brr

Dining in Napa, Sonoma, North Bay, and Sacramento

145 posts in this topic

Better still is Oenotri in Napa - it's along the lines of 2 Amys, and right up there with it in terms of quality. The seasonal vegetables (salads, etc.) here are terrific.

I went to have lunch at Oenotri today (the one "must" restaurant I've found in Napa; unfortunately, today I found it closed).

Driven by unseasonably cold weather, I went to another restaurant in the same charming little promenade, Grace's Table, by Chef-Owner Mauro Pando, and (according to the website) recognized as a "Bib Gourmand" in the Michelin guide - which surprises me because quite frankly, it isn't cheap, especially not for lunch.

Their website says they focus on "France, Italy, and The Americas," and based on what I saw and had today, I would limit that focus to "The Americas," in particular, South America, Central America, and Mexico, because that seems to be the restaurant's strength.

My dining companion started out with an Iced Tea ($3.00, cheerfully refilled without asking) which seemed ever-so-slightly infused with a fruit, but it was so subtle it was impossible to tell what it was; I had a glass of Apricot-Infused Soju ($9.00) which was pretty much as you'd expect: a fairly neutral spirit, with a predominance of apricots - really good, fresh, apricots. When we ordered the drinks, we also ordered the top-teaser item on the menu, Iron Skillet Cornbread ($6.00) with lavender honey butter. I had ordered 4 pieces for $9 (instead of 2 pieces for $6), thinking I'd take half of it back to have with my coffee the next morning, but unfortunately, our first food item arrived, with the cornbread nowhere to be seen: they had forgotten the order. So, I reminded them at that time, and they got the size wrong - a mistake, but no big deal. The cornbread was excellent, and really only needed about 25% of the butter that it came with. If you dine here, get the cornbread, no matter what else you order - it really is that good.

We ordered three items to split, and I realized I had erred in not asking for one of them to be served first, alone, before the other two. Fortunately, the kitchen was astute enough to make this decision for us, and it's a good thing because it simply would have clashed. A Seared Ahi Salad ($17) was an upscale version of a Salade Nií§oise, something I'm an absolute sucker for. I remember thinking, about ten years ago, that someone needs to take this classic salad and make it with sushi-grade tuna - about five years afterwards, I saw one at Marvin in 14UP, have seen several of them since, and order them whenever I get the chance. Although this was brutally expensive, it was a good version, coming with two bigger-than-sashimi pieces of lean tuna, and upscale renditions of panko-crusted soft-boiled egg, sliced fingerling potatoes, haricots vertsNií§oise olives (pitted), frisée and máche, in a lemon vinaigrette. At the price, I don't regret ordering it, but probably wouldn't get it a second time - it was very good, but not outstanding.

The next two items are probably overlooked by Californians, but in my opinion, would both be the best examples of their type in all of Washington, DC. Fish Tacos ($15) were insanely expensive for two medium-sized tacos, but were simply outstanding in the two most important areas: the house-made tortillas, and the "catch of the day" (which was, I believe, Mahi-Mahi). The accoutrements - a little white cheddar, black beans, pico de gallo that could have been a bit fresher, and house slaw with a bit too much buttermilk chili-lime dressing - were all good enough not to detract from the two stars of the show, but not so good that you'd write home about them (which, come to think about it, is exactly what I'm doing right now). At $7.50 per taco, you have every right to do a gut check, but these were possibly better than any fish tacos I've had outside of California (talking about both California California, and Baja California). A rich man's dalliance, to be sure.

This was getting to be quite a substantial lunch, and when the Southwest Tamale ($19) arrived, I knew it would remain unfinished. Again, this was a lot of money, but in this case it was also a lot of food: a beautiful corn husk stuffed with fantastic corn masa, chipotle pulled pork shoulder, green chili, black beans (on the side, room temperature, in a little tub), Jack cheese, chili-lime slaw with a little too much mayonnaise, cilantro-lime dressing, and cascabel chili sauce which is, to the best of my recollection, the first time I've ever eaten cascabel chilis. The other two dishes were close calls as to value, but as expensive as this was (nineteen dollars for a single tamale), this was probably the best tamale I've ever eaten, and it's a damned shame that most of it went *un*eaten because we were both just too full - as I type this, I'm cursing myself for not getting the rest of it to go.

