Navigate Left
  • Photo taken by Molly Myers on Sept. 3, 2023 downtown across from where the Farmers Market is held.


    Abandoned shoes in Chico: photo series

  • Left side of table, Jenna McMahon, Nathan Chiochios and Jessica Miller sit with, on the right side front to back, Callum Standish, Molly Myers, Nadia Hill, and Grace Stark at  Estom Jamani Dining Commons. Photo taken April 29 by a kind employee at the dining hall.


    The Orion tries the dining hall

  • Both faculty members’ and students’ mental health are suffering due to a lack of support at Chico State and across the California State University System. Photo by Vie Studio on Pexels.


    Faculty, students’ mental health continue to suffer

  • Thanks to horror films, some names have been ruined ... or made cool. Photo by Jeswin Thomas from Pexels.

    Arts & Entertainment

    Names horror films have ruined … or made cool

  • Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate. Photo courtesy of NEON.

    Arts & Entertainment

    He said, she said: ‘Immaculate’

Navigate Right
Breaking News
Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

The Orion tries Big Al’s Drive In

After a weekly Wednesday meeting, a group of Orion staffers went cruising down Esplanade to Big Al’s Drive In to acquire some classic sammies and shakes
Big Al’s Drive In illuminates the night. Photo taken bu Callum Standish April 3.

Eating Big Al’s is like a picture shot on Portra 400. It doesn’t matter if the composition is any good, or if the lighting is mediocre or if it’s a pain to develop. When you see your food through film-filtered glasses, everything tastes better. 

The sheer old school charm of the red and yellow paint, the big awning, the simple but extensive menu all draw you in — it’s an actual drive-in — save for the carhops on skates.  

After a weekly Wednesday meeting, a group of Orion staffers went cruising down Esplanade to Big Al’s Drive In to acquire some classic sammies and shakes.

Ariana Powell, editor-in-chief

BLT sandwich

Big Al’s BLT sandwich, fries and a drink cost under $10. Taken by Ariana Powell on April 3.

Atmosphere is everything when it comes to eating food. Well that and the actual flavor. 

The sound of passing cars on the Esplanade and the blacktop oil spot art underfoot makes Big Al’s BLT sandwich even better. 

Especially considering how my mom makes a better BLT sandwich. However, you cannot deny the hominess of the meal. 

The perfect crispiness of the fries and the refreshing temperature and flavor of a soda uplifts the disappointing sandwich. 

Yet, I can’t wait until I get to buy another one.

The pina colada shake was obviously a virgin, in the sense it tastes like the person who made it has never had a pina colada. 

It tastes like a vanilla shake with a whisper of synthetic pineapple and coconut. It’s not even worth the rum a typical pina colada has. It’s just sad. 

Big Al’s pina colada shake against graffiti on the side of the restaurant. Photo taken by Ariana Powell on April 3.

Molly Myers, managing editor 

I got a cheeseburger and a lemon ice. 

The burger is supposed to come with spread, pickles, cheese — duh — and onion. I hate spread, and I wasn’t feeling pickle vibes, so I got the burger with just mayo and onion. 

Though the burger looks kind of meh and deflated, it was gas. The bread was soft and warm with a generous amount of sesame seeds that kept falling off the bun. 

The onion portion was generous and much appreciated.

My first cheeseburger and lemon ice. Photo taken by Molly Myers at Big Al’s.

However, two bites in and I instantly desired another one. The portion could be bigger, but for $4.49, I’m not really complaining. We noted that the prices were similar to In-N-Out Burger, so quite fair. 

The lemon ice beverage? Delightful. It’s a standard lemon-y blended ice drink that makes you feel hydrated while eating but also provides a sense of dessert. It costs $3.69 for a small, so it’s a little pricey.

An hour after my first order, I ordered another cheeseburger. I was still hungry, and the burger was just that good. 

Now the atmosphere? That’s what we’re really coming for. The red and white striped building is giving clown-core realness. 

Ordering through the outdoor window and watching the sunset as you wait for your food gives an undeniably Chico feeling. It’s like somewhere Jules and Rue from Euphoria would bike to after school. 

