Stick a fork in it. It’s done. The election results, while not official yet, are pretty well baked. It is extremely unlikely that the remaining 7,700 countywide ballots yet to be counted will change any of the outcomes. The county registrar of voters has until next Tuesday to certify the election. Here are the unofficial counts for both Lodi City Council races, as of press time: In District 4, Shakir Khan garnered 795 votes; Ramon Yepez, 527; Joanne Mounce, 449; Natalie Bowman, 345; and two were uncertified. In District 5, Mikey Hothi got 2,572 votes; Michael McKnight, 1,464; Hector Madrigal, 972, and 32 were uncertified. New members will be sworn in on Dec. 16 and the council will “reorganize” as it selects a new mayor and mayor pro tem. The meeting will all be virtual, says City Manager Steve Schwabauer.

CHRISTMAS CHEER: One of the many COVID modifications this year is Santa’s fire truck, which wends its way through neighborhoods every Christmastime. Fire Chief Gene Stoddart says they are “taking extreme measures” with the number of riders allowed. Plus, they won’t be handling out candy canes or collecting food donations. There will also be fewer nights. While that’s kind of a bummer to scores of children in town, 12-year old Sophie Mayer is doing something about it. The youngster is planning her own Christmas parade through her Willow Glen neighborhood this Saturday, Dec. 5 starting at 5:30 p.m. Sophie says in her flyer that there will be lights and music, so come on out and enjoy. The parade will be around the Lakewood School area. Sophie’s proud parents are Ben and Sarah Mayer; grandparents are Ron and Alice Mayer. … Dixie Belletto turned 105 on Thanksgiving Day. She still lives alone in her Lodi home, says son-in-law Duffy Wallach. Dixie only gave up going to the gym a few years ago, says Duffy. “She’s amazing,” he says. No kidding.

LET’S EAT: When we asked people on social media to tell us what their favorite dish is at their favorite local restaurant, the response was overwhelming. Hundreds of people responded (see last Thursday’s paper). Someone said they gained 10 pounds just reading through them. Many told us what they used to like at restaurants that have been long gone. For example, Alan Baker, Maggie Redding and Barbara Collins loved the King Yin restaurant, which was located upstairs on Main Street, for their Chow Mein and pan-fried noodles. John Schenkenberger remembers the King Yin as well. “My mom felt that the narrow staircase entrance, with the only other exit through the kitchen, and no sprinklers in the ceiling ,(the) King Yin was a stampede fire hazard, so we went to New Shanghai,” he says.

Diana Casillas has fond memories of the banana bread French toast at the Omelet House on Victor Road at Highway 99 (now the Village Coffee Shop). Bill Slayter and Wendy Havel-Garner remember the prime rib from Croce’s Restaurant, which is now the Parkwest Casino on Cherokee Lane. John Krueg’s former favorite was the Texas Burger on Cherokee Lane, across from the Grocery Outlet shopping center. Sally-Ruth Riley loved the Chili Colorado at Porfi's on Cherokee Lane. Dave Williams liked everything from Perla’s Mexican Café on Sacramento Street. Kimberly Tadena says, “When I was a kid, there was the (Felton’s) El Topaz (on Cherokee Lane), and mom ordered a hamburger patty with cheese, hash browns, one egg over easy with an English muffin. That’s my guilty pleasure to this day.”

Jan Jackson Walls remembers her first dining out experiences were at the Log Cabin (Cherokee at Victor) and the New Shanghai on East Pine. Marta Mayer Dwyer loved the biscuits and gravy at Feltens El Topaz. Dena Nick’s favorite was eating the Chow Mein at the Rice Bowl on Lodi Avenue. Lisa Preszler O'Neal and Katie Mitchell-Garcia loved the combo pizza at the Pizza Garden on Lodi Avenue. Karen Anderson calls them the bygone years when she enjoyed the salad at the Capri Pizzeria on Lockeford (where Boxwood Finch is now). Robin Wilson remembers the Capri, too. Danette Kilber-Hargrove misses baked sub sandwiches from Pizza Works on Turner Road. … Susan Monk Smethers liked the lemon chicken from the King Tsin when they were on School Street, and later on Kettleman Lane. Paul DeValle has fond memories of Helwig’s Restaurant on Hutchins at Park back in the ‘70s. “Starchy, starchy, starchy dishes...but oh so wonderful,” he recalls. Pete Mackey also loved Porfi’s and their enchiladas. Tony Ahn Jr. remembers eating grilled cheese sandwiches at Woolworth's lunch counter. Robin Wilson liked the burgers at the Hot Bun on Lodi Avenue. Rachelle Cline misses the Pizza Garden sausage pizza. … Morgan McCarty Oliveira says, “I may be prejudice but I think my uncle Jim (McCarty) made the best pizza at Mac’s Pizza and Beef when they were on Turner Road. (McCarty was a former Lodi mayor and also owned the Milk Stop). Jammie Howe Gordon has fond memories of A&W Root Beer on Lodi Avenue back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when carhops would take your order and bring your food out to your car. Katie Mitchell-Garcia Kimithy Hassel remembers the cheese buttons from the El Topaz. She says her parents went there every Wednesday.

CALL TO ACTION: All of the pandemic-caused lockdowns and operating restrictions have been rough on local restaurants. Maybe “devastating” would be a more accurate term. Cactus Restaurant recently posted on their social media page, “I’m reaching out to say I don’t know if we can take (more) of this (shutdowns). This time of year is a slow time for us. Especially with covid we are reaching out to you in desperate need of your support.” This is likely the same sentiment all across the local restaurant scene as restauranteurs grapple with the on again, off again closures. (Note: the breakfast burritos at Cactus are excellent!) … Have you tried that new Sourdough & Co. sandwich place at Reynolds Ranch, across from Costco? We did and liked it. They bake their own bread on premise. Beside great sandwiches, they also serve a soup of the day and a selection of fresh salads.

WATER WISDOM: This could be a “December to remember” if you fill your swimming pool or otherwise use a lot of water during the next few months. The city uses your water consumption number for December through February to calculate next year’s wastewater rate, according to Public Works Director Charlie Swimley. … City Council Member-elect Shakir Kahn owns and is rehabbing the old Roundhouse Bar building on Lodi Avenue at Main Street. Khan says he’s not sure if he will reopen it as a bar\restaurant or something else. “We are trying to finish the work, making sure everything is up to code. We don't have a date yet when we are going to open,” he says.

REMEMBRANCE: We note the recent passing of Leonard Messer, who died Nov. 22 at the age of 80. Len was a funeral director at Lodi Funeral Home for many years, and later Cherokee Memorial Park and Funeral Home. He helped hundreds, if not thousands, of grieving families during his 40-plus year career. His soft-spoken demeanor and heart for people will be missed by many.


Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at

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