Well, it certainly has been quite a while, hasn’t it?
Sorry for our extended absence, but Ms. Foodie’s had some health issues (again) and while attending to her needs I’m afraid website updates have gone by the wayside…
HOWEVER, today I chanced upon the soft opening of the new Tom + Chee restaurant — the second one in the Columbus area — on Hilliard-Rome Road at the location of the late unlamented Ruby Tuesday’s.
I must say, it’s a vast improvement over that corporate abomination. B and I have never gotten a decent meal at a Ruby Tuesday’s (or TGI Friday’s, or sundry other corporate chain-hell restaurants, for the most part; Olive Garden excepted, but that’s a story for another time).
As I said, I was running errands for B, who remains in the hospital recuperating. My errands brought me to the Meijer’s on Hilliard-Rome Road and the Bath & Body Works, and thus my fate was sealed — I had to pass by what I had thought was a soon-to-be-opened Tom + Chee restaurant. Imagine my surprise when I saw PEOPLE inside, buying food! Needless to say, I was lured in by the promise of fancy-schmancy grilled cheese sandwiches and their mutant offspring.
Upon entering the premises, I called B and informed her where I was and that they were in fact holding a soft opening at that time. She told me to get whatever I wanted, and to get her a particular sandwich (more on that in a moment), so I did as she instructed. I ordered two different sandwiches; one I was sure she’d partake of (the Tom + Chee plus bacon), and one I was sure she’d never touch in a million years (the Armagoetta). I also ordered the creamy tomato-basil soup. B’s special request was the Barbara Blue, a “grilled cheese donut sandwich”.
Service was quick and accurate, surprising for a soft launch (usually the soft launches experience glitches and serve to troubleshoot problems with their ordering, cooking, and serving processes). Bravo, Tom + Chee.
Seating at the Hilliard-Rome location is ample both indoors and out; the patio out front offers some protection from sun and weather. Orders (at least during the soft opening) are brought out to patrons’ tables by the staff.
Now, to the sandwiches themselves. B’s chosen poison was the Barbara Blue ($3.95). That sandwich consists of a glazed donut cut in half with the inside surfaces of the donut becoming the grilled outside of the sandwich (the “pieces of bread”, so to speak). Between those pieces of glazed evil yeasty sweet “bread” was a blueberry compote, a generous portion of ham, and slices of brie cheese. ‘Twas messy indeed, but quite tasty — almost a “dessert sandwich”, though it retained a satisfying savory note thanks to the ham and brie.
Second to be consumed was the Tom + Chee ($4.95) (plus bacon for $2 extra). This was also a generously-sized (though not ridiculously huge, like Melt’s) sandwich comprised of two slices of grilled sourdough bread surrounding fresh large-diced tomatoes, garlic seasoning, cheddar cheese, and mozzarella cheese. The bacon as requested for the sandwich is added in the form of a copious quantity of small pieces of crispy pig belly that distribute the bacony goodness throughout the sandwich instead of being concentrated in a few strips that might accidentally be pulled out during a bite (thus denying the bacon to the rest of the sandwich). This was also quite good, especially paired with the Creamy Tomato Basil Soup, a slightly chunky concoction that’s perfect for dipping any one of these sandwiches.
Finally, we came to the Armagoetta ($7.95). What can you say about it that Adam Richman hasn’t already said on Man vs Food Nation? Well, for starters, it’s not insanely spicy — you can actually eat it and taste the ingredients rather than go running for the nearest pitcher of milk. It’s a slice of sourdough and a slice of rye surrounding a thick slice of goetta (a Cincinnati specialty not unlike scrapple, that uses the squeals & heels from your basic swine combined with pin oats; scrapple is similar but uses cornmeal as its grain base), a liberal slathering of sliced spicy cherry peppers, fried onions, sweet hot mustard, and pepperjack cheese. I enjoyed it greatly, since no single ingredient overpowered anything else in the sandwich and it was a well-balanced sandwich; I’d order it again in a Cincinnati minute.
My verdict? If their soft launch is any indicator, they should do well in Columbus as a less-expensive and less pretentious alternative to a certain Short North grilled cheese emporium. Their offerings are original, tasty, well-conceived, and most importantly, REASONABLY SIZED AND PRICED.
Tom + Chee will be opening officially on Friday, July 18th. They’re located at 1844 Hilliard-Rome Road, Columbus, OH. Hours will be 10:45AM – 9PM Sun-Thu and 10:45AM – 10PM Fri/Sat.