The total lunch bill, including tax and tip, was $88.52. I guess there was more than enough food because this fantastic tamale was left about two-thirds unfinished - just be aware that if you eat here, my guess it that you might want to stick with Latino dishes, and accept the fact that you'll pay plenty for them (I looked around and saw what other people had, and while everything looked very good, I think we struck oil with the cornbread, the fish tacos, and the tamale).

Did I say something about a tamale? You know what? I think I'm going to go get one for carryout, right this minute.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just read this thread. 6 years years ago, it seems like a dinner for two at French Laundry approached $900. I wonder what it costs now. 4 years ago at Komi, I spent around $600, with the wine tasting.

What makes a meal worth $600-900 (maybe $1100 now?)? Has the rest of the country caught up, and so the marginal benefit of a place like French Laundry has become much smaller compared to the many fine restaurants in the country? I think you can get the whole menu at Rose's and a few good bottles of wine and be under $300.

I guess it's different, but Little Serow ends up running $150 for two with drinks... And I love that place. I wonder if it is 6-7 times better to go to French Laundry. Maybe for the ambience, service, and experience it is. But I'm not sure. I think 2-3 times sounds reasonable, but 6-7 seems like a lot.

Just seems with sourcing of foods, innovative chefs, discerning customers, the advent of social media in dining - I wonder if the so called best places in the country truly are the best? I wonder how Rose's would do if in Heald County, or how French Laundry would do in Capitol Hill (and if they could suspend the prices they charge).

But, man Don, you got a rich group of people on this website! :)

Simul

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just read this thread. 6 years years ago, it seems like a dinner for two at French Laundry approached $900. I wonder what it costs now. 4 years ago at Komi, I spent around $600, with the wine tasting.

What makes a meal worth $600-900 (maybe $1100 now?)? Has the rest of the country caught up, and so the marginal benefit of a place like French Laundry has become much smaller compared to the many fine restaurants in the country? I think you can get the whole menu at Rose's and a few good bottles of wine and be under $300.

I guess it's different, but Little Serow ends up running $150 for two with drinks... And I love that place. I wonder if it is 6-7 times better to go to French Laundry. Maybe for the ambience, service, and experience it is. But I'm not sure. I think 2-3 times sounds reasonable, but 6-7 seems like a lot.

Just seems with sourcing of foods, innovative chefs, discerning customers, the advent of social media in dining - I wonder if the so called best places in the country truly are the best? I wonder how Rose's would do if in Heald County, or how French Laundry would do in Capitol Hill (and if they could suspend the prices they charge).

But, man Don, you got a rich group of people on this website! :)

Simul

Simul, this isn't directed at you, I promise.

I'm not naming any names, but someone said to me, about a week ago, 'You can come over to my place, stay for five hours, and eat as much brisket as you want for $100.'

An awful lot of people think you can have a multi-course, multi-hour meal for $150 all-in that will be comparable to The French Laundry or Per Se; you simply cannot.

Diners do not realize how much certain restaurants are playing into their primal instincts under the guise of gourmet dining. There are some things I almost desperately want people to know, but I don't want to be the one to tell them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Simul, this isn't directed at you, I promise.

I'm not naming any names, but someone said to me, about a week ago, 'You can come over to my place, stay for five hours, and eat as much brisket as you want for $100.'

An awful lot of people think you can have a multi-course, multi-hour meal for $150 all-in that will be comparable to The French Laundry or Per Se; you simply cannot.

Diners do not realize how much certain restaurants are playing into their primal instincts under the guise of gourmet dining. There are some things I almost desperately want people to know, but I don't want to be the one to tell them.

I don't want to take this off course, but I don't understand what you're saying Don. I read the link but I don't get what you mean by primal instincts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't want to take this off course, but I don't understand what you're saying Don. I read the link but I don't get what you mean by primal instincts. 

