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Nov 20, 2009 12:38 PM

Oakland: Tomm's BBQ of Memphis opens "Where friends meat" - BBQ rag bologna and Broasted chicken too

I've been watching for this place to open for a while. It opened two days ago and unfortunately I had some things to do today and couldn't order. I just stopped by to pick up a menu. Menu's won't be in till this afternoon.

So while looking at the menuboard above the counter, I asked the manager, a really swell guy, what style of bbq they make. That's when he told me it was the same as Tom's BBQ and Deli in Memphis. It has been featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"

I am guessing the menu will be the same as the original

I wonder if they will have souse and Hoop cheese. About these items

I don't get down that way often, so hope someone can try it out. They are still getting set up this week. They won't have the BBQ Bologna until next week. About rag bologna

There's some favorable stuff on yelp and Chowhound about the original location. Here's a few Chowhound reports about Tom's in Memphis

Hope they are as good as the Memphis location.

3446 Market Street (a few blocks from MacArthurh)
Sun-Thurs 10 am - 10 pm
Fri-Sat 10 am - 11 pm
510 420-8900

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  1. I was updating the Restaurant record and forgot to mention that it is cash only.

    Also, they don't currently serve beer but have applied for a liquor license.

    15 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Are you saying this is a branch of the Memphis place or an imitator? Is the Oakland one spelled "Tomm's"? That would be different from the original.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        It is a branch. Everything outwardly is identical, the pig logo which is on the website, the items on the online menu which from my quick glance seem identical to the signboard I saw and the slogan "Where friends meat".

        I asked about the spelling, and while I don't know the reason for the extra "m' this one is Tomm's.

        It is almost like everything I've read about the Memphis joint down to the warm, helpful manager. The only thing different is that broasted chicken.

        I have no clue the back story but it really has me interested. I just wish I could get back there sooner, but just won't likely make it till after Thanksgiving.

        1. re: rworange

          This address was Broaster Chicken before. I just marked the Place record for it as closed. Same phone number.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            OK ... this is why what we do are reports and not reveiws. It is the difference between actual food reporting and just chatting about what you ate.

            So, I finally go to buy food and hang out and corner Joe about the Memphis connection as in "Why in the world was Oakland chosen to open another Tom's"

            The same guy who told me to look at the website for Tom's of Memphis which I would have had no reason to look up and even if I saw it wouldn't make the connection ... There are about a half dozen Tom's bbqs across the US ... , the same man who looked me in the eye and said it was the same menu ... now says ":We have nothing to do with the Memphis bbq"

            Well, buddy, first you directed me to the website, you are using their slogan, you have many of the same menu items ... and NOW you tell me you are not the same.

            Then he says that he is a cousin of the owners and worked there a few years. I've seen pictures on the web of the owner, Adam, and if this is a cousin, it is by marriage.

            I would hope there is some sort of family connection but I am too through with this guy and my major apologies to Chowhounds for leading people down this path. I really, sincerely was originally led to believe there was a connection to the Memphis location. There very well may be, but I am too ticked off to persue it any further.

            I'm like nothing more than all of those horrid, sloppy bloggers spreading misinformation around the web. I'm melting down, melting, melting ...

            Still ... the ribs are quite good ... and they do look just like the one's on Tom's website.

            1. re: rworange

              I went to this place based on the reviews and the Memphis website, and found it quite strange when I came into the location and found no traces of the Memphis location inside. Sure they had the same slogan, same icon, etc but nothing to tell people that they hailed from the Memphis location (like stating they were featured in DD&D) - something I thought any reasonable branch would do.

              I had the three item combo (subtituted the bbq chicken with a broasted chicken) and thought the meat was cooked well but the sauce was way too overpowering (I didn't order it on the side). However it wasn't really worth crossing the bridge for and watching folks case my car out front. The broasted chicken wasn't cooked fresh, so it was an easy thumbs down for me - soggy crust that was way too salty for my taste.

              Anyways, the just-okay food and the questionable ties to the Memphis location made me actually write to Tom's BBQ in Memphis to verify the connection. They haven't written back (I wrote last Wed) but now I know that my antenna was on target. I personally wouldn't go back to a restaurant owner that blatantly copies another restaurant's schtick (using the name (even if he adds an extra "M"), icon, slogan) and insinuates there is a closer connection to the original restaurant than there is.

              1. re: alina555

                If you get a response from the Memphis bbq, I hope you'll post one way or another. Maybe it is a cousin. At this point I can't persue it because I am just too angry about this and need to cool down a bit.

                I keep thinking about the first day I stepped inside and like to think that he didn't communicate what he meant correctly. I like to thing people are basically good. He was on the phone and doing a lot of things. Maybe he meant to say they were like the Memphis Tom's. Still ... specically being told to take a look at the website ... well ... I keep slipping back into really, really annoyed.

