My soul quivered, my head throbbed, and my tummy rumbled.
I meandered to Tom’s Restaurant (782 Washington Avenue, between Sterling Place and St. John’s Place) on yesterday’s gray, wet morning that came after a sleepless night. Tom’s, a diner opened in 1936 that is known for its brunch and winning atmosphere, rests on a corner that bears the name of its former owner, Gus Vlahavas. I took that as a good omen, but maybe I just wanted any sign at all.
“I’ll get you coffee, boss,” said my waiter as I was seated promptly amongst the mostly somber crowd. I didn’t ask for it. Perhaps my visage gave me away? He steered me towards the “Special 2 by 2 by 2 Combo” of two eggs, two pancakes, and bacon ($10). For an added twenty-five cents, I got turkey bacon.
I had just barely begun to sip my decently-sized mug of black coffee, which tasted like the coffee at any diner, when three massive plates appeared before me. The pancakes occupied one, while their toppings were another. On the third rested three strips of blackened turkey bacon atop my two eggs over easy.
I bit into the bacon, applied a bit of syrup, and chomped again. It was salty, meaty, and chewy and for some reason, I thought of the slab pork in Where The Red Fern Grows. I pierced an egg like the corporate veil, and the perfectly runny yolk started to buoy my spirits.
The pancakes came with a pile of those small, gold-topped packages of butter, and three small containers of flavored, whipped butter. One was strawberry, which made me think of the popovers I used to eat during weekends on the Upper West Side. I applied a bit more syrup, as I listened to the ebullient chatter of the burly and mendacious New Jerseyans at the table across from me.
I was done with my plate of animal protein when the men left, and it was then that the magic of Tom’s became apparent. The women next to me, who were clearly despondent as well, began to commiserate.
“We both came here because we are both trying not to completely freak out,” said Tanya, who wore black over her tattoos.
“When it’s crowded, and there’s a line on the weekends, they bring out coffee, orange slices or a plate of sausage and give people a snack when they wait in line. It’s really the atmosphere,” said Emily.
And so we kibbitzed and, on advice, I ordered a chocolate egg cream ($4) which also came out with dazzling alacrity. It was around then that I noticed that my coffee had never dipped below half a mug, despite my heavy guzzling. These guys are good.
The egg cream was good, but not great. It was topped with a mountain of whipped cream, which is to say the right amount. It was sweet, fizzy, and not too chocolatey but it lacked the special something that you might find at the Brooklyn Farmacy. That didn’t matter today.
By the time my check came, I felt substantially better. Emily and Tanya went on their way after we discussed what our next steps could, should, and might be. I had to use the ATM ($2 fee), but I didn’t mind.
When I left, the sun hadn’t come out and the air was still wet, but at least I had something good in me.
The Restaurant Rundown: Tom’s Restaurant
Address: 782 Washington Avenue, between Sterling Place and St. John’s Place
Phone: (212) 864-6137
Try: Brunch and diner staples.
Avoid: Missing out on this place.
Kids: This place was meant for families.