It's okay, Jason, I'll split these posts off into a separate thread. I basically mean "what McDonald's helped to pioneer." They appeal to people's "primal cravings" of fat, sugar, salt, etc. What I really don't want to do is dangle some sort of carrot that I cannot (or, more accurately, "will not") back up with detail, because I've been not-so-subtly accused in the past of posting partial, vague information, basically being the jerk who says, "Ha, ha, ha, I know something that you don't know." What I'm trying to say to diners is, "Please educate yourselves, be a skeptic, and don't be fooled by something that tastes good as an arbiter of quality, or by the amount of food you get as being indicative of good value, because it's not (always) the case." And this has nothing to do with me being an educated diner, or me having a good palate; it's merely a direct result of me hearing things from employees and ex-employees of certain restaurants - it's that and nothing more, and it has nothing to do with taunting, or me being superior, or anything else other than wanting people to think for themselves and be educated to the maximum.

I really don't want to call out specific restaurants, but the truth is that I *do* know things that the average person doesn't; not because "I'm so smart and everyone else isn't," but because I hear things due to the position I'm in - from ex-line cooks, for example, or bartenders, or AGMs - things that would be pretty shocking if they came out and were substantiated because some of peoples' favorite restaurants would be knocked off of their pedestals, at least to some small degree. And make no mistake, I like these restaurants too! It's just that I have them in proper perspective because I do know things - insider-y things - about them, the shortcuts they take, the ingredients they use, the cooking methods they employ, etc. It doesn't mean they're bad by any means; but they're no French Laundry. And Bouchon serves frozen french fries, btw, or at least they used to, so please don't think I'm being a Thomas Keller acolyte. And who knows, maybe I'm even wrong about that - I hope this answers your question without me coming across as a schmuck-o. This is nothing I wouldn't tell you in person; I just don't want to broadcast these things here. So why do I mention this stuff at all, especially in such a coy fashion? In response to Simul's post - I want people to know that the rest of the country *hasn't* caught up, and I don't name names because I don't want to harm perfectly honorable businesses that I like, and who's to say that I'm even correct?

Cheers,

Rocks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's okay, Jason, I'll split these posts off into a separate thread. I basically mean "what McDonald's helped to pioneer." They appeal to people's "primal cravings" of fat, sugar, salt, etc. What I really don't want to do is dangle some sort of carrot that I cannot (or, more accurately, "will not") back up with detail, because I've been not-so-subtly accused in the past of posting partial, vague information, basically being the jerk who says, "Ha, ha, ha, I know something that you don't know." What I'm trying to say to diners is, "Please educate yourselves, be a skeptic, and don't be fooled by something that tastes good as an arbiter of quality, or by the amount of food you get as being indicative of good value, because it's not (always) the case." And this has nothing to do with me being an educated diner, or me having a good palate; it's merely a direct result of me hearing things from employees and ex-employees of certain restaurants - it's that and nothing more, and it has nothing to do with taunting, or me being superior, or anything else other than wanting people to think for themselves and be educated to the maximum.

I really don't want to call out specific restaurants, but the truth is that I *do* know things that the average person doesn't; not because "I'm so smart and everyone else isn't," but because I hear things due to the position I'm in - from ex-line cooks, for example, or bartenders, or AGMs - things that would be pretty shocking if they came out and were substantiated because some of peoples' favorite restaurants would be knocked off of their pedestals, at least to some small degree. And make no mistake, I like these restaurants too! It's just that I have them in proper perspective because I do know things - insider-y things - about them, the shortcuts they take, the ingredients they use, the cooking methods they employ, etc. It doesn't mean they're bad by any means; but they're no French Laundry. And Bouchon serves frozen french fries, btw, or at least they used to, so please don't think I'm being a Thomas Keller acolyte. And who knows, maybe I'm even wrong about that - I hope this answers your question without me coming across as a schmuck-o. This is nothing I wouldn't tell you in person; I just don't want to broadcast these things here. So why do I mention this stuff at all, especially in such a coy fashion? In response to Simul's post - I want people to know that the rest of the country *hasn't* caught up, and I don't name names because I don't want to harm perfectly honorable businesses that I like, and who's to say that I'm even correct?

