Friday, January 1, 2010

Experiencing The Big M At Tommy's Restaurant

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity for the last couple of weeks to help out a good friend, Diane, with her stand at the North Union Farmers Market located on the main campus of The Cleveland Clinic. While I occasionally got to take a nibble or two of food in between helping customers, for the most part my focus was on selling as many of Diane's wonderful pies as I could between the hours of 10 AM and 2:30 PM. By the time the market was over and we had repacked Diane's car, I was feeling somewhat famished. Being so close to the Coventry Road area, I decided to head over and satisfy two needs. The first need was to gain immediate sustenance. The second was to stop in at Grum's and purchase a whole Turkey Ridge to bring back home with me for later.

After parking my car in the garage directly in the middle of the Coventry area, I walked out of the garage and took a picture of Tommy's exterior from across the street:

Located at 1824 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, 44118, they can be reached at 216-321-7757. You can also check out their website by clicking on this link. I remember going to Tommy's for the first time when I started attending college at Case Western Reserve University. It has remained virtually unchanged, even after all of these years. Tommy's has always served a wide range of customers, from meat-eaters to vegans with a very tasty menu. Their prices are a bit higher than I remember from twenty years ago, but whenever I have a chance to check them out, I take the opportunity. I will warn you, gentle reader, that Tommy's is as popular a place now as it was back then. If you intend to show up on a Friday night at 6 PM for dinner, expect there to be a lengthy queue.

Today, however, I showed up around 2:45 PM and was rewarded with a mostly empty restaurant. I was seated by the front window and handed a menu. Here were some photos I took of the menu:

There are a few signature items for which Tommy's is known: Spinach pies, meat pies, hummos, French fries, and of course, thick and rich milkshakes. Fortunately and unfortunately, portions are large at Tommy's. Fortunate if you happen to be in a large group and want to share the 12 ounce serving of French fries. Unfortunate if you are just looking for a side of fries to accompany your meat pie. The hummos appetizer is very good, but at more than $7 for this plate of food, this would be more like my entire meal than a warm-up to the main event.

After seeing that the only side available on the menu was the 12 ounce serving of French fries, I asked my server if I had any other options. Sadly, even though she ha recommended to management time and again that they offer smaller portion sizes on the menu (only to be rebuffed), she pointed to a small rack of pre-packaged potato chips and suggested I might want to pair a bag of chips with my lunch. At a cost of only $0.99 with a portion size that looked normal for an adult, I quickly agreed and picked up a bag of Dirty's All Natural Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper chips:

While I have been known in the past to order one of Tommy's fantastic spinach and onion pies, today I decided I wanted something a little heartier. After considering my options, I decided on ordering the "Big M." Containing a combination beef and lamb patty, my Big M also came with lettuce, tomato, onions, green peppers, mozzarella cheese, and their unique barbecue sauce. After about fifteen minutes, my Big M arrived at my table and after I added some of the salt and pepper potato chips, I took a photo of my lunch platter:

Here was a close-up shot of the front of my Big M:

And the back of it:

Overall, I really enjoyed the flavors of my Big M pie, although the notion of it being a pie in the traditional sense of the word was a bit convoluted. Yes, it did have a top and bottom crust and it was filled with a cooked meat patty, melted cheese, fresh vegetables and sauce. But this pie wasn't shaped like a cut wedge from an entire pie. Each portion was it's own complete entity. I'm not sure exactly how they cook these because the vegetables were nicely crisp and fresh while at the same time the patty was hot, the cheese was melted, and the top layer of "dough" was nice and crispy.

After cutting into my Big M, I decided to take a side shot of the pie, revealing the meaty interior:

The combination of flavors was excellent. The lamb and beef played well together, neither of which overpowering the other. The barbecue sauce was excellent, as always. The sauce that Tommy's uses has a very muted flavor, and is neither overly smoky nor sweet. It added a nice cooked tomato flavor and mild acidity to compliment the fresh tomato that garnished the meat pie. Overall, the Big M was a hit except for one little minor detail. The crust on the bottom of the pie sort of alternated between being soggy from the meat juices of the patty resting on top of it and, well, um, burnt in other spots:

The soggy I didn't mind so much. The burnt wasn't very pleasant at all. Fortunately there were only a few pieces of burnt crust, so I was able to remove them pretty easily. That being said, with how busy the restaurant was on a Wednesday afternoon at 3 PM, there really shouldn't have been anything wrong with my pie.

Finally, the potato chips:

These were lovely ... crispy, not oily, and a lovely balance between salt and cracked pepper. I was a little taken aback when I read the list of ingredients on the back of the package to find that they had several forms of sugar in them. I can only imagine that the sugar was added to help balance out the saltiness of the chips, because the chips certainly didn't taste sweet. Looking at the amount of sodium in a single serving may help to back up my assertion. Because the flavor of the cracked pepper was so prominent, perhaps they needed to use a more aggressive hand when it came to the salt (460 mg of sodium per serving). To balance the saltiness, they added a touch of sweetness, too. Either way, it was a nice compliment to my Big M.

My hunger now sated, I paid the check, collected my coat and cellphone and headed down Coventry Road to purchase my Turkey Ridge for a late dinner. Apart from the bits of burnt crust on a small portion of my meat pie, everything was tasty, well balanced, and I felt like I was doing something healthy for my body. Since everything is a la carte, the check can start to get a little pricey if you go nuts with appetizers, sides, and milkshakes. Eating with a group can help to minimize those costs and spread them around. I heartily recommend Tommy's for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, especially if you have anyone in your dinner party with food restrictions. With lots of very cool shops within walking distance from Tommy's, you could make an entire afternoon of eating and shopping.

Tommy's on Urbanspoon Tommy's on Restaurantica


BONNIE K said...

I used to go there a lot many years ago. In the past few years when I've tried to go, it's been very crowded and there's not much room for the waiting crowd. I do love it there tho.

DianeS said...

Maybe it is not a bad thing that you didn't order the fries at Tommy's. Have you had them before? I'm not sure whether or not you would care for them. They are a house-cut/made fry. I like them but have learned from my Mom that they are best when you ask for them well done; then they are nice and crisp. Actually, if you ever were to really like a house-made fry I think Tommy's might be the ones.

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