Slowly but inexorably, Sonoma is turning into Napa. Upscale spa resorts are replacing rustic bed and breakfast inns, and the grizzled winemaker in overalls is morphing into the Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Yearning for the old Sonoma? Pay a visit to The Fremont Diner.
Despite being so evocative of the past, the Fremont Diner actually opened in July 2009. The interior consists of a charming, remodeled shack, complete with a country gift shop. Outside, picnic tables shaded under umbrellas provide seating for larger groups. No reservations are accepted, and the wait can extend up to one hour during peak meal times.
If you like pork products, you’ll love the Fremont Diner. Bacon, sausage, tasso, pulled pork or other swine variations appear in 16 menu dishes (out of a possible 44). Does bacon really enhance the taste of an Oyster Sandwich or a bowl of Shrimp & Grits? In some cases, you’ll never find out: while the kitchen is willing to omit the pork in some items, it occasionally displays inflexibility reminiscent of the diner scene in “Five Easy Pieces.” Enthusiasm for bacon is also required by the fact that the dish you order is not always what you receive. And if you don’t get enough, you can buy a bacon air freshener in the gift shop.
Underneath the biker aspirations of the place (water and soft drinks are served in Mason jars), the Fremont Diner is very much a restaurant of the new millennium. The menu is strictly farm-to table, featuring the bounty of Sonoma (Bellweather ricotta, Vella asiago, Commanche Creek tomatoes) responsibly sourced. All that bacon and sausage is house made. And on any given day, you’re more likely to see a collection of Millennials and Gen-Xers than a phalanx of dangerous road warriors.
The Fremont Diner is a nice antidote to the upscale, elegant eateries sprouting up all over Sonoma—most of which are very good, but none of which possess the character and charm of this place. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and try that Pacific Coast Oyster Sandwich. With or without the bacon, it’s damn good.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is forthcoming from Black Opal Books in Spring 2016. For more information, go to amazon.com