Cheers,

Rocks

I see what you are saying now - thank you for the clarification. It's an interesting point but I don't think it is correct. And that's because these fancy French Laundry places are also just as guilty as playing to primal instincts, just different ones. Instead of the instinct to overeat, FL and its kind satisfy a desire for status, which is also innate. People want to be able to tell their friends that they've been to this world-class restaurant and had a famous chef cook for them. And if their golf buddy (or whatever) has done that, then maybe now I have to go to some Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe. Now the golf buddy is posting some photo of him and Keller on Instagram to bask in whatever reflected status he has. And it goes on.

There are almost certainly some people who are interested in what FL is doing as a craft and its curiosity and a thirst for knowledge that drives them. But that's not most of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never been to French Laundry or Per Se or Alinea or whatever, so hard for me to really know what you mean. But, until I get there, I'll take your word for it. I agree that status and to be able to "check in" on Facebook and Instagram your meal at a place like French Laundry carries a social cachet, and a lot of people are into that.

Is better ingredients/better prep/ambience/worse taste > worse ingredients/worse prep/casual/better taste?

The taste of the food should play some role in evaluating the reataurant. Can't believe I just wrote that sentence :) It's sort of the primary thing I judge, but I'm a bit of a heathen that way.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Better still is Oenotri in Napa - it's along the lines of 2 Amys, and right up there with it in terms of quality. The seasonal vegetables (salads, etc.) here are terrific.

Yep. We got one of the simply dressed lettuce salads, which was appearing on all the tables around us. It's a giant pile of the fluffiest, prettiest lettuce you'll ever see (ha, the receipt lists the dish as "lettuces"), with each leaf slicked down with the exact right amount of a cheery meyer lemon vinaigrette, and almost smothered in deeply flavored Parmesan curls. Every speck was gone in minutes (we shared everything). The side of kim chee-d, deep-fried brussel sprouts was also excellent. The pasta with nettle pesto and pine nuts and the pizza (some kind of smoked pig on it, plus caramelized onions) were very good, but the vegetables were definitely the star of the table. Thanks for the recommendation!

We also swung by the Oxbow Public market to pick up some cream puffs at Ca'Momi Enoteca which remain, IMHO, the best ever. (They call them Italian beignets.) They sell them by the pound so for us it worked out to be about a dollar a piece. Pffffttttt, a trifle for what you get! I tried all the non-fruit flavors and my favorites were the hazelnut and coffee. The market location only sells pizza and sweets now (plus wine, of course). The full menu is available at the new location down the street from the market (walking distance, apparently). That is probably a good thing, since I had been on the fence whether to order the gnudi I had last time as my first dessert course ;-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep. We got one of the simply dressed lettuce salads, which was appearing on all the tables around us. It's a giant pile of the fluffiest, prettiest lettuce you'll ever see (ha, the receipt lists the dish as "lettuces"), which each leaf slicked down with the exact right amount of a cheery meyer lemon vinaigrette, and almost smothered in deeply flavored Parmesan curls. Every speck was gone in minutes (we shared everything). The side of kim chee-d, deep-fried brussel sprouts was also excellent. The pasta with nettle pesto and pine nuts and the pizza (some kind of smoked pig on it, plus caramelized onions) were very good, but the vegetables were definitely the star of the table. Thanks for the recommendation!

Just out of curiosity, what night were you there?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting as when we did eat at the Vegas location of Bouchon shortly after it opened, we were not all that impressed. It was very good, but no better than many other great bistros we had eaten at, most recently at that time Bistro Jeanty which we thought blew it out of the water. Granted Jeanty had the advantage of being located in Napa with easier access to much fresher ingredients probably, but still no comparison. I would still not pass up the opportunity to try out French Laundry or Per Se, but am a little more wary with the review of Per Se.

I had dinner at Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty on back-to-back nights in 2014, and believe it or not, the bartender told me that Bistro Jeanty put *ketchup* in their steak tartare - I knew of its reputation, so was shocked, but there it was, right in front of me. The Bouchon in Yountville has *terrific* bread - they serve epi with perfectly salted butter, yum.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/25/2015 at 8:29 PM, aaronsinger said:

Any recommendations for the Santa Rosa area? I'll be flying into SFO thursday afternoon and driving up, have thursday night and all day friday free to myself.

