Hidden Gems: A slice of heaven at Fremont grill

22 Jul 2013


Omaha World Herald   |   By Sue Story Truax / World-Herald staff writer


FREMONT, Neb. — Remember the theme song from the TV show “Cheers”? It had these lyrics: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.”

That's the vibe at Savannakhet Asian Grill, 507 N. D St. in downtown Fremont (two blocks south of East Military Avenue).

On a recent Friday night visit, owner Joe Peters greeted customers by name. He asked some people where their spouses were, talked business to others, commented that a customer was arriving later than usual, and asked if a patron wanted the usual order.

I'm sure that on our next visit, we'll be greeted by first name, too.

Shelly Holzerland of Fremont emailed to suggest Savannakhet Asian Grill as a hidden gem. The extensive menu offers creations from Laos, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

Holzerland has a favorite: “The pho is out of this world!!!”

I agree after trying the $7.25 soup native to Vietnam.

Carol Peters — Joe's wife, a native of Laos, and Savannakhet co-owner and chef — starts with beef knuckle bones and her own blend of spices for the broth. Added to it are rice noodles, sliced beef and sliced homemade meatballs made from her own recipe.

Pho, which filled an oversized bowl, came with these condiments to add, if desired: bean sprouts, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeño peppers and fresh lime.

We also ordered tom yum, described as a Thai hot and sour soup. It was nothing like the bland soup often served at Chinese restaurants.

Tom yum, $7.95, has a hot-peppered broth, sliced mushrooms and chicken chunks. The soup is served with steamed rice. We like spicy foods, but eating the rice and soup together removed some of the burn.

The soup also is available with seafood chunks instead of chicken for $8.50.

From the Laotian portion of the menu, we tried lap chicken, $7.25. The minced chicken salad with chili peppers, cilantro and red onions came with lettuce for making wraps. Although tasty, this dish was our least favorite.

There's also a lap beef for $7.85.

The Thai chicken satay, $5, was wonderful. Four meaty skewers of chicken came with a divine spicy peanut dipping sauce and a small dish of terrific pickled vegetables. We didn't ask for seconds on the veggies, but we wanted to.

Chicken satay without the dipping sauce would be a good option for children. The poultry, although marinated in coconut milk and curry, wasn't spicy.

Savannakhet Asian Grill is named for the city and province in western Laos. In Laotian, savanna means heaven and khet means border, said Joe Peters.

Our meal certainly was heavenly.

The restaurant is clean, bright and simply decorated. Sherbet-colored walls of lemon and orange top wood panel wainscotting. A few sculptures and a tapestry of elephants adorn the walls. Booths and tables provide seating for 50 or so.

Service is prompt and personal with Peters or a Peters child taking orders, getting drinks and delivering food.

Prices range from $1.25 for a can of pop, iced tea or steamed rice, to $9.25 for any of the four noodle dishes with shrimp. Mongolian beef and shrimp fried rice are the next priciest items at $8.75.

Because we have vegetarian relatives, we always ask about how food is prepared. Peters said most of the restaurant's dishes can be prepared without meat or meat broth.

Another diner who could hear our conversation said that she is a strict vegetarian and the restaurant always gets it right. That evening, she feasted on vegetarian spring rolls and vegetable fried rice.

Savannakhet Asian Grill, the Peters' first restaurant, has been open 1½ years. The couple, who met when both worked at Hormel Foods in Fremont, have been married 18 years.