Seasonal Starters & Sippers

By Melissa Hutsell | Photos by Dan Hood

  Celebrate the season and explore San Joaquin’s chic selection of light plates and delicious drinks. There’s no guilt in healthy alternatives that complement local seasonal produce. The best part? You can stay true to your waistline while gratifying your cravings, without a heavy stomach. The warm weather calls for something refreshing – and our fabulous restaurants surely deliver! From savory salads to sensational sippers, and tons of mouthwatering plates in between, we’ve compiled a list of must-try dishes that colorfully complement summer’s end and welcome the fall harvest.

Tomato Caprese Salad & Ceviche at Centrale Kitchen & Bar

Enjoy these last weeks of summer with creative, fresh and colorful starters from Central’s seasonal menu. In an ode to the bountiful harvest months, there is no better time to find tasty varieties of tomatoes. The restaurant’s Tomato Caprese Salad combines fresh mozzarella cheese and basil with a balsamic reduction. For something a little meatier, but still light, Centrale’s Ceviche will hit the spot. The traditional dish is a spicy mix of cucumber, jicama and white tiger prawns inspired by Chef Bernard Martinez’s trips throughout Mexico. “It’s great, light and refreshing– there’s nothing like an ice cold beer and ceviche on a hot summer day…it also makes for a perfect Sunday morning hangover cure,” says Chef Bernard.

Don’t Miss: Centrale Caesar & Heirloom Bruschetta 

Sip On: Raspberry Lemon Drop & Jalapeno Margarita

Central Kitchen and Bar: 1825 Pacific Ave., #2 | Stockton | (209) 939-1825 |

Crab Stuffed Piquillo Pepper Salad & Ahi Nachos at M&J Bistro


  Tracy’s own taste of San Francisco offers guests gourmet food from its seasonal, and ever evolving French-Basque fusion menu. Satiating starters such as the Crab Stuffed Piquillo Pepper Salad capture the season’s best and bring out the restaurant’s Spanish influences. The salad is made with whole roasted Piquillo bell peppers, arugula, green onions and wild caught crab, topped with a “refreshingly spicy bleu cheese sauce, that is just simply tasteful,” says co-owner and Chef, Jason Rucker. For a Mexican-Japanese inspired dish, a year round favorite and sensational starter, the bistro’s Ahi Nachos are made from a fusion of thinly sliced Ahi placed on tortilla chips with green onions, shredded carrots, chopped black olives and an impeccable avocado-horseradish sauce accompanied with a slightly sweet duck sauce, “Taste the best of both worlds!” encourages Chef Rucker.

Don’t Miss:Bistro Bruschetta

Sip On: Blue Clouds of Joy & Caesar Martini

M & J Bistro: 2515 N. Tracy Blvd., | Tracy

(209) 832-2727 |

Mama’s Salads at Mikasa Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar

 Mama’s Salads are quickly becoming a favorite at Mikasa in Tracy. With the choice of meat or seafood, this fresh mix of in-season fruit (such as strawberries or blueberries, kiwis or pomegranate) makes for a refreshing salad that is satiating, filling and colorful- leaving eyes just as happy as stomachs! A fusion of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, chilies, and crispy noodles are blended with a light dressing made from plum sauce, honey, lemon, seasonings and spices… all topped with sesame seeds for a tangy, low calorie meal that is seamless for summer.

Don’t Miss: Low calorie options like the popular, thin, rice paper wrapping on anything you request!

Sip On: Mai Tai & Champagne Bellini

Mikasa Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar:

2610 S. Tracy Blvd., | Tracy | (209) 830-8288 |

Cheese & Olive Plate & Hummus Dish at Papapavlo’s Bistro & Bar


A visit to Papapavlo’s is always a treat. With their classic Mediterranean menu items, specially prepared, it’s no wonder this location is a Stockton staple. The restaurant’s list of starters trigger taste buds, as each is perfectly proportioned to placate. Start off with the restaurant’s Olive and Cheese Plate, served with Tzatziki sauce, warm pita bread, French feta cheese, kasseri cheese and Kalamata olives. “This is a great starter for a glass of wine, says General Manager Michael Bright, “The salted olives really get the taste buds going. For another super light starter, we recommend Papapavlo’s hummus plate. This dish blends together fresh Garbanzo beans, chopped garlic, Tahnini and lemon juice paired with pita for a simply delicious dip. “This accompanies well with fresh produce,” says Michael, “It’s refreshing on a hot day, and makes a great Mediterranean treat.”

