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REVIEW (w/Foodie Porn Pix and Flix!): Fremont Diner - a Gem in Sonoma

Bon Vivant Jan 28, 2010 04:40 PM

For Foodie Porn Pix and Flix click: http://myculinaryadventures.blogspot....

A preview of coming attractions: a close-up of the insanely good pulled pork sandwich.

How many times have I driven by the Fremont Diner on my way to SF or Petaluma and wondered, "hm, I wonder what that place is?" Many. Recently I noticed that the old wood shack (which used to be Babe's Burgers) that looked a drab Army barrack had been painted a fresh bright white and there were a bunch of yuppie cars in the parking lot. Swore to self that I would definitely check it out. Didn't even have time since on the same day I was invited to join Peggy for lunch later that week.

Another view of the ridiculously good pulled pork sandwich with the best onion rings I've had maybe ever.

I had done a little research ahead of time and discovered that the thing to order is the Nashville Hot Chicken (fried chicken served on a piece of bread that soaks up all of the grease from the chicken - divine!) Uh, oh, the chicken was not on the menu but there were twenty other things that I wanted to order (I believe that the menu changes daily).

I limited myself to only three items and asked about the Nashville Hot Chicken. The lady at the counter was so nice and she offered to have the kitchen make me an order. This was the best fried chicken that I've had yet in the Bay Area! Although it was a tad bit greasy, the crust was uber crispy and flavorful and the chicken tender and juicy. The ultimate test was that it tasted even better the next day.

Salad or macaroni and cheese as a side? What do you think this noodle whore ordered?

My only complaint was the the mac n cheese didn't have enough cheese in it but I took home the left-overs and added a bit more cheese before heating and it morphed into extremely good creamy mac n cheese.

The charcuterie platter speaks for itself:

From left to right: Prosciutto with wine marinated prunes; chorizo with Mahon, pistachios, and chopped quince; bresciola with fresh grapefruit and balsamic drizzle; and sopressata with pickled onions.

Not only was this one of the most fantastic tasting charcuterie platters that I have in a long time, it was also one of the most beautifully presented.

Well, I felt obligated to order something "healthy" and opted for the Gardner's Open Faced Sandwich instead of the Cincinnati Chili. While this sandwich did not have the cajones of the pulled pork sammie, it was still quite lovely (to look at and eat!) Shaved fennel, radish, and onion with a hint of dill were served over some great bread slathered with goat cheese. Definitely a great option for a vegetarian or someone who wants to eat light.

Fremont Diner
2698 Fremont Drive
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-7370

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Fremont Diner
2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

  1. m
    mrs bacon Apr 1, 2011 06:17 PM

    A few recent reviews on Yelp indicate that something has changed (and not for the better) with the chicken and waffles. As we're going up there on Sunday, I'm curious to know if I should order something else. Has anyone been in the last couple weeks that could report?

    2 Replies
    1. re: mrs bacon
      Civil Bear Apr 1, 2011 10:14 PM

      I finally got to try Fremont Diner a couple of days ago. The black pepper brisket was pretty good and my son in law enjoyed his house cured pastrami Ruben. It looks like they are using mostly almond wood in the smoker.

      Wish I had made it in time for breakfast though.

      -----
      Fremont Diner
      2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

      1. re: mrs bacon
        a
        Andrew H Apr 1, 2011 10:21 PM

        The story I got was that the bacon and cheddar waffles were killing their waffle irons. So no more B&C waffles just plain ones which are also good.

      2. p
        pickypicky Mar 3, 2011 11:19 AM

        The BEST bacon and BEST grits I've ever tasted. The BEST. That said, please be wary of their breakfast potatoes which are french fries (fresh cut or pseudo fresh cut) glommed with raw garlic. (That's a wake-up call.) My Sig-Oth sent those back and asked for fresh fries w/o garlic and those were just fine. Good coffee, great biscuits (bring your own honey), perfectly fried eggs. Lots of outdoor dining when the weather complies. Praise Jesus. It's all better than good enough.

        1. Robert Lauriston Mar 2, 2011 06:01 PM

          Now serving beer and wine!

          http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            c oliver Mar 2, 2011 06:38 PM

            Cool :) So far we've only had breakfast there but a glass of wine at lunch will be good. Thanks, Robert.

          2. c oliver Feb 17, 2011 02:20 PM

            I'm always glad to weigh in with praise for FD. I like the food so much, I've not paid particular attention to the decor. So far we've only had breakfast there and loved it. Really good grits. I was talking to the man/chef/owner? about the grits. They used to grind themselves but they became so popular they couldn't keep up. Now they mix two different Anson Mills ones. I'm from Atlanta originally and can be a quite harsh judge of grits. There's are the real deal. In nice weather we enjoy sitting outside also.

