Chef Iradh Herrera is very particular about the ingredients that enter his kitchen. He bans canned vegetables or dried herbs from passing through the door, working only with organic local produce and fresh herbs. When discussing his reasoning with reporters from Lodi News-Sentinel, Herrera explained, "fresh herbs brings out more essence in the dish. Dried [herbs] you have to use more, and [they don't] have the same taste. You can tell." The skilled chef peppers free-range beef and natural meats with fresh basil, thyme, and mint to whip up a variety of seasonal American dishes, such as a decadent bacon-wrapped meatloaf and a succulent roasted lamb rack. He favors eco-friendly seafood as well, preferring to cook with fish that were sustainably caught on fishing lines rather than deceitfully coaxed onto boats with "free algae" signs.
While Herrera bustles about the kitchen, bartenders squeeze fresh juices into specialty cocktails and uncork bottles of fine wine. Diners chatter animatedly at white-clothed tables, while others bask in the sun on the outdoor patio. On weekends, the elegant eatery often plays host to live music performances.
Great things often come in simple packages. That's the philosophy behind Fields Family Wines, where wine-making is a rustic process done by hand in small batches, using grapes grown onsite or sourced from other local vineyards. This minimalist approach results in 10 wines that possess notes ranging from rich currant and plum to the crisp pucker of pear and ginger. The flavors come alive when the wines are uncorked at the sleek, contemporary bar in the downtown tasting room or poured straight from the barrel and into guests' mouths at the winery. The downtown location features live music and paintings by local artists, whereas the picturesque winery hosts in-depth tours and games of bocce ball.
Behind Woodbridge Crossing's aged red-brick exterior, a fleet of wooden tables waits. Tucked beside walls lined with antiques and photographs, they stand ready to support hearty meals of American cuisine or provide a resting place for diners' elbows as they listen to live music on weekends. After filling stomachs with well-seasoned steaks or fresh seafood and filling wine stomachs with wine, guests can take a turn on a dance floor dappled with colored light from stained-glass windows.
True to its name, Lodi's Wine Social brings people together over European-influenced small plates and local wines. Gourmet paninis are dressed with ingredients such as creamy brie and dried pears or peppered salami and cilantro-chimichurri sauce. Meanwhile, wines from Six Hands and Sorelle Wineries are poured by the glass and blended into fruit-infused slushies. Accents such as exposed wooden rafters, brick walls, and velvet and leather couches contribute to the rustic feel.
The Las Islitas menu blends the flavors of Mexico with the sea’s most delicious inhabitants. Behind the kitchen door—which is decorated like a ship’s porthole—chefs whip up house specialties such as giant shrimp wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, as well as oysters on the half shell, and seafood medleys that include delicacies such as crab leg, abalone, and octopus.
The cooks at Velvet Grill & Creamery understand the timelessness of classic diner fare and a cold scoop of ice cream. All day long, they make breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes from scratch and churn out fresh batches of more than 20 ice-cream flavors. Breakfast seekers satisfy savory cravings with three-egg omelets stuffed with ingredients such as avocado, crab, linguiça, and feta cheese. Sweet teeth tear into Velvet's original pancakes, made with real oatmeal and buttermilk from a special house recipe. Later-day options include classic comfort fare such as chicken-fried steak and smoked pork chops doused with an apricot glaze. Among the sandwich selection, the house-special mega grilled cheese ($7.39) combines four kinds of melted, gooey cheese between three slices of bread to form a meal hefty enough to knock over Mechagodzilla should he return from his semester abroad in Prague. Diners can also lap up the eatery's rotating selection of homemade ice creams, which were spotlighted in the Lodi News-Sentinel for their incorporation of such unconventional ingredients as wine and butternut squash. Customers can also suggest new flavors and request special batches, which in the past have included licorice, bacon, and the sweet, sweet taste of victory over chinese finger traps.