Like many locals we tend to take our proximity to the wine country for granted. We are lucky to live in an area that people around the world dream of visiting. So every now and then we jump in the car and take a drive to remind ourselves of our good fortune.
On one such spur-of-the-moment day-trip, we found ourselves cruising up Highway 121 through the Carneros region between Sonoma and Napa–top down on the convertible and tunes cranked up as we took in the gorgeous scenery. It was mid-day and lunch was on everyone’s mind, when we saw the sign for the Fremont Diner.
I have noticed this place for years. Chef/Owner Chad Harris renovated and opened the diner in 2009, drawing the attention of Sunset Magazine two years later. It’s got a funky, updated 50’s vibe that oozes serious retro-charm. Located right off the highway, its parking lot is ALWAYS full, which is a positive sign. We turned into the dirt driveway and miraculously found a space right in front next to the old blue Chevy pick-up truck that welcomes arriving patrons.
We made our way to the back of the building where a large outdoor patio space overlooks the surrounding vineyards. Rows of brightly painted turquoise picnic tables shaded by umbrellas create a casual gathering space while inside the main building a small dining room decorated with kitschy farm-themed decor and counter seating overlooks the busy kitchen.
The Fremont is known for its “serious Southern-style food done with distinct local sensibilities”. Their menu features traditional “stick-to-your-ribs” specialties of that genre like biscuits & gravy, chicken & waffle, shrimp & grits, Hangtown fry, and hushpuppies–with a local twist. The restaurant sources its ingredients–produce, cheese, meat, bread and more–from local producers including Vella Cheese, Marin Sun Farms, Clover Stornetta, Della Fattoria, County Line Organics and a host of others. They also feature locally made wines and brews as well as old-fashioned hand dipped milkshakes and floats. Desserts include house-made butterscotch pudding, caramel cake, and seasonal fruit pies to die for.
I had the Vella Grilled Cheese with melted Toma, Sage Asiago, and porcini spread on Della Fattoria bread, with organic mixed greens in a light vinaigrette dressing. Delicious! My son tried the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich with house-cured pickles, while my husband went for the giant Fremont Burger with Five Dot Ranch beef and hand cut fries. We washed it all down with sweet-tart fresh lemonade served in trendy mason jar glasses.
Though the service was a bit harried and inattentive, it didn’t detract from the food, festive atmosphere, and beautiful wine-country setting that surrounded us. Try going on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
The Fremont diner (2698 Fremont Drive, Sonoma, 707-938-7370) is open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch Monday-Wednesday 8:00am-3:00pm; Thursday-Sunday 8:00am-9:00pm. email@example.com.