What is your favorite place to eat, and why?
A tuna sandwich is usually a safe bet so I’ve eaten thousands, but tuna at the San Francisco Style Sandwich Shop (1040 W. Kettleman Lane, No. 6) is a revelation. Cali piles everything from olives to avocado on mounds of her own tuna recipe and tries to capture it on a freshly baked crusty roll — it’s sandwich heaven. It’s all good, but the Pier 39 at $6.99 keeps reeling me in.
Whole teams beat a path to Andre’s (722 W. Lodi Ave.) for the thrill of the Mad Dog burger. When they eat it all, it’s free. But when they fail (oh, the ignominy) they wind up on the Wall of Shame. Personally, I’d rather focus on Andre’s wonderful steak salad with his own bleu cheese dressing and try to ignore the moans of hamburgian ecstasy.
What is one thing that should not be missed on a tour of Lodi?
Wine has become the raison d’être of Lodi — 85 wineries and counting! The Wine and Visitor Center (2545 W. Turner Road) is an obvious place to start a tour because — after an informative tasting of our best wines — guidance to all of the local high spots is provided.
What is your favorite outing around Lodi?
As towns go, Lodi is about as serene as you can get. I mean, how stressed can you get over a three car traffic jam or having to wait five minutes for a bank teller? But when it’s time to zen out, I love the Japanese garden at Micke Grove (11793 N. Micke Grove Drive). Artful pathways wend through the beautifully landscaped grounds and around the sparkling Koi ponds. A perfect place for a meditative hour.
What’s one secret most outsiders don’t know about the Lodi area?
If you have the patience to listen, the derelict buildings on Main Street north of Lodi Avenue will tell you amazing stories of the past. A century ago, Lodi was a swinging town and Main Street with its gambling parlors, splendid Chinese restaurants and houses of a certain reputation was the center of action. Susie Wong Yip presided at an upstairs eatery that was a must for a romantic first date. Part of the mystique, no doubt, was that Susie’s sister was the legendary movie star Anna May Wong. And Susie’s husband, Joe Yip, owned the premier gambling den. An evening of glamour and danger, and all for the price of a Chinese dinner.
What is your favorite place to browse or shop?
If you need a mummy — really NEED a mummy — you might find one at Lots of Deals Inside (that’s really the name of the place). I found a mummy, and a totem pole, and a size 35 basketball shoe for a left foot. To be sure, there are also flowered porcelain teapots (yawn) but when I’m looking for the unexpected, I always wind up at Lots Of Deals Inside, 545 W. Lockeford St.
Where can you go to see the best art?
Ironies abound in Lodi, and not the least of them is that, for such an art unaware town, we have a surfeit of splendid artists and two superb galleries.
Robin Knowlton, upstairs in the elegant mall across from the Post Office, has a gorgeous gallery (115 S. School St.) featuring the best of the best regional artists. Her thematic monthly shows usually feature imagery of the Valley and the Delta. But her reputation and audience are national, not just regional, so it’s remarkable that Lodi can boast of an art enterprise of such significance. I always check out Robin’s shows because she is bringing major art to Lodi’s doorstep.
The Lodi Community Art Center (1373 Lakewood Mall, at Ham Lane and Lockeford Street) is the Big Mama of art in Lodi: All comers, all media, all ages — everyone’s embraced, and the result is wondrous. New shows — introduced on each First Friday — offer a panoply of art that is a treasure hunt. Last month I bought a remarkable painting on steel by a new gallery member. The price was a fraction of what work of this quality would command in a big city gallery. But this is Lodi, and bargains in art abound.