Some of the most gracious service I have ever had in a restaurant is from greasy spoons or little stands in the middle of nowhere. Owners and workers were genuinely pleased to have me stop by for a plate of eggs or a cup of coffee or even just to grab a homemade pastry.
On the other hand, I have been to upscale restaurants where the owner and staff act as though they are doing you a favor by allowing you into the restaurant and, then, serving you. Such charmers they are.
It is because of the former that I dont shy away from places that most people easily dismiss. I love the little places because they often serve great food. I think people miss out on a lot of good chow because the exterior of the building could use several coats of paint or the interior is still decorated in 70s Avocado Green, Harvest Gold and Chocolate Brown.
Near where I work in midtown Phoenix, there is a bright yellow building that houses Tommys Burger Place. The eatery has been there for quite some time and recently changed ownership. I had never eaten there before, but several colleagues have stated that the burgers arent bad and the homemade chips are excellent. So, I figured I would visit the place.
Parking for Tommys is in the back along with the entrance. Walking past the kitchen and into the dining room, the place was a mix of old paint, old tables and chairs, a loud television churning out rap and a gaggle of high schoolers in the corner. The counter was against one wall, near the kitchen and about halfway through the building. There were a large number of signs listing specials and declaring all of their awards and notations for their homemade chips. Also decorating the area were plenty menu boards, a clock and other art screaming Pepsi.
The menu itself was a mish-mash of burger favorites along with assorted Mexican items like tacos, tostadas, etc. I finally decided on the Tommy Burger Special ($5.29) which came with a bacon cheeseburger, homemade chips, and a medium drink. I stood at the ordering station and waited for quite sometime before one of the teenagers in the group huddled near the TV got up, walked over and took my order.
I asked for the works on the burger minus the tomato and selected the secret sauce instead of the mayo-based sauce that was also offered. He rang up my total ($5.72 including tax) and handed me a styrofoam cup for my drink. I got my drink and retired to a table away from the TV which had become rather annoying as the sound was being cranked louder and louder with gleeful cheers from the teens as rap star after rap star would appear on the screen.
In what seemed like an inordinate amount of time, the person who took my order arrived with my meal. A parchment paper-lined basket was carrying my burger and my chips. Heres your burger, hold the tomato, he said and then scampered off to chat with his friends in the corner. I took the top bun off of my burger and noticed that asking for the works, hold the tomato meant you got your burger, cheese, bacon and sauce. No lettuce or onion, as described on the menu, where to be found. Not a big deal, but disappointing.
I took a bite of the burger and it was rather boring. The special sauce was a glorified Thousand Island Dressing and the burger had been woefully overcooked. The bacon was crisp and tasty, however, and the bun was soft and fresh. All in all, I wasnt overly impressed with the burger.
Next up, I worked on the homemade chips. They looked great and smelled wonderful. They were seemed hot and the dusting of salt had me hoping that these would make up for the shortcomings of the burger. They did sort of.
The chips were of three varieties: the good, the undercooked and the overcooked. I am not sure how they did it, but some of the chips were overcooked to the point of having a horrible burnt taste. On the other hand, some of the chips were strangely undercooked with startchy interiors and a tepid temperature at best. The chips that were spot on were very good, but there were not enough of them to save the batch. I still am perplexed as to how they managed this mixture of chips.
I ate about half of my meal and then got up to leave. As I exited, I again noticed the awards the place had received for its chips and remembers that it was now under new ownership. Sadly, those awards belong to the previous owner.
Overall, I was disappointed in Tommys Burger Place. This is near enough to the midtown corridor where it could do a bustling business of people wanting a burger for lunch. From my visit, I would hesitate to guess that this place may only find itself a high school hangout.
Tommys Burger Place
4201 North 7th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85011
Notes: Parking and entrance are at the back of the building.