Some of my photos are now for sale at ImageKind.

Nature Index
(My hiking and camping adventures in Northern California.)

Culture Index
(NorCal cities, highways, restaurants, museums, architecture, historic attractions, vintage neon signs, roadside attractions, etc.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wine Country Traveler: Fremont Diner


 Babe's Burgers and Franks, it was called when I first noticed this place. But it never did the kind of business or received the widespread recognition then as it does now as the Fremont Diner. And the crowds just seem to keep getting bigger.

20110327 Mac & Cheese Skillet
Mac and Cheese

I photographed the old drive-in building not long after Babe's had closed and it was sitting vacant. When we moved to the area, I noticed it had reopened as the Fremont Diner, and made a mental note that I ought to stop there sometime. Then my mother asked me about some wine country eateries she had read about in Sunset Magazine that were supposedly where the locals eat, and Fremont Diner was one of them. That old drive-in in Sunset?

20081019 Babe's Burgers & Franks
Babe's Burgers and Franks

 Once we first gave it a try, we were hooked. My wife and I go there frequently and have witnessed their increasing popularity expansion. They make use of a large outdoor area, covered in a big plastic tent in winter, to accommodate more guests. It's no longer order at the counter and seat yourself, but full table service. And just recently they started serving dinner 4 nights per week (Thursday-Sunday).

Long before it was Babe's Burgers and Franks, although I don't yet know exactly how long, this joint was Dave's Drive-In. There's an old sign in a private area in the back for Dave's that I caught glimpse of. When asked about it, the proprietor, Chad Harris, told me that Dave's widow still lives next door to the place, and rents out the restaurant and the adjoining 34 acres of land to him.


In addition to the old Dave's Drive-In sign, there's a spectacular old Broadway Hardware neon sign mounted on a shed in back of the restaurant, presumably from Sonoma (Highway 12 enters Sonoma on Broadway), and assorted other vintage and quirky pieces throughout the building and property, contributing to the folksy character of the place. The most prominent of these is the old truck always parked in front, which recently got a touch up faux paint job.

20111029 At the Fremont Diner
Ain't That America--this photo for sale at ImageKind and SmugMug.

But it's definitely the food that makes this place such a draw. You can get burgers, fries, and shakes at the diner, but the main appeal is the Southern comfort food, with a little bit of California thrown in now in then, like huevos rancheros to go with chicken fried steak and biscuits and gravy. Not everything is fantastic--the fried chicken "so spicy it will set a cheatin' man straight" did not bring any heat at all, and I find the mac and cheese too salty. But enough of it really is fantastic. I particularly relish the ham biscuit and the collard greens.

Catfish and Hush Puppies

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