            1. p
              pickypicky Feb 16, 2011 11:17 AM

              Live in Sonoma and finally ate at Fremont. What in the world was I waiting for??!!?? This is the kind of place the world just flat out needs more of. Damn good food, no bullshit themes and silly fakey decor which are Napa and Sonoma restaurant staples, a dining room with light on three sides, plenty of parking, and damn good food. I had the Tamales Bay Oyster Po-Boy; chef husband had the Pulled Pork Sandwich. My oh my. Perfection. Both. As was our Biscuit First Course with homemade Marmalade. I cannot remember ever eating an Oyster Po Boy where the Oysters were as fresh and full of flavor; outsinging the remoulade and bacon partners. The smoke on the pork outsung the too-much sauce and in the end, subdued it. My only regret was that I was too full for dessert. I'm a Southerner, and an old crusty critical one at that. I've only been once, but the Fremont honors all the things I love without making them silly caricatures of themselves. (Any CA place that stocks Dublin Dr Pepper is on my good side.) Thank God I live in Sonoma.

              18 Replies
              1. re: pickypicky
                Robert Lauriston Feb 16, 2011 11:24 AM

                I think the decor's kind of silly, but I like the pork-centric theme, and with food that good, they can decorate any way they want. The only thing I'd change would be to add beer.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  p
                  pickypicky Feb 16, 2011 12:15 PM

                  It felt very bible-belt homey to me, and I actually didn't notice any decor. I liked the crudely lettered signs outside saying things like "Fried Pies" that looked like Forrest Gump had painted. I may be wrong-- but I think I saw an alcohol application in the window yesterday.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Junie D Feb 16, 2011 12:24 PM

                    I agree the decor is silly, and I would add cutesy. They seem to be trying too hard for that "down home" feel, and it comes off as totally fake. Jars for glasses? Please. BUT don't let the decor prevent you from eating their fantastic food.

                    1. re: Junie D
                      p
                      pickypicky Feb 17, 2011 08:27 AM

                      Compared to, say, the Provencal kitsch at girl and the fig, the Fremont is buck naked. Jars for glasses is a southern tradition because they are sturdy and cheap (not to mention the use of empty jars as glassware in European neighborhood dives.) Maybe any southern touches would be too much for the sophistication of a Northern Californian foodie, but for me, the authentic bits are a reminder of home. Thank goodness we agree on the food!

                      1. re: pickypicky
                        rworange Feb 17, 2011 09:02 AM

                        Damn Yankees ... oh, wait ... I'm one from Connecticut ... and the decor at FD never struck me as over the top. I like sitting at the counter watching what is going on in the kitchen or out by the picnic tables. FD is on the top of my short list of places I want to eat when I return to CA ... ooooh ... salad that doesn't involve iceberg or roma tomatoes. Hope that liquor license gets approved ... beer that isn't Gallo ... or taste like it.

                        1. re: pickypicky
                          Junie D Feb 17, 2011 09:14 AM

                          Having spent years in the south, I have eaten at plenty of restaurants there (and elsewhere in the world) that use jars for glasses. If this was part of a restaurant that purported to offer authentic, traditional, old-school, etc, southern cuisine, then fine. But Fremont is obviously a cal-southern place, not totally traditional or authentic, which is one of the things that makes it great. I do think the decor makes "silly caricatures" of southern restaurants. Forrest Gump is a fictional character. But I am glad you like it.

                          I agree about Provencal kitsch and, for that matter, all the Tuscan kitsch in Northern California. Why do we have to pretend we are somewhere else? What's wrong with Norcal? Perhaps getting off topic here, but I am reminded of an interview I heard with Rene Redzepi of Noma. He discussed how he was impressed with Bay Area food, but that our food was based on other cuisines and we had yet to develop our own native sort of cuisine. I think the example he gave was that creme brulee made with fabulous Bay Area ingredients is still a French dish.

                          1. re: Junie D
                            rworange Feb 17, 2011 09:46 AM

                            California doesn't need to create its own cuisine, only improve on everyone elses.

                            I'm sorry, I'm just not getting this about FD decor. being a caricature. Do you want worn down and tired with servers with big hair to be authentic ... I'll bet you'd call that even more of a caricature.

                            I't is comfy and not exactly covered with kitsch, only a few things here and there. As you mentioned, the food is Cal-Southern and so is the decor.

                            I mean really ... we are talking four tables and three counter seats ... how obnoxious can that be?