Watch the movie "Shadow of a Doubt."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/12/2016 at 6:17 PM, DonRocks said:

I had dinner at Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty on back-to-back nights in 2014, and believe it or not, the bartender told me that Bistro Jeanty put *ketchup* in their steak tartare - I knew of its reputation, so was shocked, but there it was, right in front of me. The Bouchon in Yountville has *terrific* bread - they serve epi with perfectly salted butter, yum. 

Now that I think about it, it has been around 10 years since we ate at Bouchon at Venetian and something like 12 since Bistro Jeanty. A lot can change in a restaurant in that time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I stopped in and tried Zuzu, a delightful tapas bar with a warm and cozy atmosphere. I sat at the bar, watching all the magic in the kitchen, and the bartender took great care of me. I had 4 plates - I absolutely loved the flounder ceviche (beautifully bright colors and tastes) and asparagus with jamon (gorgeous vegetables and meat), but found the bacalao (salt cod drizzled with white truffle oil & garlic crostini) to be a little heavy/salty (though this could be that I just don't like salt cod-based dishes. I keep trying, for some reason, and hardly ever love them) and didn't particularly care for the sauce on the lamb chops with moroccan barbeque glaze, mint, & curry oil. Everything was baseline good and I ate almost everything (quite a feat - 4 small plates do add up), but the heavier dishes didn't wow me. I saw a lot of tres leches being ordered and gobbled down, but didn't have space for it. Great neighborhood spot. 

Dropped by Oxbow Public market to pick up some cream puffs at Ca'Momi Enoteca because I can't help myself. Also tried their Osteria on First street for lunch because haven't been able to get the gnudi (Bellwether Farms jersey ricotta & spinach malfatti with butter, sage, and parmigiano reggiano - the green of the spinach belies the tender richness of the "pasta") off my mind. Together with the burrata e verdure (wood-oven roasted vegetables, house-pulled burrata, schiacciata all'olio) I had an incredibly delicious, albeit crazy-heavy meal, and I was only able to finish half of it (leftovers held up beautifully for later)! Those two dishes plus a salad, for 2, would be pretty much the perfect vegetarian Italian meal. I liked the burrata dish even more than the gnudi, which is saying something. They toss whatever baby veg they have on hand with nice olive oil, roast till sweet in a wee skillet, and serve with a generous dollop of excellent burrata plus a whole flat bread. The flat bread is very much like their VPN pizza dough, perhaps even the same dough but baked slightly thicker, as it has the same stretchy, yielding, but crispy-on-the-edges quality I love so much about Neapolitan pizza. If you get the chili oil to go with the bread, beware that it is quite spicy! The space is hipster-industrial, with exposed beams and ducting but lots of hanging lights and candles. Servers are young (or I'm getting old, probably both), good-looking, and extremely attentive. Loved everything about my experience!

I would, and probably will, go back to all of these places. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/12/2016 at 6:17 PM, DonRocks said:

The Bouchon in Yountville has *terrific* bread - they serve epi with perfectly salted butter, yum. 

Bouchon.JPG

Dinner at Bouchon last night was very good while falling short of outstanding (which is what you should normally expect at a Bistro or Brasserie, but having the seasoning somewhat "off" at a Thomas Keller restaurant hurts more than it normally does, especially when it's *so* easily correctable).

The two-tops against the entrance wall are close enough together where you could eavesdrop if you wanted to, but also far enough apart so that you don't feel scrunched up against your neighbor. 

The 2015 Triennes Rosé a pale, dry Rosé from Provence, sold at $10 a glass, is made from primarily, if not all, Cinsault. The bottle itself reveals a more precise location of being from the Department of the Var (there's a sneaky way to tell this just from codes written on the bottle), so this wine - which might be a Côteaux Varois (and they make wonderful Rosé there) - retails for something around $13 per bottle, and sells on the list for $40, or about triple-retail:

Screenshot 2016-05-24 at 17.40.10.png Screenshot 2016-05-24 at 17.39.06.png

And it was triple-retail that I happily paid, because this is fine example of a pale, bone-dry Rosé from the Southeast of France - at $40, even if they're making $30+ on every bottle they sell, it's a good wine to get here, as it goes with a very wide variety of dishes - it served us throughout the entire meal (which actually turned out to be very simple and small in terms of number-of-courses). 

