This is an AMAZING article!

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Long before gluten-free trendy, way back when vegetarianism was an oddity and being a vegan got you REALLY weird looks, Tommy’s Restaurant was serving all of the above. The Cleveland Heights mainstay has catered to those with special dietary needs – or just in search of healthful dining options – since 1972.

It’s a formula that has worked quite well for the 42-year-old Coventry Road favorite, if a recent Sunday afternoon is testament. Or any afternoon, really. Tommy’s, a throwback to when Coventry was our very own Haight Ashbury, is busier and bigger than ever. They were ahead of the curve on healthy eating, and Cleveland is catching up.

But (wo)man – and kids – do not live on healthy foods alone. We need flavor, and options, and even treats. Healthy ones, of course. Tommy’s has all of these in abundance – no wonder they’ve lasted so long. Much of the time you wouldn’t even know you were eating veggie or gluten- or dairy-free foods here, if you hadn’t placed the order.

My 7-year-old, a friend and I visited on recent weekend. It was the perfect choice for our outing, as I’m encouraging my daughter to eat more healthfully and my friend cannot eat dairy or meat. Plus, we all love Tommy’s laid back vibe, with its big airy rooms, sleek blond wood and local art on the walls – not to mention it’s proximity to Big Fun and Mac’s Backs for after-lunch browsing.

We went around noon, still time to order breakfast, served till 1 p.m. on weekends, or lunch. It was a split decision for our table, with my friend opting for the wonderfully fluffy Alexandra pancakes topped with fresh bananas and strawberries ($3.99), with a side of crispy hash browns. Since she cannot consume dairy or soy, she was delighted with Tommy’s Rice Dream milkshakes ($7.29), the only place in town she has found them. The rich shake was made with freshly blended strawberries, a great treat on a cold winter day.

And kudos to our server who noted her request and made sure she knew that the pancakes were made with butter without my friend even having to ask about the ingredients. Note: this is also labeled on Tommy’s menu, which carefully notes the vegan, gluten- and dairy-free options, as well as what is made with salt or nuts.

Lunch options range from Tommy’s famous wraps and falafel to a wide variety of salads, tofu and tempeh entrees, meat pies, spinach pies, sandwiches and pizzas. Yes, they do serve meat, including those burgers and hot dogs. Not bad for place that also employs a specialist to craft vegan and gluten-free options.

My daughter and I both opted to go veggie that day. She chose the Quigley, toasted cheese on a pita with five cheeses, including Swiss, Cheddar and Muenster, and a heaping of tomato slices and green peppers ($7.99). It was a great twist on the usual kids favorite, and she loved the crisp veggies. I went with the Ceebee sandwich, a longtime Tommy’s favorite – falafel with veggies, sesame sauce, cheese, sunflower seeds and hummus ($8.99). It was just right: the falafel was crispy and zesty, topped with fresh sprouts and a great foil to the thick, garlicky hummus and sunflower seeds.

We couldn’t go to Tommy’s without a spinach pie, though, so we ordered one with Muenster cheese ($6.89) to share. Wrapped and baked in soft pita, the hot pie was a savory blend of spinach, onions and cheese – an American slant on a Mediterranean favorite.

We also couldn’t go to Tommy’s without sharing a shake, so we split one of their famous 20 ounce mocha blends ($5.99). Though they also make shakes with yogurt or soy, we went with good old milk. It may not have been the healthiest option on the dessert menu that also includes Power Smoothies, gluten-free lemon cookies, vegan cookies and Tofutti shakes, but it certainly was delicious.

Taste Bites: Tommy’s Restaurant

Where: 1824 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights

Contact: 216-321-7757


Hours: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday – Thursday; 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday; 7:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday

Prices: Breakfast, $3.99 – $10.59; Falafel, wraps, meat pies, spinach pies $6.79- $10.59; Burgers & sandwiches, $6.49 – $10. 79; Salads, $6.80 – $12.75; Shakes and desserts, $4.99 – $7.29

Reservations: Not accepted. Expect to wait on weekends.

Credit cards: All major cards accepted.

Cuisine: American, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free

Kids: No kids menu, many healthy, kid-friendly options.

Accessibility: Fully accessible.

Grade: ***