                          2. re: pickypicky
                            Robert Lauriston Feb 17, 2011 09:30 AM

                            I like the decor, but it's as fake as Disneyland. Three years ago, the place was an authentic run-down dive burger joint. If it reminds you of home, that's a tribute to the decorator.

                            They don't use real jars, those are mugs with handles.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              Junie D Feb 17, 2011 10:19 AM

                              You are right, they are not actual jars but those glass mugs that are supposed to look like jars. Disneyland sums it up perfectly - with great food.

                              1. re: Junie D
                                rworange Feb 17, 2011 03:15 PM

                                Well, I guess a picture is worth a thousand (untrue) words. People can judge for themselves.

                                Despite, al the backsliding with "but they have great food", characterizing it as having Cracker Barrel decor might put some people off and as a result miss a great place to eat.

                                Diner in Estaline, TX
                                http://www.hallcountytexas.com/EstellineTexasDiner_eve3.jpg

                                Fremont Diner
                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/bwalsh/4109616874/in/photostream/

                                Midpoint Cafe, Adrian Texas
                                http://www.legendsofamerica.com/tx-adrian.html

                                Fremont Diner
                                http://winecountryweekender.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/fremont-diner.jpg

                                http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/photo_list/1505322?photo_id=173964

                                http://virgoblue.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/p1000614.jpg

                                Lots of Southern places just have knick knacks.

                                Chalkboard menu and order window
                                http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/michaelbauer/files/2010/07/Fremont-ordering.jpg

                                Housemade jams and pickles
                                http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_X-AEWAPC0b0/TRzmXWqXyoI/AAAAAAAACGM/M40V4Tp0FfY/s1600/STP64420.JPG

                                The "fancy-shmansy" mason jar glasses
                                http://localpairings.blogspot.com/2010/08/whole-hog-sandwich-salad.html

                                I have to agree with Michael Bauer on this one
                                http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                "The building and the leisurely pace feels like a throwback to another era. It’s called a diner, but it really looks more like an old Tastee Freez with an order counter and some seating inside. Outside, there are 10 aqua picnic tables in an adjoining lot that overlooks vineyards and the highway. Even if the food wasn’t good, this place would be alluring,"

                                Disney-esque? I'm not seeing it.And others can check out the photo links and judge for themselves.

                                1. re: rworange
                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 17, 2011 03:49 PM

                                  Whoever decorated it did a great job of creating that atmosphere. It's a good fit for that style of food and (with the possible exception of the pickup truck) not too campy. My only objection is to calling that sort of faux-retro stagecraft "authentic."

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    rworange Feb 17, 2011 04:16 PM

                                    The owner is into old trucks from what I read. I mean, are you going to take a shot at the dog as well ... maybe he went out and bought an old dog just to do the stereotype of a Southern joint with a dog.

                                    It made the poster think of home. Old Port Lobster Shack reminds me of home in New England. Nobody dies if that is their feeling and opinion ... and I'm telling you, if OPLS is closed when I get home I am NOT going to be a happy campler. I go away a few months and everything I liked closes.

                                    1. re: rworange
                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 17, 2011 04:45 PM

                                      If the truck runs and the guy drives to work in it, that's not campy.

                                      There was a big line ahead of us last time. Turned out it was a big group of vegans, they had a good look at the menu and left without ordering.

                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      c oliver Feb 17, 2011 04:43 PM

                                      Silly me. I always assumed he/they drive it to work every day.

                                    3. re: rworange
                                      Junie D Feb 18, 2011 05:48 AM

                                      Thanks for taking the time to illustrate my point with that exhaustive photo-essay featuring the silly jar/mugs, and - my favorite - the preserves housed in a chicken wire coop.

                                      1. re: Junie D
                                        rworange Feb 18, 2011 06:11 AM

                                        Like I said, people can look at the photos and make up their own minds if it is homey or yped. Those are pretty tasty preserves.

                                        1. re: rworange
                                          p
                                          pickypicky Feb 18, 2011 10:00 AM

                                          Campy and contrived doesn't make me think. Authenticity-- even unexpected authenticity-- does. What I found myself thinking as we drove away from the Fremont Diner, besides why the hell hadn't I gotten a fried pie to go, was that southern food is as Californian as Italian, Mexican, and Asian cuisines are. It's what the Navy exiles brought to San Diego, the Blacks to San Francisco in the Great Migration, and the Dust Bowl Okies to the Valley. Whatever the owner's background, the food is made with love and understanding-- and the decor was not bought with investors' millions. I have NEVER had an oyster po-boy that good in all my 60 years, many of which were spent in East Texas and Louisiana. My chef husband, who more often than not leaves more on his plate than he eats, inhaled his pulled pork sandwich even as he complained it had a bit too much sauce. Couple that with the fact that last year we ate in a great barbecue joint in Natchez MS which was the Fremont's twin in appearance, down to the jar mugs. That's why, it reminds me of home. A kind of generic joint I've been in across the American south that does what may be one of the hardest things on this planet to do: serve beautifully made food that makes you eat too much and want to go back the next day for more. Hallelujah, Fremont Diner. Lucky Sonoma you're here!

