Vegetarian-friendly fare has taken root at Tommy’s in Cleveland Heights
Review by Barbara Collier
One of the oldest vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the area is Tommy’s Restaurant in Cleveland Heights. It is also without question one of the most popular places to eat since it opened in 1972.
As a teen, owner Tommy Fello worked at a soda fountain around the corner, whose Lebanese owner decided to return to Lebanon. But before leaving, he taught Fello how to make some Lebanese specialties served today at Tommy’s, such as falafel, hummus and baba ganoush.
The ’60s and ’70s were hippie days, and Coventry Road was a mecca. Fello said many young customers asked for meatless choices then, and that became the focus of his menu.
The menu is like a who’s who list, with almost every item named after a person or pet.
Tommy’s had kale and escarole way before they were cool. Fello grew up eating escarole and potatoes his mother, Inezz, prepared during Lent. Today he offers the “Jane” pie ($7.95), a large house-made whole wheat dough filled with sauteed chopped escarole, broccoli, potato and cheese. It is served with an excellent salsa side. It is super-tasting and large enough to share.
If you are into the kale kick, there’s a marvelous dish of brown rice and veggies ($7.80), labeled macrobiotic and vegan. Brown rice is mixed with steamed kale, scallions, mushrooms and broccoli and served with a side of tamari and toasted sunflower seeds.
Falafel is one of my favorite Middle Eastern specialties, and Tommy’s offers more than a dozen variations. The most popular, “Ceebee” ($8.95), is a huge, warm pita filled with a mixture of falafel, veggies, hummus, sunflower seeds and cheese.
Both tofu and tempeh are available.
The “Delaney” ($9.50) is named after Tommy’s daughter. It is fried tempeh, spinach, mustard, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and pickles on grilled rye bread.
The “Dave” ($9.80) is a tossed salad of greens with baba, pickles, hard-cooked eggs, olives and cheese. The “Lauren” ($11.15) is a spinach salad with hummus, bacon, onion, hard-cooked egg, cheese and tomatoes.
There is meat, too, in sandwiches and meat pies. The meat pie ($7.30) is a lamb-beef mix with onion baked in dough. The “Aunt Gay” ($8.40) is the meat pie with sesame sauce, veggies and cheese.
French fries ($3.79) are hand-cut daily, fried in canola oil and served in huge portions.
Tommy’s servers are trained to assist those with dietary restrictions. If there is a restriction, it is noted on the order to the kitchen. The server checks out the order before it is delivered to the table, too. There are special grilles for gluten-free, and no vegan food touches the meat grille.
Since opening, Tommy’s has been known for its milkshakes ($4.99 for 20 ounces). The vegan Tofutti shake ($6.99 for 20 ounces) contains soy, chocolate and vanilla flavors.
The breakfast menu is also large. Two eggs, toast and hash browns or bacon are $5.40. Add coffee for $2.29. There are omelets, waffles and pancakes, steel-cut oatmeal, house-made granola, breakfast meats and kashi served hot with bananas.
Tommy’s is at 1824 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights. Call 216-321-7757
Breakfast hours are 9-11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, 7:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Lunch and dinner are served all day, every day. The restaurant closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.