You know what people love? Free stuff. You know how we know? Because we’ve met people. Thusly, we have decided that every restaurant would benefit from finding a way to give those people something for free. As a matter of fact, if a meal includes something served “on the house,” we’re going to 100% guarantee that said meal will be received with positive results, no matter the situation. The amuse bouche is always good (even when it’s not), a free drink is even better, and a plate of cookies with the check is essentially the blowjob of restaurateuring. As far as we can tell, free [insert thing here] is the solution to any and every restaurant-related problem.
Tom’s Restaurant, an old-school diner out in Prospect Heights, is well aware of this theory and has been successfully harnessing the power of the free sample since 1936. Open just for breakfast and lunch, Tom’s sweet spot is the weekends, when the restaurant’s standard customer lines up outside on Sunday morning, hungover and desperate to get a meal down in order to have something to throw up a few hours later while watching the Jets. That is pretty much the worst type of person imaginable (and is also me, weekly), and Tom’s neutralizes this threat in the only logical way - by giving the people free sh*t. The staff preemptively works the line of patrons with platters of sausage, ham, fruit, cookies, pitchers of water, and cups coffee for all. For free. Take one or take six, because nobody but the person behind you in line is counting or cares.
Free food or otherwise, the good news here is that with the right mix of salt, grease, and sugar to calm even the crankiest of the crankies, Tom’s has been satisfying for a long time. We definitely don’t need the bonus treats to keep us coming back - but we certainly aren’t complaining about them either.
Whole wheat pancakes with cranberries and nibs of sweet corn. Truly excellent. The corn packs enough sweetness that you don’t even need syrup. Plus, the whole wheat means that these are 100% healthy and good for you, so feel free to order that triple sausage on the side.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Griddled up with ricotta cheese and some lemon zest. Sounds odd, tastes bomb. The mixture balances well, so no bite is too cheesy or too lemony. A solid and unique cake.
Good, but not filling enough. Top it with fresh berries, a side order of meat, and one or four eggs.
Crab Cakes Florentine
Crab and breakfast rarely mix, and by that we mean why exactly are you eating a small sea monster this early in the morning? Regardless, Tom’s serves these crab cakes on the regular, and nobody bats an eye. Why? Because they are deep fried and damn delicious, that’s why.
Beef Sausage With Lemon
Everybody likes grease-grill breakfast sausage. That’s obvious. But Tom’s takes the whole thing to another level by adding something very simple - lemon juice. That little detail makes these unforgettable.
Cherry Lime Rickey
A house staple, this isn’t necessarily for everybody but if you’re down with a sugary drink in the morning, one of these is a must. This classic soda fountain drink from the 50′s is sweet, but also has enough of a tart kick and seltzer to keep things refreshing.
Vanilla Egg Cream
I’m not the biggest egg cream fan but if ever there was a version to convert me, it’s the one sold here. Very rich, very sweet, this is a bona fide dessert. Order at the end of your meal assuming you have room after the pancakes and sausage and shame.