Ash and I found ourselves standing boat side in the beautiful Lodi Lake, our host was filling our plastic cups with delicious and quite refreshing mimosas. This was particularly rewarding especially after our first hour or so of kayaking through the many tributaries that this quaint lake has to offer. We beached our kayaks on a sand bank and took a refreshing dip into the water while enjoying our beverages. It was a beautiful hot day in the valley and here we were standing waist deep in the water enjoying a delicious beverage to relax our tired muscles.
The day had started out well with a ten mile bike ride for some mouth watering breakfast burritos and then a 2 hour kayak adventure. Ash and I were in the best moods we have been in for a long time. Life was good and who would have thought that Lodi, California would have been the place to give us the vacation we needed!
We are so glad that Visit Lodi took it upon themselves to show us and a few other bloggers the wonders of this little oasis in the Central Valley. So here is our guide on how to Eat Local in Lodi, the gem of the Central Valley!
Eat Local in Lodi
The Farm Cafe
Michael David Winery
As an expert when it comes to wine tasting, the number one thing you should do before you head out to the vineyards is to indulge in a hearty homestyle breakfast. That’s exactly why Ash and I headed out to The Farm Cafe at Michael David Winery, a bustling diner that’s situated inside the Michael David Tasting Room. It is a perfect place to begin your tour around Lodi’s wine country. The food is classic home style cooking that will fill you to the brim.
My chicken fried chicken came smothered with sausage gravy and a big helping of hash browns and sourdough toast that stuck to my ribs and had me ready for a wine filled day. Ashley had a perfectly cooked soft omelet covered with avocados. We both leaned back and may have needed to unbutton our trousers for a bit…
After breakfast we headed over to the tasting bar and enjoyed some of their easy drinking whites and reds. They are famous for their 7 Deadly Zins that you can find across the US and even outside the US, especially in Sweden where its a number one seller. It is a nice start to the morning and gets you ready for a long day out in the sun.
Okay, need a quick bite to eat for dinner and looking for a great place to have a slice and a beer? Smack Pie Pizza in downtown Lodi hits the spot. Visit Lodi took us to dinner here for our first meal. It left a wonderful impression on us. It is a busy restaurant where they hand make the pizzas right in front of you. You can order one of your own specialty designed pizzas or choose from one of theirs. Along with your 12” pizza don’t forget to order a pitcher of beer to wash it all down.
Sit and enjoy your pizzas with a group of friends as there many communal tables and an outdoor patio and enjoy some great micro brews on tap. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and if we lived in Lodi this place would be dangerous for Ash and I.
The Dancing Fox
I felt as if I had wandered into a bar set in a world full of mythical creatures; the walls of bar were covered with portraits of anthropomorphic animals and it felt like we had stepped into a fairytale. We sat down at the six seat bar and enjoyed a tasting with a few off beat style wines including an almond sparkling wine which tasted like bottled marzipan.
Now this is more than just a wine bar but it is also a popular place to eat. The menu is influenced by many different cuisines and is a perfect place for a quick lunch and maybe a taste of their homemade wine or even beer. Oh yea, and did we mention they were a bakery too?
Double Dip Gallery
Ash and I love exploring local art, not only do we love doing this but we also love a great scoop of ice cream as well. Well Double Dip Gallery is exactly what it sounds like and combines both of these loves. It is a gallery where you can get a fantastic scoop of ice cream while you browse the art. The ice cream comes from the the popular Gunther’s based out of Sacramento. It is small batched handmade ice cream that is utterly delicious.
The gallery is filled with Tony Segale’s art, a local sign maker and artist. Every first Friday of the month Lodi hosts the Lodi Art Hop and this is when they usually unveil a new exhibit. The current exhibit which we saw in progress is called “Dead Pasta” and is reimagined movie posters for the Spaghetti Westerns filmed in the 40s and 50s.
If you are interested in supporting the local economy and having some great ice cream then I suggest take a quick pitstop at Double Dip Gallery.
