Sonoma roadside favorite the Fremont Diner, which closed unexpectedly this summer despite massive demand, has returned in a new form at 2698 Fremont Drive. It’s now Boxcar Fried Chicken & Biscuits, a pared down version of its former self focused on the old Fremont Diner’s most popular items. The business is now open with limited hours.
“It’s really just super simplified,” Fremont Diner and now Boxcar Fried Chicken co-owner Erika Harris told Eater SF. “We needed to pull way back, and try to simplify our lives, the lives of staff, and [the experience of our] customers,” says Harris, who operates the business with her husband Chad and owns the space.
The Fremont Diner has been characterized as a victim of its own success. “We lost a lot of customers cause they had to wait too long,” says Harris. Rather than full service, Boxcar’s model is built for speed: Order at the counter and they’ll call your name. “We personally wouldn’t be able to come here and wait an hour with our four year old,” Harris says. “We wanted to make it mellower.”
At the Fremont Diner, Harris also alludes to personal issues involving staff. At the new restaurant, she says, she wants to make the experience easier on employees as well.
Still, why change the name when the Fremont Diner sign commands immediate recognition and provokes Wine Country road trippers to hit the brakes?
“If you don’t serve breakfast, your’e not a diner,” says Harris (the new restaurant won’t). “It’s a totally different thing, and we don’t have 10,000 items on the menu, like before.”
Old favorites like deviled eggs, beer and wine, and desserts like mikshakes, soft serve, and fried pies (pink pearl apple cinnamon and more) are still around.
Meanwhile, the Harris’ hopes for a food business at the downtown gas station they purchased, the Sonoma 76 Truck and Auto Service, have been scaled back as well. “The ideas we had for it just got way too expensive... so we’ve taken a step back,” Harris says. It’s to remain a gas station, for now, as the couple explores their options and presents them to the city in November.