Before the meal, we were brought (to our surprise) some roasted pistachios, in shell, which were served alongside the always-tremendous epi - the classic "stalk of wheat" variation on the classic baguette. The bread and butter at Bouchon has always flirted with simple perfection, and so it was on this evening; the pistachios seemed unnecessary and almost odd, although we certainly had the option not to eat them. 

We'd planned on getting some apps, maybe splitting an entrée, having some cheese, and maybe splitting a dessert, but after having the chicken at Kinship, my dining companion wanted to try it here, and our delightful neighbor (on my right) had the leg of lamb, and enthusiastically extolled its virtues, so we dove straight into the main courses:

Screenshot 2016-05-24 at 17.48.34.png

Poulet Rôti ($29.75) is served atop Petits Pois à la Française and chicken jus, and is (according to our server) par-roasted before dinner service, then finished to-order in the oven, the second step taking about twenty minutes. It must surely be brined or injected, because the deepest part of the breast meat was delightfully moist and perfectly salted - it just could not have been any better, and this is what was on the very top, so diners tend to eat it first. We were both fighting over the breast meat, which is probably one of the most difficult things to cook well. Unfortunately, there is often a white meat - dark meat sacrifice, and so it was with this half-chicken: The dark meat was simply too salty - not to the point of being inedible, but to the point where it was too salty, and there was no doubt about it. However, with the mildly seasoned Petits Pois, it added some salt to an arguably undersalted (but otherwise fantastic) side dish. Salt issues aside, this was a *fine* example of roast chicken, and one which I will gladly order again in the future. 

Gigot d'Agneau ($35) was four cuts from a cylinder, stacked atop one another, and served in a bowl on top of lots of chickpeas, a trivial amount of piquillo peppers, some spring onions, and lamb jus. The salting issue here was easily fixed: the lamb was slightly undersalted, and all I needed to do was ask my server for a little sea salt, add a single scoop evenly distributed over all four rounds, and the lamb instantly went from being very good to excellent. If you don't really like chickpeas, you should think twice about this dish, because there are a lot of them, but they were well-cooked, well-seasoned, and lent a North African flavor to the lamb, which was otherwise not really a North African dish. Although both of us preferred the chicken, both of us also enjoyed the lamb, and depending on your personal preferences, you could have flipped a coin between these two dishes.

I hate to be a simpleton, but after these two entrées, we were pretty well stuffed, and just didn't really want any cheese or dessert - we weren't starving to begin with, and these entrées were hefty enough to do the trick. A good showing once again for Bouchon, a restaurant that I've now been to several times, and which I have consistently enjoyed. 

4 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On my previous visit to Fremont Diner in Sonoma, I had what must surely be the greatest breakfast food I've ever eaten (major bonus: It's served all day long).

Fremont.jpg

Last night, my friend and I hit it up for an early dinner, and unlike last time when we sat on the patio, we opted to sit in the ridiculously charismatic indoor portion of the restaurant, just outside of the bar and kitchen area.

FremontInterior1.JPG FremontInterior2.JPG

Our server was terrific, and was an extrapolation of the restaurant as a whole - as casual as anyone could be (she literally got up on a chair right at our table and changed light bulbs), but it all fit in perfectly with the charming atmosphere of this amazing restaurant, which is putting out food as good *and as serious* as any restaurant in Sonoma, despite the "weathered" look of the menus:

FremontMenu1.JPG FremontMenu2.JPG FremontDrinks1.JPG FremontDrinks2.JPG

My friend got a glass of the Gloria Ferrer Brut Sparkling Wine ($8.99, served in a Mason jar), and I had a glorious mug (or two) of the Ruhstaller "1881 Sacramento" Red Ale ($5.99 for a large, thick, 16-20 ounce mug - I felt like I was back in Munich).

