When a friend of mine recently called and invited me to accompany her on a Saturday night to catch her boyfriend’s band’s show in Chico, I can’t say at first that I was jumping up and down in anticipation. This had nothing to do with the band’s musical abilities; but rather that my not-so-distant memories of Chico are mostly associated with late nights at Riley’s Bar, out of control frat parties and consuming unnecessary amounts of Goldschlager (yes, I was THAT girl at one point). However, upon rolling up to the Maltese, I was pleasantly surprised. The bar reminded me of the quintessential dive/biker bar…only much cleaner. It’s situated away from the main drag of drunk college kids throwing up their way across Fraternity Row; however, its location is conveniently just a short jaunt from the neighborhood late-night greasy spoon (Jack’s) and a patch of affordable motels for post-partying crashing.
As far as I could tell, the Maltese appears to cater to the non-mainstream twenties to thirties crowd. Most of the crowd was composed of Chuck and jeans wearers, but there was a generous sprinkling of rockabilly and punk types. On the particular Saturday night that I visited, the evening’s entertainment was composed of three bands for a mere $2. From alt-rock to reggae-punk, every musical palate was pleased throughout the course of the evening. Note, there’s no real stage to speak of, leaving you practically nose-to-nose with the bands—but to be honest, I found that to be one the most likeable aspects of the bar, especially when there’s a cute mohawked-guitarist performing. Drinks were plentiful and reasonably priced (they do take plastic) and the bar staff was equally friendly to both regulars and non. I found that I rarely had to wait to place an order nor did I have to scream my order repeatedly, which is often the case at musical venues.
Despite it's rugged-exterior, the Maltese does an excellent job of upkeeping their facilities. The restrooms are surprisingly tidy and properly stocked for a dive bar. I’m not saying I’d lay down and nap on the women’s room floor but it was as clean as most of the higher end bars in Sac. They’ve also taken the time to build a fenced in, cemented patio area for its patrons to smoke refugee style and mingle in. Before you go and start thinking this is the Waldorf-Astoria of dive bars, please be advised that it IS a dive bar and to keep your expectations in check. The décor is typical bar crapola (posters, beer signs, etc), but the joint is able to pull off a feeling of comfort. Trust me, within a few minutes you’ll feel like you’ve been visiting their counter for years. I know if I’m ever in the area, I’ll definitely make a point to stop in the Maltese for a brew or two.