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.
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.
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.
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.
Upon request, portable beer towers can stand as table centerpieces, allowing patrons to refill their own domestic or imported brew from a tap and spigot. All the while, major sporting events play on surrounding televisions as staffers behind the bar shake up specialty cocktails, such as the Joe Cool, whose raspberry and cream vodkas, cranberry juice, and sodas are poured through the sleeve of one of James Dean’s leather jackets. In the kitchen, cooks prepare a lineup of hearty eats that include shoestring fries topped with carne asada, burgers crowned with locally grown tomatoes, and sopes with housemade green salsa.
The bar also hosts special events, such as karaoke nights and the Vintage Challenge, in which diners face off against 6-pound burritos.