                                          -----
                                          Fremont Diner
                                          2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

                                          1. re: pickypicky
                                            Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2011 10:34 AM

                                            The stellar quality of the food is one of the things that's not authentic about the place, as are the location the originality of some of the dishes, the detailed information sometimes provided about the provenance of the ingredients, and the expensive boutique produce and meat.

                                            Though except for price, the latter is similar to old-school rural restaurants that get their supplies from nearby farms.

                        2. f
                          fred42 Dec 14, 2010 02:23 PM

                          All of you have got to be kidding about this place. The spicy fried chicken was not spicy at all. The thigh was bloody at the bone. My friend had the mac and cheese. Only OK. At the price a rip. The waffle did not have heated syrup, a major sin in my book. I will NOT be coming back to this place. The other thing is no beer or wine. Come on you are in the wine country for god sake.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: fred42
                            rworange Dec 14, 2010 07:29 PM

                            What are some of your favorite restaurnats in the area?

                            1. re: fred42
                              Robert Lauriston Dec 14, 2010 07:38 PM

                              The mac and cheese was the one thing I've had that I would not recommend.

                              1. re: fred42
                                m
                                Missmoo Feb 17, 2011 10:06 AM

                                I have to agree that while I didn't think it was "a rip" I was not impressed with the spicy fried chicken. The crust was hard and not spicy and the chicken was not as tender as I expected. I still thought it was okay but not great. Also, I was disappointed about the no wine and beer and the fact they only had some cookies for dessert and the last one was sold as I stepped up to the counter. Just wish they had a slightly larger menu with a couple of dessert offerings (and wine and beer, but I could get over that part)

                                1. re: Missmoo
                                  rworange Feb 17, 2011 10:32 AM

                                  They sell out early on the desserts. It's not only cookies, but fried pies and various other things. The fresh fruit popsicles are fabulous.

                                  1. re: Missmoo
                                    Robert Lauriston Feb 17, 2011 02:42 PM

                                    When I've been there, they've always had a variety of desserts: cake, fried pie, milkshakes, ice cream sandwiches, cookies, pastries. I think we've always gotten there after 2.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      m
                                      Missmoo Mar 3, 2011 01:02 PM

                                      Guess, I was just unlucky! I'll definitely give it another chance, especially now that they have beer and wine;)

                                2. d
                                  dkenworthy Nov 15, 2010 03:53 PM

                                  We just had breakfast there yesterday, and it was delicious. I had the baked egg, grits, and chile verde, my husband had the "kitchen sink" (eggs, fried chicken breast, gravy, biscuits, ham). He loved it, it was a little over the top for my taste. But my chile verde was excellent, as were the grits (an old favorite that they do really well here). They were out of drip coffee (no filters), so I had iced tea. My only beef with the place is that their tap water is well-nigh undrinkable (very salty), and I hate to buy bottled water (which they sell). Even the iced tea was noticeably salty. If only they would invest in a reverse osmosis treatment, it would be a perfect spot.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dkenworthy
                                    rabaja Nov 15, 2010 09:31 PM

                                    I love this place too, and I TOTALLY agree about the water.
                                    It's gotten better over the last year, but damn, it's almost undrinkable.

                                  2. Robert Lauriston Nov 15, 2010 08:20 AM

                                    Showed up Saturday an hour before closing time, long line, but it turned out that it was a big group of vegans who not surprisingly decided to go elsewhere. BLT was the best ever, great toasted white bread from Della Fattoria. Cuban sandwich was untraditional but delicious, served on some sort of crunchy ciabatta roll, big helpings of pork and ham. My companion had fried chicken with bacon-cheddar waffles, both were good though I don't get that dish. Great potato salad and broccoli di ciccia.

                                    This place is so great.

                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                    1. m
                                      mrs bacon Aug 24, 2010 10:19 AM

                                      Went twice last week for breakfast. Day one, I had the smoked brisket hash, which was delicious. I really do not like hash with too many vegetables, and this one was right on -- only potatoes and onions. For the second breakfast I had to try the chicken and waffle. This was two pieces of nicely fried chicken resting on a delicious waffle (buttermilk, I think). Both pieces were breasts, and I would have probably preferred to have a piece each of white and dark meat. But the chicken was nicely fried, judiciously seasoned and not greasy at all. I'll be back to try lunch for sure.