If you are a foodie like Ashley and I are then you will love this next place. Cheese Central in the heart of downtown Lodi. This phenomenal cheese shop is owned by the lovely Cindy Della Monica, a local Cheese Monger. We were introduced to her and her fabulous cheese selection at a cheese and wine pairing held at Oak Farm Vineyards.
We were able to get her full knowledge about the wonderful cheese that she had presented us. Cindy might be my favorite person in Lodi because I would love to spend all my time learning about cheese with her. Now she introduced me to a couple new cheeses that were creamy, funky and delicious. And she really impressed me with what was the freshest Humboldt Fog (a goat cheese made by Cypress Grove) that I have every had. I used to serve this exact same cheese when I worked for a wine bar and I can honestly say that this is the best Humboldt Fog that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy.
Cheese Central is a great place to go pick up cheeses from around the world as well as have a tasting and a lesson about cheese from her or her incredibly knowledgable staff. Plus they also can give you ice packs to transport your newest cheese obsession home!
La Campana Taqueria
One of the first things that we did on our perfect day in Lodi, that Visit Lodi set up for us, was to ride and grab breakfast burritos at La Campana Taqueria. We hopped on our bikes from Downtown Bicycles and took a 10 mile ride out to the taqueria and back.
Everything here is handmade especially their delicious tortillas which is how they began, as a tortilla factory. Ash and I can be picky about breakfast burritos but we thoroughly enjoyed these. Now be aware that they are closed on Sundays so why not start your Saturday off with one of these delicious burritos. Also head to the park just down the road to truly enjoy these burritos since they only offer food to go. Sit out and enjoy your delicious reward in the morning sun. Our chorizo burritos were the perfect way to reenergize for our ride back into town.
Drink Local in Lodi
We all know how a great cup of coffee can make a great day. While in Lodi I suggest visiting School Grounds to get all your caffeinated needs. I suggest ordering the Funky White Boy which is a dirty chai with white chocolate. Or just get a quick cup of strong black joe. This place looked like a perfect stop to while away a morning with a good book and some people watching but unfortunately we had to dash to get on our bikes and ride!
We loved this place though as the atmosphere was friendly, the coffee was delicious and the staff was unbelievably friendly. Oh yea, and did we mention they sell gelato too?
Lodi Beer Company
Lodi is not just about wine, and just like the rest of the U.S., it is going through a beer revolution as well. To try some of the best brews in downtown Lodi head to Lodi Beer Company for a pint or two. The building has a wonderful Art Deco look with floor to ceiling windows and amazing iron work including their big beer stills.
Like usual we pulled up a couple of seats at their bar and enjoyed a couple of tasty beers.. We did not try any of their food but it smelled and look delicious. It was a mixture of your classic gastropub cuisine. This is a definite stop for the the beer lover stuck in Wine Country. Plus their happy hour on Sunday is ridiculous with pints starting at $3.50 and appetizers for $3.00 all day!
We are now on the wine road and this is my first choice that a wine enthusiast should go and visit. If you were like me, you would have thought Lodi was just big jammy Zins and fruit driven Cabs. Well, Acquiesce proved me wrong by only making wonderful and delicious white wines.
They make white varietals from grenache blanc to viognier and speaking of their viognier, it won best viognier in California at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition 2016.
We were served outside at a lovely table under some shade. The crisp and refreshing white wine relieved us of the heat while we listened to very zen wind chimes. Each of the wines were served with wonderful pairings including dubliner cheddar with violet confit to pair with their Bella Blanc blend which was comprised of grenache blanc, roussane and viogner. Ash and I were ready to join the wine club but they had a waiting list and deservedly so because their wines were top notch. We did walk away with a 6 bottles of wine from our favorite winery on the list though.
Durst has the most beautiful grounds out of all the places that Visit Lodi took us to. It is also a great place to learn about local history in the area. The owner is a wonderfully nice and welcoming woman who treated us like kings as we arrived. She filled us up with meats and cheese as we enjoyed their very food friendly wines. If you are a fan of residual sugar in your wine then this is a perfect spot for you as all their wines lean on the fruitier and sweeter side.
This might have been the coolest winery we went to. McCay Cellars is a classic so don’t judge a book by its cover as it is situated in a warehouse location. The inside looks like you are Robinson Crusoe and you just crashed onto an island filled with great wine.
