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.
Don't be fooled by the name?owner Lauren Valle is doing much more than just transforming sandwiches into crispy, melty paninis behind the bright fa?ade of Panini Factory. She's also pouring rounds of batter onto the hot, flat surface of a grill, and spreading it into a thin layer before she carefully flips what has transformed into a super-thin, golden-brown pancake. Because in addition to paninis, Valle makes both sweet and savory crepes, filled with fresh ingredients that range from sweet saut?ed bananas to fresh basil and mozzarella. Each Saturday, she keeps her restaurant open late, doling out housemade tacos to the nightlife crowd until 2 a.m.
Wine and tapas make a natural pair, which is why Vinedos Aurora at Pamplona Tapas created a space where you can enjoy each, a wine-tasting room and tapas restaurant. Gerado Espinosa, owner and winemaker at Vinedos Aurora Winery, heads up the wine-tasting side. He brings his own vineyard's wines from petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon grapes grown outside Lodi. Whereas in the restaurant, owner and seasoned chef Ruben Larrazolo prepares a menu of hot and cold tapas to complement the pours.
Enticing flavors abound at Bamboo Basil Noodles & Grill, an eatery where Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine meet atop polished wooden tables. Chefs charbroil lemongrass-marinated pork, simmer pho with aromatic herbs, and toss wild-caught prawns with roasted peanuts, mint leaves, and delicate vermicelli noodles. Diners can also opt to sizzle meats and seafood on tabletop grills while sipping local wine and beer, vietnamese coffee, or avocado shakes laced with tapioca pearls.
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 inspiration behind Alebrijes Mexican Bistro is the stuff of nightmares?Pedro Linares? nightmares, to be specific. At the age of 30, the Mexican artist fell deathly ill. As he lay in bed, unconscious, he dreamt of a strange world filled with brightly colored monsters?a donkey with butterfly wings and a rooster with the head of an eagle among others?all shouting ?alebrijes, alebrijes, alebrijes!? When he awoke, he wanted to show his family and friends all that he had seen, so he replicated his first alebrije from brightly painted papier-m?ch?. To this day, his family still crafts these strange creatures to serve as unusual home accents.
Pedro Linares' monsters inspired Alebrijes Mexican Bistro's name, as well as its decor, which showcases brightly colored paintings of his nightmarish beasts. In 2012, the bistro also won the Lodi News Reader?s Choice award for Best Mexican Restaurant, thanks to its gourmet burritos and regionally inspired dishes such as oaxaca mole, guanajuato bacon-wrapped prawns, and guacamole prepared in the style of Mexico City. The restaurant also infuses their own tequilas.