When it comes to picking a neighborhood for dinner or Happy Hour, Fremont can sometimes get overshadowed by Capitol Hill, which has more options than a food court at a good mall. But Fremont is underrated in terms of good things to eat and drink - probably because it’s known more for that stupid concrete troll than anything else. We’d like to change that. Here are all the excellent spots that will make Fremont your new number one.
Manolin is our favorite restaurant in Fremont. The enormous U-shaped bar is perfect for dates or solo eating, there’s a disco ball, and the medieval-looking grill device is awesome to watch in action as it sears your steak. The rest of the menu is heavy on seafood, from super fresh rockfish ceviche to life-changing squid with chorizo and black rice. Start your meal with the plantain chips, and if the weather’s nice, have an after-dinner drink at the outdoor fire pit with dessert. There’s no wrong time or occasion for this place.
Sure, this sounds a little like a retro bowling alley. But it’s not. Instead of ambient bowling-pin noises mixed with the sounds of kids crying, you’ll find a menu full of donburi bowls topped with things like sashimi, poke, and teriyaki. The homemade soy sauce is excellent, and we highly recommend the seared salmon bowl in particular. Come here for a casual lunch or weeknight dinner, even if you’re by yourself.
Kamonegi is a tiny spot focused on homemade soba noodles and tempura. You’ll find a variety of dishes here, from cold soba with nori and avocado, to hot noodles in a curry broth with leeks and fresh mozzarella, to small plates like fantastic yakitori duck meatballs. It’s good for date night or a meal with a small group, but be sure to make a reservation, and avoid sitting at the cramped window counter if you can - it’s a bit uncomfortable.
Russell’s is one of our favorite bars in the neighborhood. There’s a friendly staff, nice-looking wooden booths, a bright red retro refrigerator behind the bar, and a delicious hot pretzel served with Beecher’s beer cheese. You’ll also find solid beers on tap and some interesting cocktails. Hole up here for a couple of hours with some friends on the weekend.
Bar Charlie is not the queue for a Disneyland seaplane adventure ride, but you could be forgiven for thinking that. There are light bulbs hanging from knotted ropes, there’s a plane propellor anchored behind the bar, and the walls are covered in maps. But enough about the decor. The excellent drinks here range from an Old Fashioned with apple brandy and mole bitters to a lemon gin cocktail with rhubarb, and the food’s impressive, too. Get the twice-baked loaded poutine potato covered in melted cheese curds, gravy, chives, and bacon - and use this place for some weekend day drinking or a first date cocktail.
When you need a relaxing spot for a night out with a bottle of wine or maybe three, Swel is a good choice. The space looks like it was decorated with the contents of the Pottery Barn summer collection catalog (in a good way), and if you stick with the flatbread pizzas, you’ll be happy. Especially if it’s warm out, and you sit on the patio with a group of friends.
We don’t know why Lucky’s Pho is always empty, but we do know that there’s never a wait, so we’ll take it. It’s a simple space with linoleum tabletops, a soda fridge (note: they don’t serve alcohol), a bottle of sriracha on every table, and a long handwritten list of bubble tea flavors. While the pho and vermicelli bowls are great, get your hands on their banh mi, which are overflowing with flavorful pork, pickled veggies, cucumber, and aioli. If you love that idea but have an inexplicable fear of baguettes, they also do banh mi tacos.
Simply Desserts is a little bakery with an important lemon blueberry cake. It’s acceptable to buy it whole and tell everyone it’s for a friend’s birthday, but then drive home like a maniac and chip away at it every few hours with a plastic spork. We fully endorse eating it for dinner, and then again for breakfast, because blueberries are healthy. And if blueberries aren’t your thing, the chocolate layer cake with raspberry cream is equally delicious.
Unless you’re camping in the wilderness harpooning your dinner with a whittled stick, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have fresh seafood next to a babbling brook. Rockcreek is as close as you get to that experience, and you don’t even have to deal with rafting on river rapids. The seafood is excellent (particularly the shrimp and grits and roasted seabass), and it feels like the kind of forest cabin your elitist in-laws would rent and consider “roughing it” just because there are exposed beams. This is a good place for a date, or a group dinner on the second floor balcony.