                                      1. rabaja Aug 23, 2010 06:33 PM

                                        Stopped in for lunch today after many months away from this place.
                                        Had a tomato and ricotta toast with a generous amount of pickled onions served on the side. Also had a small side of collards, they were pretty good and all in all it was a satisfying meal. Not too heavy but enough to fuel me up after a morning picking mulberries.
                                        The toast was generous and the ricotta was lovely. It was completely covered in halved sun golds.
                                        My friend ordered the cracklings to share. Best I've ever had, even better than Fatted Calfs.
                                        They seem to be improving their ice tea and drinking water too.
                                        All that for $8. Good deal.

                                        1. Robert Lauriston Aug 16, 2010 10:29 AM

                                          Wow, this place is great. Diner and BBQ joint classics made with the finest ingredients and executed with great skill—roadhouse a la Alice Waters. Pulled pork and coleslaw sandwich, spicy fried chicken, collards, cornbread, potato salad, cucumber pickles, pickled fennel. pork crackling, all stupendous. The mac and cheese that came with the chicken was just OK, I'd sub something else next time.

                                          Very reasonable prices given the quality. Worth a long detour. One more plus for Sonoma over Napa.

                                          I guess it's open 7am to 3pm ... seven days?

                                          -----
                                          Fremont Diner
                                          2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

                                           
                                           
                                           
                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            rworange Aug 16, 2010 10:48 AM

                                            Glad you stopped by finally Robert. Get the fresh fruit popsicles next time and the fried chicken is great. The last I read it was open those hours. If not, i'll update the Restaurant record.

                                            1. re: rworange
                                              josquared Aug 16, 2010 01:21 PM

                                              I also stopped by there for the first time finally a couple weeks back after a longish run workout (if nothing else, my running hobby gets me in the vicinity places all over the Bay Area.)

                                              Didn't have all that Robert had (just the pork sandwich, coleslaw & potato salad) but it was all delish and I would like to go back for more.

                                          2. m
                                            Mick Ruthven Jul 11, 2010 09:51 PM

                                            I had their pulled pork sandwich today and it might be the best one I've ever had. It came with their barbecue sauce on the meat and cole slaw on top, both of which I usually avoid, but this time it all worked and was just about perfect. The barbecue sauce is possibly the best I've ever tasted; quite rich and complex with some sweet notes and some hot notes, just great. The smoked pork flavor came right through the sauce; great meat.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Mick Ruthven
                                              d
                                              Dan Wodarcyk Jul 12, 2010 09:58 PM

                                              And possibly the best fried chicken as well, the Nashville Hot. I thought the same re: the pulled pork. Need to try their cheesy grits and I've yet to have left room for dessert. I have to force myself to try something different next time.

                                              1. re: Mick Ruthven
                                                m
                                                Mick Ruthven Jul 13, 2010 06:45 AM

                                                I forgot to mention the small side of pickled fennel which was just perfect with the barbecue.

                                                Here are a few pics. The one of the pulled pork sandwich doesn't make evident the generous portion of the pork.

                                                http://ruthvenphotos.com/fremontdiner

                                              2. rworange Jan 28, 2010 07:54 PM

                                                Thanks for the update.Great photos.I love anything pickled there. I haven't been in a few months. Do you kno. w if the Sunday thing worked out? They started opening on Sunday but did it during the winter, so I'm not sure if they gave up on Sunday or not

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: rworange
                                                  Bon Vivant Jan 30, 2010 08:45 AM

                                                  I haven't heard anything to the contrary so I assume that they are still open on Sundays. I'll be driving by next Sun morning on my way to the city so I'll check it out (I would love to stop by and have breakfast - I've heard that their breakfasts are divine.)

                                                  1. re: Bon Vivant
                                                    s
                                                    syrahgirl Jan 30, 2010 08:58 AM

                                                    Sounds like a great place! Would you have any suggestions for the best lunch spot in Santa Rosa, we're going in March? Willi's, Syrah Bistro, Flavors, which place has the best food? :)

                                                  2. re: rworange
                                                    Bon Vivant Feb 7, 2010 02:43 PM

                                                    I drove by this morning and the parking lot was pretty full so Sundays are obviously working for them.

                                                    1. re: Bon Vivant
                                                      rworange Feb 7, 2010 05:13 PM

                                                      Thanks for checking. These days I never get up that way until after they close. However, If I have my heart and stomach set to eat there it is good to know it is open.

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