The Fremont Diner in Sonoma unexpectedly closed its doors on Wednesday, June 27. (Tim Vallery)
One of Wine Country’s most popular pitstops, the Fremont Diner, unexpectedly closed its doors on Wednesday, June 27, laying off shocked staff and leaving hungry travelers in a state of confusion as to whether this was a permanent or temporary shuttering.
Looking for the legendary chicken and waffles that made this former hot dog stand such a popular destination, tourists milled outside the restaurant looking for answers throughout the day. Finding a locked door flanked by two orange traffic cones and sporting a simple “Closed” sign, many knocked on the door without a response. The restaurant is typically open from 8a.m. to 3p.m. during the week.
Late Wednesday, June 27, however, owners Chad and Erika Harris confirmed in a social media post that the restaurant was closed, but left open the idea of reopening the location at a future date. The couple, however, stressed that the closure was a lifestyle choice rather than a necessity.
“The Fremont Diner began as an endeavor to reimaging the good food and nostalgic atmosphere of classic American diners. Over the past ten years our plans for the future have taken shape with the Diner — as have our personal and family goals — and so today we are closing the doors on what we consider to be a very successful chapter,” said the Instagram post from @thefremontdiner.
“While we’re closing the diner doors today, the oven is still hot. We have plans to sit down with new ideas and reopen the space with a fresh food concept that will allow us to bring people together, live life to the fullest and do both over a really good meal. Please stay tuned and thank you for joining us at the table,” the Instagram post continued, with a final “Thank you sonoma.”
So what does that mean, exactly? It seems the couple now have two irons in the fire, with revamping the existing space into a new restaurant concept and a second restaurant concept in downtown Sonoma that’s in the works.
“We are still working on the gas station and are waiting on environmental clean up to be finished before we can proceed,” said Erika Harris. She added that the gas station was on a month-to-month lease and recently decided to terminate that lease at the end of June. On the same day as the Fremont Diner closure, a sign at the gas station confirmed the information, saying: “Gas business closing down for good limited hours now ’til June 30.” Signs for the Union 76 were being removed as well.
The Fremont Diner opened in 2009, oozing nouveau decrepitude, a heavy dose of John Deere chic and the irresistible lure of a butter and pork-soaked menu that brought travelers by the thousands. Located at the halfway point between the Sonoma and Napa Valleys, it became a media darling for its Southern-inspired dishes including biscuits and gravy, grits, pies and Nashville fried chicken.
With gushing reviews from the likes of Michael Bauer, Oprah Magazine and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop magazine, along with drool-worthy social media posts, the diner became a must-stop on many Wine Country itineraries.
Along with the diner grub, Harris sold local jams, jellies and sauces, coveted Rancho Gordo Beans, “throwback” sodas and other regional goodies.
During last fall’s wildfires, it was widely reported that the diner had burned, causing equal panic and alarm, though rumors of their demise were quickly debunked. This time, however, the Fremont Diner has closed for good, leaving a wake of brisket and fried chicken lovers searching for a new spot to satisfy their comfort food cravings.