My friend, Randy Brekke, has been extolling the virtues of a west-side Davenport restaurant - Tommy's Cafe - for a number of years. He kept telling me, "Their food is pretty good and you get good portions for what you pay." One morning after walking through the Farmers Market at the Freight House and in the adjacent parking lot at Modern Woodmen Park, we decided to go get some breakfast. We stopped at Tommy's and I have to say that what Randy was telling me was spot on. It was a lot of good food at a reasonable price. The only problem is that I didn't have my phone with me to take pictures of the place. On a recent Sunday morning, we headed back over to Tommy's for breakfast, this time with phone in tow.
Tommy's Cafe could be categorized as a "blue-collar" type of place. I would lovingly call it the quintessential "greasy spoon" joint. Located on West 3rd Street (see map), it's in the middle of an area that has been cleaned of blight over the past 15 years. There's parking on the street in front of Tommy's, but they also have a small parking lot with a rear entrance behind the place.
Tommy's has been around since April of 1987. That's when Tom Jones opened the doors to a small place on West 3rd that had only counter seating and a handful of tables or booths. While he was learning his way around the kitchen, Tom's mother, Joan, waited on tables while his father, Roy, made pies, pastries and bread for the restaurant. Tom's parents had run other businesses in the area and they taught Tommy everything about running a business. Tom's future wife, Chris, began to work in the restaurant after she graduated from high school. They were married in September of 1990.
In 2003, now with three children, Tommy and Chris added a new section to the restaurant effectively tripling the size of the place (above right). Their kids work at the restaurant - Casey is a cook and daughters Kayla and Bailey work as waitresses. Everything at Tommy's is made from scratch - the Jones' say it helps keep their costs low and the quality consistent.
One other thing that Tommy's is famous for are their pastries and donuts. I took a quick picture of their baking trays before they were picked bare in the mid-morning. They have cinnamon rolls, turnovers, long johns - just about anything a bakery would have for morning pastries. And we heard they were good. Before Cindy even ordered breakfast, she ordered one each of a blueberry, raspberry, cherry and apple turnover, just to make sure she'd have them before they ran out. I said, "What are you getting so many of them for?"
She said, "I don't know. We can give some to the neighbors or I'll take a couple to work."
We got into Tommy's around 10 a.m. one recent Sunday morning. Even with the additional space, Tommy's is consistently full for breakfast. We were lucky to find one booth open in the original part of the restaurant. A waitress came over with a couple glasses of water and menus for us after we sat down.
The menu at Tommy's has the standard breakfast fare - eggs, omelets, pancakes, French toast and waffles. They also feature a number of lunch items including burgers, sandwiches, salads and comfort food like hot beef sandwiches. The have a breakfast special called the 88 - eggs your way, bacon, sausage and 3 pancakes. It was pretty cheap - I think it was $3.95. Cindy ended up getting that.
I was sort of torn getting between getting French toast, a waffle or an omelet. We'd had a neighborhood party the night before and I was feeling a little fuzzy that morning. I decided that I needed an omelet - sausage, mushroom and cheese. I got whole wheat toast on the side and a glass of milk.
The only problem I have with Tommy's is that when they expanded the restaurant, they didn't expand the kitchen. Because of that, you are generally waiting quite a while for your food. That's happened to us both times we've been to Tommy's. About the time that we were getting antsy for our breakfast - over 20 minutes after we ordered - the food was brought to our table.
Cindy's 88 special breakfast featured three fluffy pancakes - she prefers them thin and well-done - two sausage links, two pieces of bacon and a couple eggs over easy. She didn't get any toast, but I did. She said, "I want to trade some toast for these sausage links." She doesn't care for breakfast sausage all that much. Turns out she could have gotten four slices of bacon instead of two and two.
My omelet was thin - as I like it - and was filled with sauteed mushrooms, sausage chunks and American cheese. Cheese was melted on top of the omelet. I black-peppered it up and dug in. It was good, not the best, but it was above average. It was certainly a big omelet - it filled up the plate. With somewhat of a hangover, it tasted pretty darn good.
Cindy said her breakfast was "fine". Even though the pancakes were too fluffy for her, she said that she liked them. She gave me a couple bites of the pancakes and they were all right. I think my wife makes the best pancakes in the world and it's tough to beat that gold standard for me. But the ones at Tommy's were good.
After eating, we went up to the counter to pay (Tommy's is a cash only establishment) and to grab our sack of turnovers. On our first visit, we witnessed a rather ugly encounter with a customer who had called in for an order of a dozen donuts, only to find that someone had made off with the dozen before she showed up. And there were no donuts left on the trays behind the cash register. We thought that if she put up such a fuss for Tommy's donuts, they must be pretty damned good.
After we got home, the temptation was too much for Cindy. She got into the bag and pulled out the apple turnover. She exclaimed, "Oh, my God! This is great! Now I know why they go so fast!"
The next day, I had one of Tommy's turnovers - the blueberry one. It was light, flaky and extremely good. It had a sugar frosting on the outside and the flaky layered consistency of a good Greek baklava. The blueberry filling was just the gravy on what was a wonderful pastry. If I were getting a dozen rolls or donuts for someone, I'd go to Tommy's before I'd go to Dunkin Donuts.
With the four turnovers at $1.35 each, our bill came to just under $20 bucks. That was a lot of food for little money. Tommy's is a great value with good food. Breakfast is their highlight, but be prepared to wait for a table and then wait for the food. It's nothin' fancy, but it's worth it.