                1. re: rworange

                  Sounds to me like someone called his bluff and now he's backtracking. Multiple reports on Yelp (including the same person, same glowing report posted on another thread on this board) also mention that they were told of the Tom's BBQ of Memphis connection. I doubt you were the only one who was told that explicitly.

                  The food sounds mildly promising, but this kind of shoddy business practice doesn't seem like something that ought to be supported.

                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    The thing is that he just doesn't seem like that type of guy. I'm guessing that any connection to the Memphis bbq originated from this post. That's what distresses me so much about the whole situation. I just detest when incorrect info gets repeated on the web.

                    It wasn't as if the guy brought up the connection. I was digging deeper to ask what type of que they served and that's when the subject of the Memphis location came up.

                    Hopefully,alina will get a response aboutt this to clear things up. However, I wanted to correct the impression that this is some sort of actual branch or franchise.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I can't say I'm surprised. I too thought it was strange there was no mention of the original Memphis location anywhere in the restaurant (though I didn't ask) and even stranger that there was no mention of Tom's new "branch" in Oakland on the website.

                      Do restaurants ever open "stealth" branches in that manner? Now I'm wondering.

                      I figured if there was any affiliation at all, it was a much looser one than, say, when Pinkberry opened in San Jose - but I could not for the life of me figure out why a BBQ place in Memphis would open its first "branch" in Oakland.

                      I doubt I'll blacklist them for life over this, but my second visit wasn't quite as good as the first - although it may have been affected by my letting the meat get cold for an hour or so then reheating in a conventional oven.

                      1. re: Agent 510

                        Agent 510,
                        The different LoCoco's kind of blur the line between separate restaurants and branches. I think the owners are related and the menus overlap, but aren't identical.

                        1. re: mattg

                          The owners owners of Lo Coco's in Berkeley and Terra Linda and LoCoCo's in Oakland are related but I don't think the menus are much more similar than any three random old-school pizza places would be.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I had no idea those restaurants weren't branches. The food has always seemed identical to me, though I haven't been to any of them in a while.

                      2. re: rworange

                        Still no reply from the restaurant email but it looks like abstractpoet has cleared things up. I also see that Adam (the Memphis owner) has posted a clarifying review on Yelp. If the restaurant knows what's best, they'll change the name, take down anything that resembles the Memphis location, and start anew, building up their own reputation.

                2. re: rworange

                  So, just out of curiosity, I called up the original Memphis restaurant and spoke to the owner, Adam. He told me, unequivocally, that there is no affiliation and no connection whatsoever with his restaurant--and that, in fact, after receiving an email about it (alina's email, I assume) he had called Joe or Moe or whatever his name is and "raised hell".

                  It seems likely now that it was only after receiving that phone call that Moe/Joe stopped telling folks that his place is a branch of the Memphis Tom's BBQ. But if he's still pretending that he's a "cousin," after all that...well, that's just effed up.

                  Based on their conversation, the Memphis owner's understanding is that "Tomm's" is supposed to change its name. I'll be curious to see how quickly that happens, if at all.

                  The worst thing is that I saw that someone actually posted a negative review on the Memphis restaurant's Yelp page--based on the Oakland "branch". I did tell Adam about that, too, so hopefully this will get sorted out and justice will prevail.

                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    Thanks so much for the followup and resolving this. And sorry again to Chowhounds.

                    One would hope he removes the slogan as well.

                    One thing I find interesting about this whole thing is the possible power of a brand name.

                    Would the place have gotten all the positive reports here and on Yelp unless people without the name association?

                    When I wrote my report below it was after being told there wasn't a connection after all ... except for that lame cousin claim that at that point was really difficult to buy. So it was food-based soley. I wonder if I hadn't asked again, if that perception would have been different.

        2. I feel a little funny doing the first review, since I'm not really a BBQ person, but here it goes:

          We got a slab for $17ish and it was indeed a huge slab of meat, not cut into separate ribs. As I indicated, I'm not an expert but it seemed like a very good deal. The meat had a dry rub, quite spicy, salty and smoky. It obviously had not been sitting around. (Wrapped in foil, it was still hot when we got it home.) Under the "crust" the meat was tender, not fatty. Most pieces did fall off the bone. (I know not everyone likes that.) There was no sauce on the meat; that came separately and was sweet, less spicy than the meat itself. Nothing special, but fine. We didn't get any sides.

          The two people working there are very nice. The place was empty. Takeout only. No seats or tables. Not an area where I wanted to linger in the dark, though it was mostly residential and there were some families walking around. Easy parking and freeway access.

          I'm sure there will be more reports soon. I liked it.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Glencora

            Thank you !!! I was really sorry I couldn't buy anything on my visit and I've been curious. What you write about the sauce seems to be consistant with what I've read about the original location. Nice that the meat turned out to be good. I was a little worried mentioning this so early that it might take them a few weeks to get up to speed, like any place.

