Dano’s Heuriger in Lodi: Old Fashioned Cuisine with a Modern Twist (Diner Out Review)
Lodi, NY – At the base of the farmer’s plate at Dano’s Heuriger in Lodi is a 1 inch thick smoked pork chop. Simply seasoned and tender with a fork, most of us would have settled for that as a meal. Apparently Austrian farmers weren’t because it was followed by grilled sausage and pork belly with a hearty serving of sauerkraut.
Together, it was a classic representation of Austrian and German pork preparations: rich pork belly, savory salty sausage, smoked pork chop, and tangy sauerkraut that permeated every layer of the dish. Boiled bread dumplings, or knödel, filled in layers between like a stuffing. It’s a high-calorie, yesteryear meal used to replenish the body after a day on the farm, but not so old-fashioned that it doesn’t fit into today’s modern kitchen.
Perched on the side of a hill overlooking Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes wine country, Dano’s traditional Austro-German menu fits perfectly with the concept of farm-to-table dining. The original Dano was in the Ithaca region; his namesake Dano Hutnik (pronounced Day-no) opened the restaurant with his wife and pastry chef, Karen Gilman in 1990 before moving to Lodi in 2005. Hutnik was a two-time James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for best chef. from the North East. He passed away in 2018.
Dano’s location is an ideal stopover for a road trip while exploring the vineyards on the east side of Seneca Lake. So far we have visited the west shore of Seneca Lake, Moraine Lake and Lake Ontario, as well as the lakeside community of Sodus. Lodi is 30 minutes south of Waterloo and 20 minutes north of Watkins Glen.
A Heuriger (pronounced hoy-rig-er) is an Austrian tavern that pairs locally produced wines with simple rustic dishes like bread, cheese, and spreads. We started with cocktails, including two house specials ($ 12 each) – The Local, made with ginger vodka, beets and prosecco served on ice; and the Austrian, made with gin, white meleau, grapefruit, ginger, Angostura bitters and white pepper, served. With barely a blender in sight, the drinks created a powerful base for the evening.
Spreads ($ 4 for one; $ 10 for three) are displayed in a box near the entrance. Served with homemade breads ($ 6), we opted for the liptauer, Hotel Sacher and lemon artichoke varieties. Made with feta and cream cheese, the liptauer is loaded with paprika, onion, garlic, and caraway. Paprika dominated every bite, with a mild, slightly smoky flavor to complement the salty milk.
Hotel Sacher, named after the Viennese hotel, mixes hard-boiled eggs, pickles, capers, dijon, lemon and cream cheese. The eggs and dill imparted a flavor similar to a picnic potato salad, providing a stark contrast to the liptauer.
The lemon artichoke was crisp and summery, with the artichokes almost mashed. It wasn’t quite smooth, but it lacked the texture and weight of the vegetable.
Dano’s has six different sausages on the menu across the region. The Sausage Sampler ($ 25) offers a selection of four wursts: currywurst, bauernwurst, bratwurst and smoked Hungarian. Our favorite of the bunch was the currywurst, which was part smoky, part spicy and part sweet, and paired well with the homemade curry ketchup.
Garlic and ginger were the most obvious flavors of bauernwurst, a smoked beef and pork sausage. Beef and veal stood out in the bratwurst, with milder flavors of nutmeg and ginger, complemented by homemade horseradish mustard. The red paprika offered a bit of sweetness to the Hungarian smoked sausage, a mixture of pork, bacon fat, garlic and pepper.
The daily variety of goulash ($ 26.95) included a Viennese chicken stew with chanterelles, fennel, and dill. The chicken medallions split effortlessly with a fork and were slowly cooked in a creamy sauce that’s chock-full of fresh herbs and earthy mushrooms. The sauce gave depth to the perfectly cooked spätzle, a dumpling of eggs steamed then sautéed in butter.
Späetzle also absorbed the tomato root vegetable sauce from the baked haddock special ($ 23.95). Summer squash and fresh zucchini were sautéed with tomatoes before baking for a flavorful, tender, flaky haddock.
The gugelhupf ($ 8) caught our eye when we entered. It’s a marbled pound cake with a sour cherry sauce, using sour fruits for sweetness and acidic brightness. A more modern option was buttermilk panna cotta ($ 8), where egg custard met poached apricots and bee pollen.
Cups of Viennese coffee ($ 6) were more than appropriate accompaniments, combining filter coffee, brown sugar, rum, and whipped cream with an ice cream flavor profile without the sugary sweetness.
The restaurant culture, which reflects a very laid back attitude, contrasted with the emphasis on flavor. The experience follows the European tradition of sobremesa, where lingering at the table after a meal is encouraged. Eating is not just eating; it’s an event that brings people together around a meal and a drink. Add to that the picturesque lake views and you will see why Hutnik fell in love with Seneca Lake and how this restaurant sells its reservations every weekend.
Restaurant: Heuriger de Dano, 9564 Route 414, Lodi, NY 14860; (607) 582-7555.
Reservations? Mandatory by phone.
Access for the disabled: The only obstacle we noted was a gravel parking lot.
Credit card? Yes.
Car park: Large private car park.
Outdoor dining available? Yes. The outdoor patio is covered and you can request a table when booking.
Noise level: We had dinner outside so it was quite low. With the high ceilings inside, we imagine it’s manageable.
Special diets covered? We have found a number of items to satisfy vegetarians and those on a dairy and gluten free diet. The kitchen does not have a special preparation area.
Children’s menu? No.
Hours: 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday; From noon to 8:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday to Wednesday.
Cost: Our total for four people with cocktails, appetizers, main course and dessert, plus taxes and 20% tip (included in total), was $ 358.10.