The Grill at the Diamond Hotel in Chico doesn’t feel like a college bar. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s always a good sign when people leave happy hour and they are happy without imbibing too much.

Such was the case earlier this month when for the first time I went to The Grill inside the Diamond Hotel in Chico. Joining me for cocktails and truffle fries were mom and Sue.

The hotel has a colorful history. When it opened in 1904 is was the premier hotel in town. Steam heated the 56 rooms, which all had private baths. Plus, each had gas and electric fixtures.

Twelve years later it burned. When it re-opened it was a travelers’ hotel, catering to those on a budget.

Those making decisions about remodeling the property in the 1940s thought stripping the original ornamentation was a good idea.

In the first half of the 1960s it was a women’s dorm for Chico State students.

By 1972, the building in downtown Chico was shuttered, becoming a bit of an eyesore. Historic lore is that locals called it The Pigeon Palace.

The Diamond Hotel first opened in 1904. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Then came Wayne Cook who bought the rundown building in 2001. He reopened the Diamond in 2005 with 43 rooms. Fifteen rooms and suites were added in 2021 when the neighboring Morehead Building were re-imagined by Cook.

In restoring the second structure, Cook had the original cupola on the corner of Fourth and Broadway streets restored.

Cook died in 2022 at the age of 79. His family continues to own the buildings.

As for The Grill, it opened this past summer with Jeff Dudum and Amanda Cramer at the helm. The restaurant Cook had opened was called the Diamond Steakhouse.

On a recent Friday night the bar was packed. This had a lot to do with Farmers Brewing Co. having a special event and it being parents weekend at the university. While it was loud, it wasn’t unbearable. And the service, well, it was great—really, it was exceptional considering how packed it was.

The happy hour menu comes with discounts on some of the cocktails (we had a Manhattan, margarita and lemon drop) as well as a few appetizers.

For a college town, this seemed like such an adult bar. I’m not sure the college students would have been there if it hadn’t been for their parents.

With a parking garage next door, we didn’t have to contend with street parking. It really was a happy hour, or two.

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