For years, your credit card was no good at Tom’s Restaurant, which always seemed odd for a place bent on making its customers happy.
While paying my check one Saturday morning, I asked the cashier, one of Tom’s daughters, why this was. Rather than answer, she rolled her eyes, pointed at her father, Anastasios “Tom” Kukuliatas, and said, “Ask him.” And in his wonderful, thick Greek accent, he replied. “Credit? No credit. Cash only.”
The ban on plastic ended around the time of Tom’s death in 2009, but thankfully, nothing important about Tom’s has changed: It’s still open 24 hours a day (and closed periodically for a week as it is now), it’s still easy to stuff yourself and barely notice a change in your bank account – or credit card balance – and it’s still a pretty good argument about which is better, the food or the service.
Tom’s, on the southwest corner of Sheridan Drive and Bailey Avenue in Amherst, has been a favorite of Northtown residents and University at Buffalo students for three decades. The classic Greek menu includes all of the homeland favorites you would expect to find – souvlaki, gyros, moussaka – plus an assortment of traditional diner food. (Tremendous patty melt, $5.99.)
You can sit on a stool at the counter and chat up the wait staff, or keep an eye on the dessert carousel near the door and fantasize about getting a few minutes alone with some carrot cake. Well-placed wide-screen TVs also will keep you occupied. But don’t expect a long time between entrance and ordering. Tom’s is not a large restaurant, but even when it’s its busiest, I’ve never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a seat.
And then, when you do order, don’t go far. I can’t remember the last time I was there that someone in our party didn’t say, “That can’t be our food, is it?” Service like that is a huge plus.
But what keeps me coming back isn’t the service, but the breakfast specials. I defy you to find a customer who can place his order any faster than I. “Number 2, scrambled eggs, sausage, rye toast, peppers and onions with the home fries.” (It’s regularly $5.79, but if you order from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays, $4.99.) Throw in a bottomless cup of coffee ($1.84) and a booth by the window and I won’t even care that the wide-screen TV near me is tuned to an all-news station.
The last time I dined there, my two companions were the woman I married and a child the hospital told us to take home seven years later. She had the eggs Benedict and a small glass of orange juice, while he chose a combination that only a teenager would appreciate: French toast with a side of French fries. And a Pepsi. (Next time, perhaps French dressing with a side of French’s mustard. And a Pepsi.)
All three of us finished our meals and wondered when we would be hungry again. I, once again, left without any carrot cake as a result.
The total, as always, appeared to be a mistake. Even with tip, breakfast for three came to less than $25. I paid for it with my Visa.
Where: 3221 Sheridan Drive, Amherst (837-7310)
Hours: Open 24 hours