite item on the lunch menu - everything from a club sandwich wrapped up with ranch dressing. And the Cajun fries (with the spicy mayonnaise) proved to be just as fiery as the pico de gallo - a great combination of a cool, creamy, crunchy sandwich with hot, tender fries.
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BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza - layered shredded pork, "pizza cheese" (what would that be, exactly?), Chipotle/Ranch BBQ sauce, purple onion, roasted red bell pepper, fresh cilantro and sliced jalapeños, $11.95. The BBQ pulled pork pizza was one of the best things M. de Joie has ever had at CR Gibbs. It was indeed spicy-hot with jalapeños, but not eye-weepingly so, and the flavors/textures complemented each other beautifully. While Mlle. de Joie is a thin-crust gal, this puffy crust out of the brick oven was flavorful and chewy enough to stand up to the heavy toppings. Indeed, all the pizzas at Gibbs are worth ordering, including the Greek pizza.

Also good at lunchtime are the salads - though the portions seem a bit scanty, they are unfailingly crisp and flavorful, with delicious combinations of ingredients paired with dressings, such as the Mediterranean Salad - greens, imported olives, artichoke hearts, cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes and red onion with balsamic vinaigrette, topped with Feta cheese.

CR Gibbs features fish tacos at lunch for $11.95, but they have always seemed bland and somewhat mushy, like what a Mexican restaurant in Liverpool might turn out. The black beans and white rice are the best thing about the taco plate. And the Cajun-Asiago Cheesburger was overwhelmed with salty Asiago cheese - so much so that M. de Joie had to scrape the cheese off in order to taste the burger, which had a slightly burned flavor.

Two soups are always on the menu in addition to the soup of the day - baked onion soup at $6.95 and chicken tortilla soup for $7.95. Ordering baked onion soup in a restaurant has usually made M. de Joie wish she had thought to bring scissors with her to cut through the gummy mass of cheese pantyhose; this one is no exception. The chicken tortilla soup is a better choice - lighter but flavorful and packed with vegetables.

Currently CR Gibbs is featuring the "Re-Stimulus Menu" with marked-down items renamed for the recession - "Gas Price Fries - Who knows what the price will be today...take a chance! Choice of Cajun or Garlic-Pesto..." "Ford's BLT Fried Egg Sandwich - Our very special BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato)on wheat bread with Mayo, two fried eggs and cheddar cheese...Slam! Bam! Whooo! Roll out that new model! $5.99." Sure, it's a gimmick, but it works, and the public seems to be responding favorably.

If you're downtown, CR Gibbs doesn't necessarily rate a drive out Cypress Avenue at noon - not much does - but if you're in the area at lunchtime, stop by. Saturday lunch is more relaxed than weekdays too, especially if you don't have to get back to the office right away.

- Femme de Joie

CR Gibbs, 2300 Hilltop Drive, Redding, in the Best Western Hilltop Inn. 530-221-2335. Cash, credit/debit cards. No checks. Cocktails, beer and wine. Open daily for lunch and dinner; Sunday brunch 10 AM - 2 PM. Live music on weekends. Parking on-site. Website at http://www.crgibbs.com/

Comments

On the unbearably hot (i.e. usual) summer day that I was there last, I ate lunch at C.R. Gibbs.

I recall an excellent Caesar-style salad there, though it wasn't actually composed tableside like a true Caesar salad would be. (Some day I will manage to either do, or receive, one of these.)

The gazpacho was exquisite. Easily the best I have ever had, including that presented at several truly authentic mexican restaurants here. The attention to detail and the freshness of the ingredients was what put it over the top. They actually FROZE the croutons and put them in frozen.
The only place locally where a tableside Caesar salad can be had is at Nello's on Bechelli Lane - and a rather good one, too. Nello's features a number of tableside preparations such as Cherries Jubilee, Steak Diane (divine), etc. Dishes like this seem to have fallen from favor, which is a shame, as they are delicious and ensure a good tip, but it does take extra time and work to train staff to present these dishes and not set the ceiling on fire (as allegedly happened years ago at the old Shasta Inn, now Cattleman's).

Perhaps tableside preps will become so retro that they are rediscovered. We can only hope.

(Anonymous)

CR Gibb

We finally gave up going to CR Gibb, not because the food wasn't great but because of the raucous NOISE. Yep, we're seniors and probably have diminished hearing, but we could barely understand the server nor could we carry on a conversation with each other. As surrounding tables filled, voices were also raised to the point that we seemed to be inadvertently included in several other conversations, none of which held any interest for us.

And I must disagree with M. de Joie about the fish tacos. Perhaps she was there on an off day or I was there on a particularly good one, but it was a very memorable dish, and one I'd go back for were it not for the NOISE. I don't know that there is a way to correct the noise factor, but it is reason enough for us to go elsewhere.

Re: CR Gibb

Too true - when it's busy (and sometimes when it isn't) the noise level does reach the stage where you're yelling at your dining companion. You'd think the relatively high ceiling would allow sound to float up and away, but it only seems to bounce it back.

Thank you for your comment about the tacos - duly noted. Will try again.
Their pulled pork pizza really is FANTASTIC. I haven't eaten there very many times over the years, but that pizza was sublime. It's nothing like what we find in Italy, but it's a darn good substitute.