For dinner, you can pretty much throw darts at the menu here and hit a bulls-eye, and my advice is to order whatever "reads" the best or appeals to you at the moment. I love Chicken-Fried Steak  ($15.99), and so I got it - it came topped with some of the best sausage gravy you'll ever eat, some amazing Sprouting Broccoli (we must remember, we're in California) and a Sunnyside-Up Fried Egg on top. It was everything you could ever hope for with this dish, and as good as any rendition I've had in my life - a couple squirts of their housemade pepper-vinegar sauce on my sprouting broccoli, and my plate went from exceptional to perfect, and I didn't want the meal to end.

Fremont Diner takes barbecue very seriously, and you should pay attention to whatever they say is in the "Pit" that day. My friend got an off-menu pit special of a Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12.99) with baked beans, and topped with slaw and pickles on a brioche bun. I have now had so many "bad-to-ordinary" pulled-pork sandwiches in a row (dozens) that I couldn't imagine why she ordered this, but everything became clear as day when I nabbed a single morsel of pork: revelatory. Then a pickle: shockingly wonderful. This was the pulled-pork sandwich that Zeus would order for Hera, and the only thing that could have been improved upon is that the beans could have been cooked a little longer, as they were still a little tough, and they also benefitted from some housemade barbecue sauce and a couple shakes of that pepper-vinegar sauce that I had. Other than that one blip, it was the ultimate pulled-pork sandwich, and qualified in every regard as "real barbecue" that even the most jaded pitmaster would respect.

FremontChickenFriedSteak.JPG FremontPulledPork.JPG

We were full, but there was *no way* we were stopping here: We bought a Bucket of Biscuits ($3.99) with rhubarb jam for breakfast, a Pound of Brisket ($24.00, also an off-menu pit special) for lunch, and planned our trip to the Ruhstaller micro-brewery near Sacramento the next afternoon, courtesy of our gracious server's recommendation. It was, in every regard, a perfect meal - the type of meal that conjures up your fondest recollections of that lobster pound in Maine, or that little unknown restaurant you wandered into somewhere in New Orleans. If you're anywhere near Sonoma County - and I mean anywhere within an hour - make a detour to the Fremont Diner, one of the greatest restaurants in the Napa-Sonoma region.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, DonRocks said:

If you're anywhere near Sonoma County - and I mean anywhere within an hour - make a detour to the Fremont Diner, one of the greatest restaurants in the Napa-Sonoma region.

I have eaten at the Fremont Diner several times, and I have never been disappointed with the food or the service. In addition to the items you mentioned, they have wonderful milkshakes and the best bacon I have ever tasted. 

If you want to make a day of it, there is the delightul Di Rosa contemporary art gallery nearby, or you can sample sparkling wine and pinot noir at Domaine Carneros. Downtown Sonoma, with its charming square filled with shops, is about a 10 minute drive from the diner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/28/2016 at 0:36 PM, DonRocks said:

On my previous visit to Fremont Diner in Sonoma, I had what must surely be the greatest breakfast food I've ever eaten (major bonus: It's served all day long).

Last night, my friend and I hit it up for an early dinner, and unlike last time when we sat on the patio, we opted to sit in the ridiculously charismatic indoor portion of the restaurant, just outside of the bar and kitchen area.

We had dinner at Fremont Diner again this evening, and both of us agreed that this was simply an off-night for this staple restaurant which has been *so good* the two other times we've been here. Nothing was "bad," but it just wasn't the same outrageously good food we've come to expect from this gem. Maybe because it was Sunday night, and people had the night off? Maybe.

Drink: Screenshot 2017-01-16 at 02.05.24.pngScreenshot 2017-01-16 at 02.05.40.png

Like the last time I was here, I started with a mug of Ruhstaller "1881 Sacramento" Red Ale ($5.99) which I loved so much the previous time I had it, and this is a great example of how setting, mood, and personal biology can affect your perception of a meal. We were both very tired, and the inside of the restaurant was full, so we were seated outside on the enclosed patio (which, I didn't realize at first, didn't have heat lamps (and needed them)), and as a confluence of everything, this excellent beer just didn't hit the spot quite like it did last summer, even though it was probably the exact same product (or close enough). Also, just as before, my dining companion got a Gloria Ferrer Brut Sparkling Wine ($9.99, served in a Mason jar, and one dollar more expensive than it was this past summer) - when I asked her what she thought of it, she said, "It was fine - it wasn't great, it wasn't bad," so she, too, may have had her personal perception of a fairly homogeneous product thrown off - this is an excellent example of how difficult it is to overcome personal bias in evaluating a product, whether it's a restaurant, a movie ("Ugh, I'm tired - maybe something lighthearted tonight?"), or pretty much anything.