Don’t Miss: Gyro Salad & Stuff Grape Leaves

Sip On: Strawberry Basil Margarita & Blueberry Lemon Drop

Papapavlo’s Bistro & Bar:

501 N. Lincoln Center | Stockton

(209) 477-6133 |

Toy Box Salad & FLT at Wine & Roses’ Towne House Restaurant


    Wine & Roses’ Towne House Restaurant sources locally grown, innovative dishes in a tribute to its country farm roots. The locally sourced produce, grown at Lodi’s Golden Bear Ranches has Executive Chef John Hitchcock raving, “The produce they have helps create my most favorite dishes!” With quality seasonal and regional ingredients, guests can enjoy specialty cuisine with the chef’s impressive summer starter menu, including the Toy Box Salad. The salad is made with split cherry tomatoes, micro basil, split bocconcini, and topped with balsamic vinaigrette on a bed of lettuce. Another fresh favorite from the restaurant’s menu is the “FLT” (Foie Gras Lettuce & Tomato) prepared with house-made brioche, sliced cherry tomatoes, bib lettuce,
mayo, and seared foie gras, garnished with a cornichon pickle.

Don’t Miss: Prosciutto, Fig, Caramelized Onions & Goat Cheese Pizza, Heirloom Tomato Salad & Stone Fruit Salad

Sip On: Hawaiian Hibiscus Mojito  &  Champagne Cocktail

Towne House Restaurant:

2505 W. Turner Rd., | Lodi

(209) 334- 6988 |

Loaded Spinach Salad at French 25


  For delectable cuisine with a Louisiana – California fusion, look no further than Stockton’s French 25. The restaurant never fails to arouse taste buds with creative dishes and spicy twists. Complement the relaxing view with a refreshing Loaded Spinach Salad, elegantly served on a bed of lettuce, topped with pecans, crumbled blue cheese, apples, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, crispy onion strings and shallot-thyme vinaigrette. The perfect mixture of savory ingredients, this dish is set apart by its dressing, says General Manager Tony Talbot. As one of the tastiest ways to get your much-needed iron, this specialty salad is a healthy way to celebrate the season. For a seaside inspired snack, try the restaurant’s Red Snapper Tacos. This starter plate is perfectly sized, and filled with flavor. The tacos are topped with invigorating mango salsa and a flavor packed Marti Gras sauce.

Don’t Miss: Filet Salad & Chicken Cobb

Sip On: The Arnold “Pom”mer & Decatur Gator

French 25: 110 N. El Dorado St. | Stockton

(209) 451-0617 |

Hummus with Marinated Eggplant, Melon Salad & Cold Smoked California King Salmon at Market Tavern


  Market Tavern is taking Stockton by storm with its fresh, locally sourced ingredients and ever-evolving menu exclusive to the restaurant. The Tavern’s summer menu is packed with seasonal goodies, such as the house-made Hummus with eggplant, marinated with olive oil, spices and herbs and prepared daily for ultimate creaminess. On the sweeter side, Market Tavern delivers a variation of melons (Crenshaw, Santa Claus, Ambrosia, Sharlyn and Galia Melons) from Golden Bear Ranches, served with Strauss organic Greek yogurt. Another must try is the restaurant’s Heirloom Tomato starter – made with cold smoked California king salmon, cherry tomatoes, local corn and green goddess dressing. “All ingredients are sourced from California and San Joaquin County to support local farmers, so you can feel good when eating it,” says co-owner and Chef, Nicholas DiArenzo.

Don’t Miss: Quinoa & Wedge Salad

Sip On: Mojito & Rosemary Infused Lemmon Drop 

Market Tavern:

236 Lincoln Center | Stockton

(209) 932-8001 |

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