Best of Fremont 2010: Revenge of the Independents

best_of_fremontA lot more categories in this year’s Best of Fremont and a lot fewer galling wins for national chains over local mom and pops.

To see all the 2010 winners, click here and then click on the pdf.

Here are some local triumphs:

Vienna Bakery & Cafe topped Panera in the Best Bakery vote
China Chilli won for Best Chinese Food, besting P.F. Chang’s, which finished third
Bob’s took first place over In-N-Out for Best Burger
Z Pizza mercifully beat out Round Table and Pizza Hut
The Florence tamed The Elephant to win Bar for Best Bar. Mojo’s was third
Shalimar won for Best Indian Restaurant in what might have been the most tightly contested category
Half Price Books topped Borders for Best Bookstore

Unfortunately when it comes to Jewish bread, Fremont residents are still wandering in the desert of schmear.
Noah’s somehow beat P.J.’s for Best Bagel

Other head-scratchers include Olive Garden taking top Italian honors over Massimo’s and Starbuck’s stealing Top Coffee Shop accolades from Mission and Sujus.

Hard to say what’s sadder: Chipotle winning again for Best Burrito or the fact that the big chain actually does have tastier burritos than the two runners up El Patio and La Pinata.

There were a few double winners: Dale Hardware won for Best Hardware and most community-minded business and Dirk Lorenz won for Best Flower Shop and Best Businessman.

That old goat NewPark mall won for best shopping center and Century 25 in Union City was somehow Fremont’s best movie theater.

Fremont people prefer Safeway to Trader Joe’s, according to the vote

The Neatest Thing That Happened was the opening of the water park

Matt Artz


  1. The best burrito is at Tacos Negros, the taco truck in Niles. I never understood the appeal of Chipotle, a.k.a. Precooked and Gross.

    PJ’s has the best bagels, but you’ve got to go elsewhere for decent schmears. Theirs are low-fat and the taste shows.

  2. Anybody have anything to add? Recommendations, especially of restaurants, that might be less popular but more deserving?

  3. Jon, the taco truck is a’ight. They may make a solid $5 burrito but the best?

    Of course, it’s a shame that Essanay and Il Porcino are not more popular, because they are some of the best Fremont has to offer.

  4. Marty, if you are in Niles have you tried Cici’s for Italian? Right across from the Florence. Been there once, had a great meal.

    We like Il Porcino too.

    Took my son to Niles on Sunday for his report on the Niles Canyon Railway, found out the Depot was open so we checked out the model railroads and museum. It was a fun party!

  5. I went to Essanay once, and the experience was so mixed that I didn’t have any interest in going back: service so glacially slow that another diner we ran into later asked us if our experience was as bad as hers; lovely soup served with cafeteria-style saltines in packets; etc. Meh. It’s been around too long to keep saying “has potential.”

    And one of the things that frustrates me so much is that people keep ranking places like Olive Garden over places like Il Porcino–and, for that matter, that places like Massimo’s and China Chili (and PF Chang’s, good grief!) can be so high in the ranking every year, because they’re really not very good. I would guess it’s nostalgia talking. The service at Massimo’s is terrible, unless, I guess, they know you. China Chili is nice inside, but any of a couple dozen places in Fremont has far better Chinese or even Chinese-American food. It’s not awful, but it’s not very good. People grew up with it and are scared by places with Chinese menus, is my best guess. Spicy Town is excellent, for example–the cumin lamb is really great. The xiao long bao at “Chinese Cuisine” (Shanghai Pearl) are very good; I’ve hardly explored their extensive menu.

    I also didn’t like Bob’s very much–I have yet to have a really outstanding conventional burger in Fremont. I understand that Bob’s is popular for size, and its sack of fries, but the meat itself is pretty meh. (Again, nostalgia? I think Fremont long-timers need to get out more.) The best burger I’ve had in Fremont so far is the Lahori burger at Mirchi Masala, actually, but the only non-South-Asians I’ve seen in there besides my own party was a group of Muslim schoolteachers of various ethnic backgrounds. Again, people need to get out more! If the Lahori burger had a better bun, it’d be a real contender.

