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I'm meeting up with friends from all across the Bay in Fremont due to its central location for those coming from Santa Cruz, Walnut Creek/Lamorinda, and the Peninsula. Figuring out where to eat (and given some friends' dietary restrictions) made me realize that there isn't much info on this area generally.
I know few, if any, tourists head to this area and I'm unsure how many CH'ers head out there either. My in-laws live in Fremont (DH grew up there), we used to live in Newark when we first married, and we also have friends in the area, so I've actually eaten at quite a few places. Sadly, there seem to be very limited options: chain restaurants (which I avoid like the plague) and ethnic restaurants whose quality has to be personally assessed.
Anyhow, I thought I'd offer a list of Fremont/Union City/Newark (FUN) places I've tried and see what other folks recommend!
Chatpatta Corner (Fremont, near the Ardenwood Park right off Dumbarton Bridge) has great chaat. It's a cash-only establishment, vegetarian, and it's counter service. I'm not a chaat expert by any means, but I love their pani puri and pav bhaji.
Darda Chinese Food: this is next door to Chatpatta but I've had sketchy meals here. Lamb with green onions is my go-to dish at Muslim Chinese restaurants (and I love Peking House/Chinjin Eastern House which is now in West San Jose, but used to be in Fremont, Campbell, etc. over the past 20+ years). Darda's version had stringy lamb and was just inedible. Their sesame green onion pancakes are good, but if I'm heading to this neighborhood, I prefer Chatpatta.
Simply Thai: This is on the other side of the Dumbarton Bridge off-ramp from the first two restaurants, so it's technically Newark. We don't eat Thai very often, but I like this place. Great green papaya salad, mussuman curry, pineapple fried rice, and what I find most impressive: it's probably the best table service ethnic restaurant I've had in the entire area. There's a very attentive staff, who are friendly and polite, and our water glasses were filled before they reach half-empty.
There are many strip mall restaurants in the same area as Simply Thai, but I can't recall where else we've tried. I think there's a Japanese restaurant across the street from Simply Thai but it wasn't memorable. For really good nigiri, we tend to drive to the Peninsula.
The one exception is ramen. We've been to 3 ramen houses in the FUN area: Yokohama Iedkei and Tadamasa, which are both in Union City, and Dohatsuten in Fremont. Dohatsuten is a trek, as it's in South Fremont close to Ohlone, but I recall it was good the one time we tried it years ago. I really liked the Black Garlic ramen at Yokohama Iekei while my DH loves their other cooked options (beef tongue and some sort of deep-fried fish).
A few doors down from Yokohama Iekei, in the same strip mall, there's a tiny counter-service/cash only Vietnamese place, Cam Huong, where I've picked up banh mi. I like their grilled pork ones and it's a good balance of crusty bread/pickled vegetables/meat (unlike some places that are have too much bread or not enough meat)! I have never tried anything from the steam table--I've seen flies landing on that food so I only get the banh mi. I know, it's probably wishful thinking that flies aren't landing on my banh mi ingredients!
I never would have found Yum's Bistro but for CH, as it's located in a small strip mall in the middle of nowhere, a total residential neighborhood. This a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant is run by an amazing Hong Kong chef. I know it's gotten a lot of love on CH and I count it as one of my favorites in the FUN area. I absolutely love the crab (we ordered lobster once, it was good but not mind-blowing like the crab). I also enjoy the scallop fried rice, the sticky rice stuffed chicken, and a few other specialties. I HIGHLY recommend pre-ordering your meal (even if you're dining in!) if you're going with a large group as it's one amazing chef and a TINY kitchen. There are also certain specialties you can only get if you call ahead. Even when we have gone right at opening and been the first guests, it still takes a long time to eat. The wait is worthwhile, but make sure you don't go when you're starving!
In another strip mall located off a much busier area, the Fremont Blvd./Thornton Ave., we've tried Satomi Sushi (not worth returning, IMHO), QQ Noodle (the Fremont location subsequently closed but they have other places in Milpitas and Cupertino where you can get their House Special, the spicy pork sauce with finely cubed carrots and potatoes over dry noodles, as well as their cold appetizer of thinly sliced pork with super garlicky sauce!), Gangnam Tofu (Korean BBQ place, reasonably priced, but not worth a special trip).
Further along Fremont Blvd. is De Afghanan. I haven't been in a while, but went once to the new sit-down restaurant location. Years ago it was only a tiny flattop, a counter, and 6 chairs but they had to best bolani (a potato-stuffed flatbread) and kabobs, so we'd just order to go if we couldn't sit. When we tried the sit-down restaurant, it was the slowest service EVER. So we haven't been back. If I have a craving for Afghan food, we just go to Salang Pass across the street.
Salang Pass: Another Afghan restaurant, with a nice traditional seating area on the left (low tables and ornate pillows) with great food. I like their borani kadoo (pumpkin), mantoo (dumplings), quabili pallow (lamb over a nicely spiced rice with raisins, carrots and almonds), and bolani.
There is a large South Asian community in FUN, so I know I'm missing out on some great options that must cater to them. Sadly, my in-laws don't like Indian and DH isn't a big fan, so I've only tried a few and they have all been Indian buffets. Arka on Warm Springs, Bombay Palace in Newark, and a place in Union City near the Hayward Costco whose name I have forgotten.
There are a TON of Chinese options in FUN and I know we haven't hit most of them. My in-laws used to drag us to China Chili (a white tablecloth Chinese restaurant that had very few Chinese people!) but we haven't been since we married and I started suggesting other Chinese restaurants. I prefer Northern Chinese fare, noodles, dumplings, etc., but there aren't many of those in this area. I have been to House of Dumplings on Mission (not sure if that's Hayward or Union City) and found it to be a great option. There's also a place in a strip mall in Union City (New China?) but usually we go with Yum's Bistro. My in-laws have had us meet at BK Bistro for dim sum, too.
When it comes to "white tablecloth restaurants" in FUN, I've been to two with my in-laws (usually for special occasions): Massimo's and Papillon. They have higher prices, but I haven't been impressed with them at all (especially Papillon--talk about 1980s decor, including the tables/chairs--how can you set prices that target "date night" diners yet offer such dismal ambiance akin to a hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant?). DH and I would much rather drive to Oakland, Palo Alto, or even SF than celebrate a special occasion in FUN. Years ago, when we were still dating and DH was home for the holidays, his parents recommended a cute little place in a house off Fremont Blvd. in the Irvington district. Sadly, it has since closed. It's sad that in the 15 years since, no other entrepreneur has stepped forward to fill the void that would offer "date-night" dining in FUN.
I look forward to hearing other CH's opinions of both my list and your leads to other places in the area!
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