If Big Al’s founder Alfred James Regier were alive today I’d give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him I’ll be back soon. *Muah*

Jessica Miller, food editor

Cheese Burger Basket with custom taste changes. Taken by Jessica Miller on April 3.

Big Al’s is a wonderful representation of a traditional American diner and is surprisingly affordable considering the burger inflation of our times. 

I personally have the food taste of a small child and, thankfully, Big Al’s is more than happy to accommodate that. I ordered a cheeseburger basket with only meat, cheese and sauce along with a hot chocolate. 

The food was excellent. The fries had a perfect amount of salt and were all fair sized. The burger had melted cheese and limited grease. 

Hot chocolate from Big Al’s. Taken by Jessica Miller on April 3.

The hot chocolate however was subpar at best. It was more water than chocolate and was served in a cup that had the integrity of a moth in a swimming pool.

Chocolate shake from Big Al’s being held out towards Esplanade. Taken by Jessica Miller on April 3.

The chocolate shake provided a unique form of salvation for their hot chocolate disaster. The shake was a consistency that allowed it to be sipped from a straw or taken by the spoonful. Every bite was a wonderful chocolate heaven. 

Jenna McMahon, opinion editor 

Corn dog with fries and a drink as well as a malt. Photo taken by Jenna McMahon on April 3.

Big Al’s is what I imagine Al’s pancake world would be like in “Gilmore girls.” The vibes are immaculate and your order comes out in minutes — bonus — shakes come out like speed racer. 

The food, while it may not be the best thing you taste in your life, is still quite delicious. I always love a good corn dog and Big Al’s did not disappoint. It had the perfect crispy breading and the dog itself was nicely fried. 

My favorite part was the fries, they were the perfect mix between crispy and soft. It’s like a McDonalds fry but thicker and your mouth doesn’t feel scraped dry from all the salt. 

I got a mocha chip malt and it was not the most authentic, it was good. Thank you for coming to our Ted talk. 

Chocolate chip malt. Photo taken by Jenna McMahon on April 3.

Maki Chapman, Orion reporter

I bought a deluxe double cheeseburger, holding the pickles, as well as a medium coke to wash it down. It was a fine enough burger, though I wish it had more body. It absolutely melted in my mouth, but the feel of it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped. 

Still, considering that the sandwich was a dollar and a half cheaper than a Big Mac at McDonalds, and it was a local restaurant rather than a big corporation, it was a fine enough meal to end the day. 

Maki Chapman takes a photo of his deluxe double cheeseburger. Photo taken by Molly Myers at Big Al’s on April 3.

Nathan Chiochios, sports editor

Initially, I got a roast beef sandwich and a medium coke. The sandwich was very solid. It felt like a sandwich you would get at a baseball game. The lettuce kept falling out which was kind of annoying, but I honestly can’t complain.

I finished my meal, and after about 10 minutes, I folded for a banana milkshake, which was the best idea I’ve ever had. It was made almost instantly, and tastes like it was made with real bananas.

It was also very cheap, which I’m a big fan of.

Roast Beef sandwich from Big Al’s laid out on the outside table. Taken by Nathan Chiochios on April 3.

Callum Standish, A&E editor

For such a classically American restaurant, the garden burger with a $0.69 slice of cheese, for around $7.50, was an expensive but welcome vegetarian option. A little pricey when  a comparable meat burger would have been a bit over $5, but lousy hippies can’t be cheapskates. 

The Garden Burger was simple but enjoyable, it could have been made by a loving but begrudging carnivore uncle at a family barbecue. Photo taken by Callum Standish on April 3.

The patty was a garden-variety veggie patty, if not actual Morning Star it was very similar. The bun was soft, so was the patty, so were the pickles and so were the onions. The flavors were just as expected. I was satisfied, but my wallet wasn’t. 

What made up for it was the “small” vanilla cone I got. I think the guy behind the counter was new to the ice cream machine, as the small could have passed for a large. It was cold and sweet. The soft-serve was creamier than your standard fast-food cone.

Orion editor Callum Standish takes a delicate bite of his ice cream cone at Big Al’s. Photo taken by Molly Myers on April 3.

The Orion can be reached at [email protected].

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All The Orion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • R

    Rebecca // Apr 4, 2024 at 5:31 pm

    Love the reviews! Thank you. 🙂