Date of Visit: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 7:30 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: I have the feeling, as I’m stepping into Tommy’s for the first time, that I’m entering a bit of history that’s not really my own. Admittedly, I don’t venture into Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood often enough, so I can’t claim it as my neighborhood, and thus I can’t claim a Franklinton institution like Tommy’s. At the same time, while I’m experiencing this “other part of town,” I’m feeling instantly welcomed like an old regular stopping by for the umpteenth time. Gotta love the American diner.
Tommy’s Diner is the most diner-ish diner I’ve ever visited. It’s the epitome of the classic American diner, albeit one that’s become famous in its own right and isn’t afraid to tell you about it. Most true diners are not so self-conscious, but that doesn’t take away from the experience in the least. Tommy’s has been around for over twenty years on West Broad Street, a major thoroughfare that cuts through downtown Columbus and the neighborhoods to the east and west. When you visit, you can actually meet Tommy, as well as his son Michael. Both of them will gladly share the history of their restaurant.
ATMOSPHERE: Tommy’s wasn’t very busy when we arrived – perhaps because of the heavy snow – but customers steadily rolled in nonetheless. I took the opportunity to stroll around a bit and take some pictures. All of the elements of the diner are in place: black and white checkered floor, glossy red vinyl booths and stools…
…Coca Cola paraphernalia, and neon lights all over.
A WWII bomber on top of an old street sign. Tommy said he took it from Worthington.
FOOD: In line with the classic diner setup of the place, Tommy’s menu offers all the old favorites, with a few house specialties thrown in.
The breakfast menu – served any time – includes all of the good ole eggs, meat, and potatoes combos. Some featured items include steaks or pork chops and eggs (not enough places do those well), breakfast sandwiches, and omelets. There are also a handful of Greek variations, given Tommy’s background.
Very good diner coffee, in custom mugs.
I chose the Big Breakfast: 3 pancakes or 2 French toast, 2 eggs, choice of meat, potatoes, and toast.
All of this stood up to the best diner breakfasts I’ve had. Good scrambled eggs, nice browned potatoes, very good bacon, and well buttered toast. And you can’t argue with the portion size.
But I liked the French toast the best: nice thick slices of bread, with powdered sugar and a generous scoop of melting butter. I mean – what’s not to like?
My breakfasting partner, Micah, ordered the ham and cheese omelet, which he said was good. The cheese looked like American cheese, which I’m never a fan of, the omelet still seemed tasty.
SERVICE: Our server was a lot of fun – very friendly and very attentive.. She made fun of me when I seemed to be slowing down on my French toast. The best diners know how to make you feel like you’re part of the “in crowd” on your first visit. I’ve been to a few that treat you like an outsider who’s intruding on a very close circle. Tommy’s was in no way like that – we felt like part of the family instantly.
But the real treat is meeting Tommy himself, plus his son Michael. I found Tommy behind the register, and introduced myself. He talked a bit about his restaurant, and showed me the wall featuring pictures of himself with various local and national famous faces.
I snapped this picture of Tommy (on the left, in white) chatting with two regulars at the counter. Whenever he wasn’t busy at the register, he hung out with his customers.
OVERALL: What can I say? Tommy’s gets a lot of love from the Franklinton neighborhood, and with good reason. Every neighborhood of Columbus, I’m finding, has at least one great diner that they can brag on, and Tommy’s serves that purpose for Franklinton. But whether you’re from that neighborhood or not, it’s worth a visit – it’ll feel a bit like home for you.
-> CMH Gourmand’s post on Tommy’s