A visit to the gorgeous Brooklyn Museum of Art prompted a food adventure in the unexplored neighborhood of Crown Heights. As my Dad reminisced about spending Sundays as a 10-year-old boy exploring the exhibits, I decided to find a restaurant with a similar lengthy history.
Tom’s Restaurant (not to be confused with the famous Seinfeld spot of the same name) has been an institution since it open it’s doors in 1936. The quintessential American diner (yes, Dad, it’s a diner, not a luncheonette) attracts major crowds for a taste of the classic Brooklyn fare and friendly service.
We lined up adjacent to the bar area, waiting for our table and watching the staff at the front make malted milkshakes. Completely unprovoked, the host came by with a tray of water for each of us waiting, followed by a bucket of fresh cut oranges slices, followed by hot coffee. This gesture of kindness to make our wait a little bit easier solidifies the old-school charm. It’s just a nice place to get a bite served by good people.
With our coffees in hand, the time passed by quickly before we were seated at a vintage booth decorated with colorful Tiffany-style stained glass lamps and fake flowers. The menu boasts a variety of diner classics with mild twists and some higher end options, like homemade crab cake benedict.
Their out of control Ricotta-Lemon Pancakes are a must order.
Served with three different varieties of butter (Pumpkin, Apple Cinnamon and Strawberry), the pancakes are light and fluffy. It’s a simple take on a classic breakfast food, made that much better from the hints of lemon found throughout. And of course, smothering them in syrup and flavored butter just makes the experience that much better.
Mexican omelette with a massive pile of hash browns is another great option.
Covered in a thick layer of cheese and filled with both spicy and mild peppers, you can’t go wrong. Although it doesn’t look pretty on a plate, the crispy hash browns are outstanding, perfectly seasoned with bite sized pieces of green pepper and onions adding texture.
Perhaps the weirdest dish of the meal was the Crab Cake Benedict, which is served without poached eggs (a first) and coated in “Hollandaise” which tasted and looked more like melted Kraft Singles then the actually creamy, buttery version.
Underneath the thin crab cake, who’s ratio of breading to crab was way off, is a layer of spinach and cheese, reminiscent of the filling inside Spanakopita. Something just felt very off with the cheesy overload, especially since seafood and cheese is rarely a match made in culinary heaven. I found myself missing poached eggs, traditionally a staple on “benedicts,” wanting something to cut through the layers of bread and cheese. On the side, however, the cheesy grits were outstanding. Creamy and rich, just as you would expect them to be way down south.
Tom’s Restaurant serves mainly great diner food, especially the outstanding pancakes. The service really makes the experience worth it, and you will even give them a pass on the weird crab cake benedict because of the extremely pleasant dining experience. It’s the perfect place to stop before a day of culture in Brooklyn.
Tom’s Restaurant – 782 Washington Avenue – Brooklyn, NY
Location: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY
Type: American (Traditional)
Perfect For: Chronic Brunch, Casual Meal, Borough Exploration
Reservations: Not Accepted
Favorite Dishes: Ricotta Lemon Pancakes