For those of you who might not know its history, the Essanay is named for George Spoor and Gilbert “Bronco Billy” Anderson (S & A) the two heads of the Chicago film studio that was among the first to shoot in California. Their original location in Chicago proved to have too much inclement weather to shoot all the time, so they opened a branch in Niles in about 1910. They liked the weather and the look of the locale. In 1914 Chaplin was brought in to the studio as a property, but he left after a little over a year. He didn’t like the studio’s aesthetic and wanted more of a say in his own films. But to date, Niles remains in the collective consciousness as “that place where Chaplin shot so many movies.” Regardless of its film history, the city of Niles is a charming, quaint little stretch of lovely smack in the middle of Fremont.
The food was really impressive. A nice combination of down home and upscale, without really hitting either too hard. They don’t serve hard liquor, so we all started with variations on a champagne cocktail, a nice fizzy opener to a hearty repast. After I downed my champers, I had a glass of Merlot that was delicious.
The other appi we tried was Essanay’s take on crab cakes. Not as perfect as the asparagus, as they were a bit on the salty side, but they were good nonetheless. The patties had a nice fluffy consistency, and the crab itself was sweet and tender. I think if I hadn’t just had the world’s best crab cakes at Sea Salt still ringing on my palate, I would have been more impressed with these. They were a solid effort and definitely worth eating.
The steak was a stellar 10 oz strip, cooked rare. The meat was a good cut, so the fact that they knew how to make a good rare steak was indeed a plus. Done nice and bloody, the steak was tender, juicy and savory. The meal came with garlic fries which were slim hot and delicious. There is nothing quite like a perfectly turned french fry to whet the appetite. Though I’ve had it before, the blue cheese ladled delicately over the steak made for a delectable dish. The BH had their game hen which he found likewise moist and well-prepared, it’s crispy skin nestled around the bird in a golden glow, accompanied by several more stalks of that perfect spring asparagus.
If you are in the Fremont neighborhood, you really ought to come by and check it out. They have a gorgeous back bar where live music is featured often on weekends, and it’s very Disneyland and yes, also quaint. See for yourself, check it out. Bon appetit!
37533 Niles Boulevard
Fremont, CA 94536
Table size: adequate
Noise: One Bell (quiet and romantic)
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