The owner is a huge Giants fan and even has old stadium seats in the place. I am a huge Dodgers fan so the employees had to take a picture of me sitting in those chairs with my hat for their boss. 🙂
After that we sat down on a long wooden table and were presented with more food and excellent wines. They had great selection from whites to rose to reds. Two of our favorites were their Rose of Grenache and Carignane and their Cinsault. We may have walked away with a bottle of both…. It was a wonderful time as they had some out of the ordinary varietals and their Cinsault vineyards are the oldest continually used vineyards in the world!
This is another must stop for any wine enthusiast coming out to Lodi.
Oak Farm Vineyards
If you are looking for a winery to exceed your expectations than visit the top of the line winery, Oak Farm Vineyards. This place screams elegance and class when it comes to wine. Visit Lodi brought us here for a wonderful Oak Farm wine pairing with Cheese Central cheese and we also had a four course meal created by Warren K. Ito, their private chef, paired with more of Oak Farm’s wonderful wine.
Visit Lodi went out of their way to set up this wonderful meal with the owner of Oak Farm Winery and their local cheese monger. We sat outside in the warm summer evening as we looked out upon twilight and were just wowed after one beautiful course after another was placed in front of us followed by equally beautiful wine.
We were so impressed with the hospitality of this winery and the quality of their wines that Ash and I walked away with a full bag of their wines. I definitely suggest trying their Merlot as it is one of the most complex and beautifully crafted merlots that I have had. Oak Farm is a great place to come and sip wine or to set up an event for your family and friends. They will take care of all your needs and they are a top of the line facility.
After wine tasting you just need a wine bar to hang out in. Wine Social is my top choice. Visit Lodi took us here to show us their wine slushy which I suggest to anybody who loves to cool off with a slurpee on a hot afternoon as this is basically the adult version. If that is not your kind of thing then definitely come here to check out there amazing and affordable wine list. This has a very cozy and lively ambiance and would easily become my local hang out. Oh and the wine slushies are to die for, especially in 100 degree heat.
One Way Winery
One Way Winery is located in Visit Lodi Headquarters. It is the wine that greeted us when we first arrived in Lodi. We enjoyed a glass of their very dry and refreshing Pinot Grigio that hit the spot after a long drive up to Lodi. I would suggest a stop by Visit Lodi to enjoy One Way Winery as well as to find out all the great things going on about town.
To Do in Lodi
Ash and I love to ride bikes when we are in different cities while we travel. It gives you a unique view of the city and the culture that you are visiting. Visit Lodi and Downtown Bicycles hooked us up with a pair of cruisers to see the city. They also took us on a nice ride to get those wonderful breakfast burritos. The employees of Downtown Bicycles can help you out with any kind of local ride you want to do and biking is a perfect way to get around to see the vineyards, the Lake and downtown, especially since Lodi is almost completely flat. We will definitely hook up with them next time we are in town.
The Headwaters Kayak Shop
After our lazy bike ride around town and with our bellies filled with burritos it was nice to head out onto the water for some kayaking. Headwaters Kayak Shop is the only place to go for your water sports. Rent a couple of kayaks, canoes or SUP boards and head out onto the Lodi Lake and Mokelumne River to go fishing or have a casual paddle or even participate in some SUP yoga.
Dan, the owner of Headwaters Kayak Shop, took us out on a two hour adventure out on the water as well as telling us of why he started the shop. He is very active in his community and feels that it is important to get the youth out in nature and exploring the water canals rather than getting into trouble. He is really putting kayaking on the spot here in Lodi, California!
So there it is, our Eat Local in Lodi weekend guide. Lodi, California really is the gem of the Central Valley of California. Ashley and I are so glad that Visit Lodi brought us up for the weekend to show us their wonderful little town. Next time that you are in California think about going off the beaten path and head up to Lodi, California to enjoy the wine, cuisine and all the wonderful locals!
*We participated in a press trip to Lodi, California thanks to Visit Lodi. While they hosted us our opinions are our own. We really loved our time in Lodi and look forward to a return trip!*
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