    I’ll probably get my act together and write a complete post on my reactions at http://www.aroundfremont.com/ with some further recommendations.

  6. P. S. The worst robbery is anybody winning over Yuki in the Japanese category, which is proof positive that the voters either don’t know or don’t care about quality and authentic and delicious (and I grant you that those aren’t always the same thing!) Japanese food. Cringe.

  7. Maybe it was a bad night, but Yuki had disappointing service and food when we went.

    Semo Sushi is excellent. Unfortunately, they started putting mangoes in dishes, which means sharing knives and cutting boards with mangoes for other dishes, which meant that I had an allergic reaction.

    So we still go to Sushi Harbor, mainly for the wacky rolls that they do amazingly well. I used to be a sashimi purist. Oh well! If I still were, Sushi Yoshi has the best local purist sushi I’ve had – not world class, but good.

    As for the Niles taco truck, their burritos are actually their worst dish, but still the best I’ve had in Fremont. The tacos are fantastic, the quesadillas are otherworldly, and the shrimp cocktail, especially with octopus, can sate all but the strongest sushi cravings.

  8. Been to Yuki’s twice, really bad service both times. Food was good, but not worth the aggravation.
    We like Sei Sho across from Ohlone College, it is a small family run place.

  9. Bruce – I still have yet to try Cici’s. I hear mostly positive things.

    Jon – agree their tacos are much better. That shrimp cocktail always beacons, but my craving for carnitas usually wins out.

    I know a personal effort needs to be made to patronize the restaurants in Niles more often. Use it or lose it.

  10. Essanay CAN be hit or miss, with the service that is – we’ve been there five times, and twice the service was indeed glacially slow. I thought the food in general though was quite interesting and definitely NOT in the chain category. Since I like to patronize local non-chain restaurants, I still plan to go there once in a while. But I consider Essanay a special occasion restaurant, one for birthdays and anniversaries, etc. That means I’ll be there at best three times a year, so my business is not a make or break for them. I WILL go there before Massimo’s – what a pit.

    Yuki’s, on the other hand, we’ve been to many, many times over the last fifteen years, in both locations, and have NEVER had bad service or uninteresting food for the price point. Love them to desperation!

    Is Asia Pearl back? I know they closed briefly and I haven’t been back since… I really liked the dim sum, especially on weekdays – weekends seemed like there were too many people for the kitchen to handle and the quality went down. But it has been a few months since I’ve been there. Since no one has mentioned it yet, thought I’d put it out there.

  11. As the co-editor of the Fremont foodie blog, and a lover of real food (of which chain food is not) I am happy for the independent wins and truly baffled, not by the losses, but by the omissions.

    How did people let Akadia Sushi in Irvington go unnoticed?

    We all live in CA, we know what Mexican food is, what is Chipotle even doing on the list when the taco truck La Perla is missing? I mean talk about Best Burrito.

    If Union City has our best movie house (out of bounds!) then what about nominating the Chavez Meat Market in Newark?… She makes those pupusas by hand, dang nab it. And let’s not forget the cactus at Mi Pueblo Restaurant.

    We need to increase funding to our geography departments if Salang Pass is nominated in the Indian Food category and is also the winner of the Middle Eastern category.

    If Sala Thai was mentioned, but did not win, I wonder if we need to visit the the Sala Thai 2 location?

    No mention of Coco Chicken in any category (because I’m not sure just where it fits). Korean fried chicken, folks… Go!

    Speaking of fried things, what about mentioning the Valero gas station on Mowry and Fremont that will basically deep fry anything you want?

    Where’s the love for Nile Cafe? Those lemon basil chicken sandwiches are gossip worthy.

    p.s. StarBucks does not serve coffee, they serve milk. Go find real coffee and learn, then get back to us with an informed vote next year.

  12. starbucks…??? coffee? I agree with Andrew. Try Peets or that Depot place. nice strong coffee!

  13. CHIPOTLE won best burrito in Fremont? I know that Los Gallos doesn’t have a Fremont location anymore, but come on.

    As I’ve said in public, Chipotle: Killing the Taqueria Business one WHITE RICE filled “burrito” at a time.

