The Fremont Diner — As Good As It Gets
Sure, I have an appreciation for pull-out-all-the-stops tasting menus in which chefs maneuver and manipulate food into high art.
But it takes a place like The Fremont Diner to remind us all how wonderful the simple, the bare bones and the pared down can be.
I’m talking the perfect crumbly buttermilk biscuit you can’t wait to tear into, and a thick, spicy tomato soup served in a heavy coffee mug with a spoon — all enjoyed on a picnic table underneath a tented patio.
Surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards on the Sonoma side of the Carneros wine region, The Fremont Diner evokes nostalgia from the get-go with its rusty pick-up truck parked outside and its wood-slatted building with its swinging front-porch door.
My husband and I dropped by a few weeks ago, paying our tab at the end of a most soul-satisfying meal.
Breakfast is what everyone comes for, and you’ll have to queue up for that. We arrived later in the day for lunch and were seated immediately.
This is comfort food made with farm-fresh, local ingredients. Caterer Chad Harris took over the spot in 2009 and it’s been a hit ever since. He’s a self-taught cook with pitch-perfect instincts.
Yes, a biscuit is a must-order. My husband and I shared the Chicken Biscuit ($4.99). Snuggled inside the tender biscuit is is a piece of fried chicken breast with a substantial, crackling, crisp crust. Coleslaw and perky pickles add even more crunch. It’s the kind of old-fashioned, finger-food that will never go out of fashion. Our server, a beanpole of a guy, said he’s hard pressed not to eat one of them a day. I can totally understand why.
Grilled Cheese ($9.99) doesn’t get much better than this — not when its foundation are two slabs of bread from one of my favorite bakeries, Della Fattoria in Petaluma. The bread is so good I can just eat it plain. But load it up with Vella asiago, toma and mezzo seco, sage and truffles, and it’s a bombshell. Alongside is that mug of spicy tomato soup, the kind you longed for as a kid anytime anything was wrong — but so much deeper in flavor.
My husband opted for the Whole Hog ($10.99), house-smoked pulled pork slathered in barbecue sauce on a pillowy potato bun that came with a small side of tender cattle beans. The hearty sandwich was piled high with tender, smoke-kissed meat — just the kind of lunch you want on a sunny, but chilly winter afternoon.
We lingered for awhile after the last bite. After all, it’s hard to leave a place like The Fremont Diner, where simple is not only good, but sublime.
More: A Look at Della Fattoria