While there are many reasons to check out The Barrel Thief, the 300 different whiskeys and 175 different wines by the glass should be convincing enough. Come on a date, with your parents, or with a big group, and make some progress on your Whiskey or Wine Passport. And no, that’s not just a corny term we invented - each time you return, you can check off what you’ve tried in order to work your way toward a discount on drinks there for life. You don’t even have to schlep to CVS to get your photo taken.
Frēlard Pizza Company
To call Frēlard Pizza Company a restaurant in Fremont might be a stretch (it’s actually in Frelard), but we’re counting it anyway. This spot is in the middle of a busy part of Leary Way, and their patio is the best place around for a beer-and-pizza party with your entire group of friends, thanks to the picnic tables and stone-covered fire pit. (If it’s wet outside, the interior’s fun too.) The service is great, a rotating seasonal hard cider is always on tap, and the pizzas are the best New York-style pies you can get in the city. Make sure the prosciutto and arugula is on your table.
Hitting up Bluebird Ice Cream is like going into a time machine and stepping out in an old school soda fountain. There are vintage kitchen gadgets like rusted hand-crank churners, an antique cash register, diner-style glass sundae cups, and some metal knobs and levers whose functions are unknown but look cool. Bring your steady and buy her a double-scoop of peanut butter and chocolate chunk (Bluebird’s best flavors, especially together) in a sweet homemade waffle cone. She’ll be wearing your pin and letterman jacket in no time.
You’ve probably stumbled into QFC before a housewarming party and grabbed a six-pack of Schilling Cider without realizing it was an actual place in Seattle where you could drink. Now you know: Schilling Cider House is a tasting room that features their own hard ciders as well as guest rotations, plus a refrigerator case of spiked apple juice to-go. Get one of the large high top tables and make a flight from the 32 cider choices on tap that range from pineapple passionfruit to sriracha lime to simply dry. They don’t serve food, so it’s a good plan of attack for before or after dinner.
Uneeda Burger has a pretty stupid name, but since we feel this way often, we’ll allow it. The space feels like that weird covered area you were confined to at summer camp when it rained: tin roof, picnic tables, and fine wire mesh. But if summer camp had excellent burgers, special sauces, and milkshakes this good, we’d probably still be there making lanyards and bug juice. Burgers here range from the basics, to one with mushrooms, truffle salt, and gruyere, to a crispy farro veggie burger. The long tables and counter service make Uneeda a perfect spot for a big group, but burger purists beware: you won’t find American cheese here.
We’re not sure whether The Backdoor is a Prohibition-era speakeasy that’s making fun of itself, or just a bar that’s making fun of speakeasies, but it’s the best place to drink in Fremont regardless. There are a ton of vintage chandeliers, bookcases stacked with liquor bottles, and a bar crowned with a very fancy naked angel/Statue of Liberty hybrid. The long list of classic and not-classic cocktails is excellent, and you should also put your faith in the bartender to mix you something custom. The menu comes from Roxy’s next door, which isn’t great, but you’ll also be sitting in a booth with friends, sipping on a sidecar, and going to town on a diner mug full of fries with aioli, so you’re not going to hate it.
Brouwer’s is where you go to eat too many Belgian fries and drink steins and steins of beer. The stone walls and gargoyles on the balcony make the place feel like a castle dungeon you actually want to be in. Come for a first date or with the crew, and put the bourbon dragon sauce on everything you order.
There isn’t much Mexican food in Fremont, but El Camino is a fantastic option for all your taco needs in the area. The colorful deck is a great place to hang out when it’s light out, and at night it turns into more of a party with string lights and frozen margaritas.
A classic grinder/hoagie/whatever you want to call them is not really a thing in Seattle, so life gets pretty tough when what you need most is a sub with a bag of potato chips. But Royal Grinders is doing its part to fill that void - some of the greatest sandwiches in the city are coming from their small counter joint. Their Italian is especially insane: the bread is crispy on the outside but thick and soft on the inside, and topped with pepperoni, salami, smoked ham, provolone, swiss, chopped pepperoncinis, and a really good ranch spread that we wish they sold by the bottle. Or kilo. Your sandwich will be huge no matter what, so split it with a friend. Or don’t.
Fremont Brewing Company is day-drinking central, and our favorite place in the entire city to grab a beer. Stalk a massive table for your entire group of friends, and knock back pints of their excellent Lush IPA and Randalls while you eat whatever takeout you want (they don’t have food, but don’t care if you bring it in). You’ll be much happier than you would’ve been at that day rave you almost went to.