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August 26, 2009 > Restaurant Review: Dino's Family Restaurant

Restaurant Review: Dino's Family Restaurant

By Denny Stein

Cliches get a bad rap. They're panned as overused, commonplace platitudes. But here's my two cents: Cliches, at some time in the past, were fresh and original; they expressed a truism in a tidy phrase. When you hear "motherhood and apple pie," or "tip of the iceberg" you know exactly what you're getting. And so it is at Dino's Family Restaurant in Fremont. Contained in its four page menu are the real McCoy home-cooked meals that won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Originally, back about 1956, there was a Hobo's hamburger shack at this location on the corner of Fremont and Thornton. In 1976, Dino Markou, who recently passed on, expanded the building, and the bill of fare, to become a sit-down restaurant. And sit down is exactly what the community has done for the last 30 plus years. You can sit at the counter and find friends and neighbors on either side of you; you can bring your family and fit six to eight members in one of the enclosed patio's extra large booths; on a busy Sunday morning you'll find yourself admiring the white and green subway tile of the entrance while sitting in the waiting area. But ask anyone and you'll be told that a seat at Dino's is worth the wait.

Bill Sinodinos, the current owner is Dino's son-in-law; Toula, a server who stopped to chat, is Bill's cousin. The kitchen staff is also related: three brothers and two cousins from the Ureno family. And the customers drop in all day to dine or chat, or meet friends. One of the hallmarks of Dino's Restaurant is that it's not just a rainy day friend - if a social security check is late, or times are particularly hard, Bill will let regular customers put their meal on a tab. Friends don't let friends go hungry.

On Tuesday, I met my good friend Margo, a savvy local realtor, at Dino's for a late breakfast/early lunch. There was no wait for a booth, but the restaurant was far from empty. Barbara, our waitress, said she had been working there for over 20 years, and seemed happy as a clam, as did several other friendly servers who stopped by to talk to us. The kitchen serves Breakfast All Day, so I asked for the Half Order of French Toast, with syrup, bacon, and a fried egg.

Along came two giant pieces of French Toast, three pieces of bacon and two fried eggs. Enough to feed a small family! Margo opted for lunch with a BLT on whole wheat, plus avocado, and a bowl of fruit. Her sandwich looked delicious, but especially delightful was the bowl of very fresh, delicately cut strawberries, watermelon, bananas and grapes. The two of us sat and talked for almost 2 hours without being rushed or bothered.

Finally, I decided we had to taste the homemade desserts, despite being totally sated. Both the Tapioca and Bread Pudding were sweet and tasty, especially the latter, which was laced with cinnamon and walnuts. All around us folks were clearly enjoying their food, whether the Hot Turkey Sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes, one of the many Hamburger or Omelette variations, or a Daily Special from the board.

The patio area is spacious and sunny and Toula described the original patio as furnished with picnic tables and benches. When Bill remodeled it in 1989, customers requested large booths with maneuverable tables, and that's what they got. Giving customers what they want seems to be the guiding principle of Dino's Family Restaurant.

The flower garden just outside the window is that extra something special you get from Dino's family. Bill is also a major supporter of our community and the schools. Walls are covered with photos and plaques from grateful little league teams and civic groups. The restaurant supplies 400 dinners to the Feed the Hungry program, working with the Niles (Fremont) Rotary Club. Margo summed up dining at Dino's when she said, "I feel good about eating here."

So whether it's a dark and stormy night or not, stop by Dino's Family Restaurant for tried and true comfort food, where the premises are clean as a whistle, you don't have to count your pennies, and everyone will get to know your name.

Reviewed August 19, 2009

Dino's Family Restaurant
36930 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
(510) 792-6533

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