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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. 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: 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. 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.
yes, when I finally got around to having an In n Out Burger for the first time last year I was a little underwhelmed - good but not the life changing experience some had painted it to be on the very same trip though I did find the best burger I have ever eaten....at a roadside diner somewhere in Napa: Taylor's Refresher --- [The above link is now broken. For the benefit of readers across the country: In 2010, Taylor's Refresher morphed into Gott's Roadside, resulting in a contentious family feud - details can be found here, and for those pining away for the Taylor's of yesteryear, here's a remnant of their old menu.] --- Dining near Deer Park and Meadowood Napa Valley (JLK)