Dining in Fremont is a family affair. You won’t find long lines and online restaurant reviews in the thousands, but Fremont’s restaurant scene has been cultivated in the strict scrutiny of the suburbs, by busy families who want delicious, affordable food every day of the week to rival home-cooked meals, with plentiful portions and cuisine representative of the city’s diverse population.
The tried-and-true restaurants in Fremont offer kebabs, dim sum, chana bhatura, dumplings, curry pizza, green onion pancakes and falafel and lots more. Most are open throughout the year (even on national holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving) and are tucked away in strip malls with family-friendly accommodations like ample parking and roomy seating.
Kebabs, shawarma, and more
One of Fremont’s oldest, most established restaurants is De Afghanan Cuisine in Centerville. Its side-by-side eateries (a restaurant and takeout spot) are on Fremont Boulevard in “Little Kabul,” considered home to the largest Afghan-American population in the United States. The meat kebabs and bolani bread are De Afghanan’s most popular items, with a standout in the chaplee kebab, made from ground beef, scallions, red pepper, cilantro, cumin, coriander and a variety of spices. The pan-baked bolani is a vegetarian pastry stuffed with leek and potato, served with yogurt and chutney. The portion is large enough to be enjoyed as a standalone snack or as a side to accompany kebabs.
De Afghanan was formerly neighbored by Salang Pass, a colorful Afghan restaurant with floor pillow seating and an extensive menu, but the eatery quietly shut down this year. Now, the next-best bet to get Afghan snacks is at Maiwand Market, located a couple of blocks down Fremont Boulevard from De Afghanan. The market’s bakery is known for its colossal naan.
From Centerville, a straight shot down Fremont Boulevard will land you at Falafel, Etc., a 10-year-old restaurant located across from the Fremont Hub shopping complex. It’s one of the city’s best values for fresh, flavorful plates packed with kettle-fried falafel, hummus, pickles, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, shawarma, or kebabs, with a slew of delectable dishes and desserts to fill its “et cetera” moniker.
Dependable Mexican fare
Though Fremont isn’t a regional destination for Mexican food like nearby San Jose, it finds a consistent local favorite in Super Taco on Fremont Boulevard. The divey, cash-only restaurant is in a central location for nearby high schools and offers affordable burritos, quesadillas and tacos with generous portions and its own orange sauce to rival the fabled condiment at San Jose and Hayward’s La Victoria Taqueria. Salsa Picante, located one block down on Washington Boulevard, has a festive ambiance and inventive menu featuring paneer fajitas alongside traditional dishes like chile relleno, sopes and pescado dorado. The Tacos El Compadre taco truck (also cash-only) in Central Fremont in a used car lot on Peralta Boulevard is a hit. Fans go for the al pastor, chicken and shrimp; the veggie taco is pretty delicious too.
Tried and true South Asian spots
Multicultural grocery stores and markets are a jewel of Fremont’s gastronomical identity, and one of its tastiest Indian eateries exists deep inside a grocery store where Blacow Road meets Mowry Avenue. New India Bazar is home to a chaat stall run by the proprietors of Ardenwood’s Chatpatta Corner. Fried, layered and splendorous Indian street snacks pour out of the tiny, efficient operation and small crowds gather to wolf down pani puri, consisting of deep-fried gram flour balls filled with spiced water and chutney. The station has a limited but compelling menu, with each item running about $6. Other hits include the dahi papdi chaat, samosa chaat, bhel puri and masala puri. Be sure to specify your preferred level of spice, or endure the delightful, nose-running, eye-watering bliss of classic chaat.
Indian and South Asian food is bountiful in Fremont to service a large chunk of its population, 57% of which is Asian. Other places to consider are the Fremont locations of Curry Pizza House and all-vegetarian hotspot, Chaat Bhavan. The latter bubbles over with patrons on weekend nights and serves out piping hot chana bhatura, a ballooning fried bread made from white flour and served with spiced and stewed chickpeas. Those who delight in spicy meats can try Pakwan, a 20-year-old Pakistani and Indian halal restaurant with a loyal fanbase who returns for its fluffy naan, tandoori chicken, seekh kebabs, and nihari with beef and lamb. Pakwan also has outposts in San Francisco and Hayward.
Tempting East Asian eats
Hungry visitors looking for Chinese and East Asian food can find dozens of bakeries, tea corners, casual and group dining options to fill their bellies with noodles, dumplings, dim sum and regional specialties. A relative new-comer, Din Ding Dumpling House on Walnut Avenue has quickly become a popular spot to settle down for xiao long bao (soup dumplings), noodle soups and pork buns. It also offers numerous vegetarian options on its large menu, including green veggie dumplings and homey egg and tomato noodles. The restaurant has plentiful seating but gets busy during peak dining hours. A skip across the shopping complex lands you at Sala Thai, a massively popular restaurant for Thai cuisine. Its siblings Sala Thai 2 and 3 are a couple of miles away in South Fremont, and all boast expansive menus with grilled chicken satay, roti, tom yum soups and a variety of noodles, fried rice and curries.
Warm Springs and South Fremont are also home to Teo Chow Noodle Shack and Little Dipper Shabu Shabu. Teo Chow is a little out of the way at the edge of Fremont near the Baylands marshes, but it’s garnered love since 2012 for stir-fries, pan-fried noodles, hot noodle soups and the “Ultimate Bowl,” which comes with roasted duck and six dumplings for $14 (most reviewers say they can’t finish the bowl in one sitting.) Little Dipper is an all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant perfect for large groups (charging about $30 per head). It overflows with customers on weekends and Friday nights, and it’s best to get on its online waitlist in advance.
For the sweetest of endings to your suburban meal, get dessert at Niles Ice Cream Sweets and Eats, located in Fremont’s historic Niles district. Nearly 100 years ago, Niles was home to a movie-making company that produced films starring Charlie Chaplin. It’s now your go-to spot for an ice cream sundae and people-watching on Niles Boulevard. For a more elegant mood, crack into a crème brûlée or other beautifully plated dessert and enjoy a drink in the greenhouse at Papillon, a pretty, fine-dining French restaurant on the Niles foothills that offers a nice stoop to contemplate your next dining conquest in the East Bay.