    So if UC has our best movie theater, and Newark has our best mall, why can’t Taqueria Los Gallos in Newark have our best burrito??

    “Other head-scratchers include Olive Garden taking top Italian honors over Massimo’s ”

    This actually isn’t that surprising. Although Olive Garden is the K-Mart of italian food, Massimo’s has always been intimidating for most Fremontonians to go to. The only thing that was great about Massimo’s was their deli, but they closed that in the early 00’s when that part of the the shopping center was re-done. I talked to them about it and they said it would come in a different form, but never did.

    And arguably the best burger in the tri city area is at Good Burger in Newark.

  14. Los Gallos Fremont was awesome. In Fremont, try Las Vegas across from ex-NUMMI, they do carrot juice too. Salsa Picante near Blacow and Fremont Blvd has great carnitas. Las Palmas is good too.

  15. Except for a few ethnic restaurants, Fremont is the largest, boring city, in the Bay Area, want fine dining try Palo Alto, San Jose anywhere except Fremont. Fremont has only one seafood restaurant and it is just average.
    When my family dines out we go to AWBF, Any where but Fremont.

  16. Fremont_Bill says “ethnic” as if all food isn’t food. Shouldn’t we celebrate the good food we do have?

    Where does his “fine” dinning come from without an ethnicity? The ethnic French cook up some good grub I’m told… so too the ethnic Italians. Steak got it’s name from the Norse “Steik” and even Hamburgers (from Hamburg no less) got their start in Egypt and Mongolia.

    I only bring this up because of how limiting this point of view can be.

    It would also seem that Bill is looking for a new moniker.

  17. Andrew, In the broadest sense all restaurants are ethnic?
    My definition of a ethnic restaurant is Salang Pass, Falafel Etc.
    Fremont’s taste runs to Denny’s and Olive Garden. Have you been to Palo Alto and dined there. It is as close as 15, 20 minutes from Fremont.
    If you like to dine in Fremont, no problem.
    I still stand by my statement that Fremont is the largest boring city in the Bay Area

  18. This thread is a good one to bookmark because of all the recommendations from Andrew. There are plenty of Fremont restaurants that are new to me.

    I do share some of Bill’s sentiments. The greater complaint I have is the lack of “fine dining” and those restaurants you would be confident taking an important client or cherished family member to. The better restaurants in Fremont shouldn’t even be spoken in the same breath as most places in downtown PA. Some are outright embarassing (psst… talking to you, Papillon).

  19. Papillon is like…..stepping back in time. But that applies to many of the “fine dining” experiences available to you in Fremont.

  20. Papillon- – favorite wine list –

    (Sadly – Marty’s assessment of Fremont “fine dining” is spot on. Some nice little places but, these are far from any competitive definition of “fine” – except in price.)

    Il Porcino – best Italian (sorry but Olive Garden is to Italian as Taco Bell is to Mexican)

    I’d take a Bronco Billie’s Pizza over any of the three names mentioned –

    La Casita – best chips and salsa – most entertaining bar – best chicken and rice soup in town !

  21. … yes, must agree with Marty about the lack of any super classy, bistro style eating.

    Papillon falls into that a class of restaurant you can find in all cities: a dinosaur offering, not a genuine experience, but a strange reflection of what USED to be elegant dinning (some place else). Massimo is the same.

    Marty, I will say this: If you need a very good, very classy looking place to take an important business client, try Sala Thai 2 – on South Grimmer.

    The outside seems low-key, but they have done a wiz-bang job on the inside decor and it looks amazing! The menu is fantastic (the same as Sala Thai 1), but they really went all out with their new place.

    Might not always work for the cherished family member, but for business it will wow every time.

  22. Anybody been to Chutney’s on Mowry? Has pretty good reviews on Yelp. don’t mean to insinuate it’s fine dining, but the appearance of the building is intriguing.

  23. Chutney’s is very good. Maybe it’s because I’m vegetarian, but I don’t see the big deal about Sala Thai.

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