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.
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.
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).