Moo Moo's Burger Barn sates sandwich hounds with a menu of diner classics and more than 15 specialty burgers that earned the title of San Joaquin Magazine's best burgers in 2010. The full-service counter fuels meat-powered engines with a BMS Moo smothered in bacon, mushrooms, and swiss cheese ($5.95) and spark culinary combustion with an Ole'Moo covered with pepper-jack cheese, green chili, and homemade Moo sauce ($5.95). No Moo burgers ($5.75) find space in vegetarian diets by delivering hearty garden patties topped with avocado and dijon mustard on a wheat bun. Bulk up meals with a basket of sweet-potato fries ($5.45) and old-fashioned milkshake ($4.75) or mix up bovine eating patterns with a salad and specialty sandwich.
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 façade 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 sautéed 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.
For more than 30 years, the chefs of De Vinci’s Elk Grove have been hard at work perfecting the traditional Italian recipes that stock their deli counter. They begin every morning with their hands floury, crafting doughs that will form the base of housemade foccacia breads, cheese-filled ravioli, and custom sandwiches. Joined occasionally by a fluffy ravioli mascot in a toque, staff combine dishes into prearranged packages ready for the family dinner table or parcel out single dishes by the pint, quart, gallon, or 10-gallon hat.
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 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-mâché. 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.