            While it is not a eat-in type of place, they must have removed the three tables they had. They are still setting the place up, so the table situation might change. Still, it is more of a place to sit at the table while waiting for a take-out order.

            Absolutely miserable parking situation. One spot in front and a church next door that keeps an eye out on their driveway. Since I was no where near any church service time, I parked in the driveway to run in and grab a menu and someone from the church was there on the spot to tell me I couldn't park there. That church should be good for them though/ Someone was mentioning another bbq had a business spike when churchgoers stopped by after services.

            1. re: rworange

              There were no tables out at 6:30. The space was empty and I got a sense that people weren't encouraged to linger.

            2. re: Glencora

              Thanks for the report. BBQ places are all about the meat, that's the selling point for me. And it's kind of rare to find good sides at the places that do the best job with the meat, so I don't worry about 'em.

              1. re: Glencora

                My wife and I stopped by for lunch. The tables and chairs were out then.
                We got a 3 meat combo (pork shoulder, beef brisket, and chicken). I don't understand bbq chicken, so I'll just leave that.
                I was very happy with both the brisket and the pork shoulder. I also polished off the side of mac and cheese.
                When I go back, I'd try the ribs. They have a remarkably large selection of stuff, so it will take a while to make our way through the menu.

                Tomm's BBQ & Deli
                3446 Market St, Oakland, CA 94608

                1. re: peterme

                  I agree (with all the praise).

                  I was there for lunch and had the pork shoulder plate. Be aware that, like most "real" BBQ places, portion size is not an issue here. Any plate means lots and lots of meat.

                  And the meat was delicious, tender, almost buttery. The only way I could avoid overeating and exploding was to set aside the parts of the meat that were over-sauced, because the meat was so good on its own. This is not Looney's or Flint's or Memphis Minnie's or any number of places where the cue isn't complete without lots of sauce.

                  Sides are decent (I tried potato salad and coleslaw). You can park on the street, although I got harassed by a homeless guy when I did so. But I'll come back again for sure.

                  1. re: Agent 510

                    This is really impressive given they have been open less than a week. Alas, for stopping by on the day when I was on my way to a doctor's test that involved fasting before.

                    A little circular cross-linking and another satisfied customer

                    Finally, finally, finally -- real bbq in Northern CA

              2. dropped by to try it today and boy was it empty. I decided to eat there at one of their 3 tables. as I came in a gentle cleaning up one of the tables greeted me, who I later found out was named Mo, and probably one of the owners. he was very helpful throughout my time there, seeing as how I was the only customer during my 45 minutes there.

                they have a somewhat deceptively big menu, chicken on the left, bbq items on the right. i asked for a to-go menu, but the nice girl behind the counter said it wasn't going to be available until Monday. there's an ordering window to the right as you walk in, and i think two glass deli counters left of that. the first had fried chicken already prepared behind the glass and the next case had desserts lined up. from what I could make out, an assortment of cakes, and cheesecake (?) and banana custard with nilla wafers!

                so, as I do in all new bbq joints that I try, i ordered the combo plate. This one came with 3 meats and 2 sides. the young lady said that the platter came with chicken, pork shoulder and brisket. I asked, if I could switch out the chicken for links instead and after getting confirmation from the gentleman behind her, who seemed to be more in the know about the food and menu, i got my wish. for my sides i had the "smoked" corn on the cobb and coleslaw. and it comes with the usual soft wheat bread, which i happen to love with bbq.

                after a short wait and listening to the chopping of the meat, my platter was ready. In addition, as I picked up my order from the window, she told me she tossed in a corn bread for me to try. great for me, since i love corn bread. (I had missed that option during my initial once over on the menu). strangely enough, it comes served in the regular 3 section to-go container. for $12.99, the quantity of meat is pretty good. it was all piled into the main section of container, brisket on one half (sort of semi-chopped and pulled), pork on the other(all coarsely chopped) and about 8 slices of fair size links stacked on top all covered with bbq sauce. Not too heavily covered though. the bbq sauce wasn't too special, so i wish i had ordered it on the side. but from the meat that was on the bottom and not too covered with sauce I could tell was very good on it's own. tender, juicy and a bit smokey. the links had snap to the casings and good filler, though I would've preferred a bit more heat. I was disappointed that they didn't have different heat options for the bbq sauce as I tend to go hotter than most folks, and what they gave me i would qualify as totally mild.

                the sides were, eh. the corn came wrapped in foil and was hot, but despite looking bright and yellow and crisp, was pretty bland. could've definitely used butter or salt on it. the coleslaw was the biggest disappointment for me though, it was this pinkish-purplish glop. and after a taste, I decided i had enough. but oh, i have to thank the young woman behind the counter for putting that cornbread muffin in my order cause that was just great. it was warm, and soft, but held together well and it actually had bits of corn in it. not overly sweet. i'm pretty sure i ate up in about 3 or 4 bites.