All this said, I'm going to reiterate that the quality of the food wasn't quite what it was on my previous two visits, and this wasn't because of personal bias; this meal was merely "very good" instead of "excellent," and I have no explanation as to why, other than that it was a Sunday night in early January. I must also reiterate: "very good" means just that: very good - I love this restaurant.

Food: Screenshot 2017-01-16 at 02.04.02.pngScreenshot 2017-01-16 at 02.04.16.pngScreenshot 2017-01-16 at 02.04.27.png 

I opted for an assortment of small items, my friend went with a larger sandwich, and we ended up splitting everything, getting a really good (albeit small) sampling of the offerings on this evening - Fremont Diner has a pretty big menu, and to get through everything would take twenty visits.

I ordered a Ham Biscuit ($3.99) with excellent, house-smoked ham, a honey-infused fruit jam, and granular mustard on a house-made biscuit; a Sausage Biscuit ($3.99), a patty of sausage with melted Cheddar and green onions on a house-made biscuit (the former was on the sweet side; the latter on the savory side); and an order of Deviled Eggs ($5.99) with pickled mustard seeds and seven herbs. 

When I'd finished my beer, I wanted some wine, so I got a mason jar of Tin Barn Sauvignon Blanc ($9.50), a pleasant, quaffing wine which sticks to the "local and seasonal" theme of Fremont Diner, as it's bottled in Sonoma Valley, right up the street (Tin Barn's website).

On one visit, the biscuits were so amazing that we got an order of three to take home for later; this time around, they came across as "good, but not amazing" - like before, we had planned to get a pound of house-smoked brisket to go, but after our meal, it just didn't sound so appealing, so we got no post-meal to-go order (although delicious, Fremont Diner tends not to have the healthiest cuisine in the world, so it needs to be absolutely outstanding in order to justify the calories). The deviled eggs came six halves to an order, or two dollars per egg, and when you break it down like that, it hurts - especially since these were icebox-cold, as if they were made before, and taken straight from the refrigerator - understandable, but not acceptable. I thought there was a bit too much mustard for the eggs' own good, but these were still high-quality deviled eggs, most likely from a local farm.

My companion got an Oyster Sandwich ($13.99) with fried Pacific Coast oysters (not sure what type; not sure if it matters - I've seen large, wholesale jars of "Pacific Coast oysters" before - in fact, I noticed one the other week at Nasime (there's no reason that oysters - especially ones to be fried - must be shipped individually and not pre-packaged - the ones at Nasime (assuming they were the same) were lightly dredged in flour, flash-fried, and used in a soup, and they were delicious). This sandwich came on a large, round roll - one that looked almost like something you'd use for a traditional pan bagnat - and thankfully, the roll turned out to be light and airy; had it been dense, it would have been too much bread for the sandwich, but it wasn't. It was packed with fried oysters, some arugula, remoulade, and bacon bits, and was the best single item of the meal. The menu mentions that the bread was a "Model roll," which I assume means that it came from The Model Bakery, right down the street - it seemed like it had been baked that very morning, and was quite good. The menu also says it comes with a "butter bean salad & juniper-pickled onions," but what we had came across to me, strongly, as "refried beans and white rice," which actually went very well with the sandwich. I didn't pilfer a menu, so I'm going from the online version - I suspect the paper menu last night had the correct side order written on it, and I just don't remember what it is.

A lot of bitchin' I did, considering the entire meal, before tax and tip, came out to only $53.44, and we both left pretty stuffed, not quite finishing our meals. This was a lot of food for the money, and while it may not have represented Fremont Diner at its finest, this is still one of about three restaurants in the area that I would urge people to try (in fact, this past autumn, I prodded a friend to go there for weekend breakfast, and over the next couple of weeks, I got about five thank-you notes asking me how on earth I knew about this place).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now