Jump to content

Boxcar Fried Chicken and Biscuits (Formerly Fremont Diner) - Chad and Erika Harris' Outstanding, Quirky Diner in Sonoma Reopen for Fried Chicken


Recommended Posts

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.

  • Like 3
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.

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).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jun 27, 2018 - "Fremont Diner Was a Victim of its Own Success, Say Owners" by Sarah Stierch et al on sonomamag.com

Screenshot 2019-02-19 at 12.37.40.png

Sep 14, 2018 - "Sonoma's Fremont Diner Reopens as Boxcar Chicken and Biscuits" on sonomamag.com

The reason that I can't get that excited about Boxcar Fried Chicken is because The Boon Fly Cafe is just a few miles down the road, and that has some of the best fried chicken I've ever eaten.

Screenshot 2019-02-19 at 15.51.37.png

  • Sad 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...