                Mo came up after wards and asked how everything was, and he would appreciate any constructive criticism, and I told him truthfully, all the meat was awesome, but the coleslaw was really not doing it for me and perhaps he should look into other options for it. before I finished my meal, he also gave me a serving of the banana pudding with nilla wafers on-the-house! which is one of my favorite guilty comfort food desserts. their version is certainly respectable, and I love freebies, but my favorite will always be from my old co-worker who first introduced me to it.

                I'll definitely be back to try the ribs, and the "broasted" chicken.

                Tomm's BBQ & Deli
                3446 Market St, Oakland, CA 94608

                3 Replies
                1. re: nicedragonboy

                  If you do get the Broasted Chicken, insist they make it to order. I haven't been paying attention to it at Tomm's because I satisified my curiousity about broasted chicken at Jonesey's Steak House in Napa which probably does the best job of it in the Bay Area.

                  That was absolutely the worst cole slaw I’ve had. It was pink with red cabbage swimming in mayo It was almost like thousand island dressing with a little red cabbage thrown in.

                  On the other hand, as you mentioned, I got the free cornbread also and the little muffin with the corn nibs was nice.

                  The only thing they don't make ...though after my last visit I am going to be highly skeptical of anything I'm told here ... is the potato salad.

                  The beans are quite good and have a nice smokey flavor with only the slightest touch of sweetness.

                  They are really pushing that chicken.I had the same options as you did and switched out the chicken for the ribs which are what star here. Glencora described them perfectly above. The bristket and chopped pork were tender with nice smoke. However, after having brisket here and the new Phat Matt's next to Neldam's, Memphis Minnies still rules for brisket ... though it was pretty good at Phat Matt's.

                  I sort of liked the thick brown bbq sauce, but I ordered it on the side. It had nice onion, garlic and celery notes.

                  I got the BBQ Bologna sandwich. This MAY sound like a critism and not appetiing to some but I am a big, big fan of the McRib and I'm suspecting the McRib may have had its inspiration from the BBQ bologna sandwich.

                  The meat itself was a nice thick slice of bologna, almost an inch thick. and very tasty ... a real step up from the McRib mystery meat. I liked that quite a bit and it turned out to be the only thing I ate out of the sandwich. I'd order a sandwich without everything else on it.

                  The problem is that instead of using a roll, they used two slices of wheat bread. The meat was topped wtih lots of bbq sauce and that god-awful cole slaw. The bread practically disolved under the weight of all that. If they had a good roll, lost the slaw and cut back on the sauce, this would good.

                  I also noticed a sign that they sell Ding Dong's ... or was that Ring Dings ....

                  So Joe changed his name to Mo ... typical. I am really ticked because the story they told me about Tom's in Memphis wasn't true. More at the top of this tread.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Interesting thing about slaw: There is a place in Memphis famous for their pulled pork sandwiches (Payne's BBQ), which comes topped with slaw on a hamburger bun. The sandwich is nothing short of incredible with the slaw, but the slaw by itself is truly disgusting. It almost sounds like what you had at Tomm's to a T. I'd be interested to see how it work served on top of the pork.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Funny, I had a side of their slaw with a pulled pork sandwich and I actually liked the it. Yup, it is pinked by the purple cabbage. I like that. It was swimming, but the sauce had enough vinegar tang and salt to make it interesting. But its a fine line between old fashioned creamy, hi calorie goodness and mayo-laden disgust. I wasn't going to mention it, not great, but not disgusting to me. Sounds like we have different tastes in this case...

                  2. Hmm..the Tom's name/franchise thing reminds me of the Roscoe's Chicken and Waffle thing that happened at the place in Jack London Square before it became "Home of Chicken and Waffles".

                    Any way, I hope to check out the food. Hopefully it's good and sticks around.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000

                      Or the old Vivoli gelato place in Berkeley. It was a lot easier to get away with that kind of trademark infringement before Google.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        My favorites are when La Grenouille in New York was afraid that people would confuse the one in Oakland as a branch and when Fat Albert's became an Apple. Fortunately the Beatles and Steve Jobs didn't object and Johnny Appleseed is dead.

                    2. adding a link

                      Tomm's BBQ & Deli
                      3446 Market St, Oakland, CA 94608

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: balabanian

                        This thread was already linked back in November, which you can tell by looking at the R and B page "quick review" section. The links often do not display, and then they'll come back again on refresh a few minutes later. This function is very unstable.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Looks like they may have closed down?

                          1. re: Mission

                            Electric "Open" signs were on today.