Dennis Williams wanted to bring a different type of dining experience to the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The result is Ernie’s Food & Spirits. The intimate luxury boutique restaurant on North Main Street in Manteca adjacent to Casino Real is a dining venue one might expect to find in San Francisco. It has an extensive wine list with more than 200 selections as well as a lounge featuring high end liquor.
The atmosphere - a soothing yet masculine design complete with booths and tables - is designed to complement the food that has an emphasis not just on quality but presentation as a whole.
“I wanted to create a dining experience that will draw people from a 50-mile radius to Manteca,” Williams said.
In doing so, though, he is avoiding being trendy.
The lunch and dinner menu builds on the “meat and potatoes” sensibility of the Northern San Joaquin Valley with a big emphasis on quality without sacrificing portions.
In similar restaurants you might find in San Francisco not only are the prices higher but the portions are smaller. A comparable salmon steak, for example, that is six ounces elsewhere is eight ounces at Ernie’s.
That’s because Williams created Ernie’s with the diner in mind. It is the end result of everything he prefers - and wants to see - for a high-end dining experience.
“We wanted to create a destination dining experience where people felt comfortable,” Williams said.
And in doing so, Ernie’s keeps a laser sharp focus on everything from service and the setting right down to the smallest detail in preparing and presenting what goes on your plate.
Executive Chef Michael Midgley has created a lunch and dinner offering unlike any other you’ll find in Manteca.
Lunch can start with a wide array of appetizers ranging from salmon rillettes featuring poached and smoked salmon with clarified butter, chives, and crostini to charcuterie featuring artisan cheese, cured meats, date jam, candied walnuts, Cornichon and house-made crackers. There are soups such as “5 onions” and salads that include char-grilled cheese, poached pear, and field greens.
Luncheon sandwiches include an E-Steak Sandwich featuring filet medallions, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers on a French roll to Ernie’s Burger, a lobster roll, grilled vegetables and the E-chicken sandwich.
Big salads and entrees for lunch include offerings such as New York, chopped and Caesar Plus salads as well as mussels and frites to pan-seared salmon and daily pasta creations.
Dinner steps up to the next level with entrees prepared with a “California modern cuisine” twist such as an eight-ounce filet mignon, 14-ounce rib-eye, 12-ounce New York stead, steak and lobster, grilled pork chops, oven-roasted lamb, roasted continental chicken breast, day boat scallops and pan-seared salmon.
Ernie’s also has its own pastry chef. Diane Mahler makes everything from scratch daily including gelato, samplings of custards, a flourless chocolate cake, apple galette, Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, Lemon Semi Freddo and the “Ho Ho” - a nostalgic chocolate cake.
Lunch salads and entrees are priced from $12 to $28 while dinner entrées are $26 to $42.
Williams is also pleased with the lounge that offers liquor that is a cut above of what one typically might expect. And that includes hand-crafted cocktails including the Mantecan - a twist on the Manhattan using Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Lillet Rouge, and house-cured maraschino cherries to a Red Russian using Cold House Cherry Vodka, Kahlua, and a chocolate-dipped cherry.
Ernie’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. They are closed Sundays and Mondays. The restaurant is located at 1357 N. Main Street in Manteca.
They are taking reservations for a special New Year’s Eve dining experience.
For more information, go to www.erniesfoodandspirits.com or call (209) 239-3351.