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Tommy's Joynt: One I can check off the list [San Francisco]

pane Feb 15, 2012 05:26 PM

Tommy's Joynt, the Geary and Van Ness restaurant painted with busty Gold Rush damsels, seems like one of those places that everyone knows and no one has visited. I was among that number until last night.

We stopped in after the Mikkeller tasting at Amsterdam Cafe, and, as one could say about all too many experiences, it seemed like a good idea at the time. When we entered, an upset patron was leaving, screaming something about how he'd tell his whores not to visit again.

After that romantic leave-taking, I read some Chowhound recommendations for lamb shank, but there was no lamb on the menu. Instead we split the brisket plate, which came with mashed potatoes and a choice of vegetable. You line up and place your order with one of the guys working the carving station; he loads your plate and passes you down to the veg station.

"Gravy?" asked the guy behind the counter, a gravy-filled ladle dangling above our plate. When I turned to check with my guy, I heard the clink of the ladle back into the gravy vat and realized it had been a statement of fact and not a question. So we got gravy on the meat and the potatoes. Not bad gravy.

As for the rest of the food, the brisket was OK. Not good, but also not bad. The baked beans, which were advertised as house made, were very sugary and didn't have the chunks of salted pork that I'd seen mentioned. We'll not speak of the potatoes. The portion was generous for the price: less than $10 for the brisket plate with a roll and butter, and we added a piece of stale carrot cake for another $2. Overall, nothing in the meal was particularly well handled, so I can see how the dishes that require long slow cooking and little else might be more successful, like the brisket and the shank. If you really like your food in gradations of beige, this might be heaven.

Cash only; there's an ATM in the building. The beer menu was more impressive than I expected, but we were burned out after too many Mikkellers down the lane.

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  1. s
    stanbee RE: pane Feb 15, 2012 07:56 PM

    Has never been on many lists but "cheap" although it seems to be beloved by anyone lookin' for low prices, large quanitites. The meats often dry, luck of the draw, the bread sometimes tired.
    Lamb shank is a Wed. special.

    Sorry no one warned you. A wasted meal except maybe the lamb shank or buffalo stew. Better beef sandwich with real jus at Lefty O'douls -next time. But it is old-fashioned local color.

    34 Replies
    1. re: stanbee
      baron45 RE: stanbee Feb 15, 2012 08:44 PM

      By coincidence, I stopped here for lunch today and had the Wednesday special which was the broiled ground chuck steak sandwich on a sourdough roll. Comes w/ mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and plenty of onions. Meat was moist and the onions and mushrooms complemented the potatoes. The rolls was a bit tough though.

      The lamb shank special is on Thursdays.

      1. re: baron45
        s
        stanbee RE: baron45 Feb 17, 2012 02:33 PM

        Thank you. The website lists it as Thursday.

      2. re: stanbee
        g
        goodfoods RE: stanbee Feb 18, 2012 10:38 AM

        Lamb shank being one of my favorite meals, had it the las time I was there, very poor meal, no reason to go back anytime soon.

        1. re: goodfoods
          rworange RE: goodfoods Feb 18, 2012 10:48 AM

          Welcome to chowhound, goodfoods.

          I am taking someone who never had lamb before out to dinner. Do you have a suggestion for a place that makes a good lamb shank?

          1. re: rworange
            drewskiSF RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 11:17 AM

            Mezze on Lakeshore makes a very nice lamb shank dish

            1. re: rworange
              g
              goodfoods RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 11:28 AM

              No can't really suggest somewhere, you know their are people who really like lamb and others that don't care for lamb at all, I would suggest an italian restaurant, perhaps Fior D'Italia in North Beach.

              1. re: rworange
                Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 11:39 AM

                Maykadeh has a couple of great lamb shank dishes.

                1. re: rworange
                  wolfe RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 11:51 AM

                  Alborz, Berkeley.

                  4) Lamb Shank with Baghali Polo - Lamb shank stewed in our special blend of herbs and vegetables. So tender it literally falls off the bone. Served with baghali polo, a traditional Persian rice with lima beans and steamed fresh dill. ..........

                  1. re: wolfe
                    rworange RE: wolfe Feb 18, 2012 11:56 AM

                    It would have to be along the lines of American or Italian. Having bombed with Zaki's chicken and a few other med dishes, that taste isn't popular with my family. It is too foreign to their experience and is would not be something they even want to develop a taste for. i personally can not deal with someone scrunching up their nose and making gagging noises and faces like a cat with a fur ball.

                    1. re: rworange
                      Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 12:13 PM

                      In that case, maybe Riva Cucina, Bistro Liaison, Venezia, or Bellanico, or to go from La Bedaine or Gregoire.

                      Why braised shank rather than souvlaki or kebabs?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        rworange RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2012 03:35 PM

                        It has to be straight foward. Chops, leg of lamb or lamb shank. Because Middle Eastern is too out there for this group and restaurant lamb kebabs are inconsistant even at the best of places.

                        It is difficult to screw up a lamb shank. If anyone is going to like lamb at all, if you've had a good lamb shank and aren't into it, probably won't be into lamb at all.

                        Thinking about it i probably could braise up a few lamb shanks at home. It is one of the fool proof dishes i can do. I've been thinking roast leg of lamb, but that, for me, has too many challenges.

                        Greek and touching on fancy like Kokkari wouldn't work for this. Azziza is so out there for this group that it would get me branded even more as eating weird food and god help me if there was ever something like lavender in there. I see a group of cat hairball spitting going on.

                        Not to mention translating the Aziza ingredients into Spanish. Rosemary and beyond is above my linquistic skils i can see that now ... fennel pollen ... es como ... como ... uh

                        But anyone looking for an Aziza lamb shank ain't going to like Tommy's. if maybe it was served on a weekend but Thursday isn't doable and as I said a lot, Tommy's is ok enough but not my favorite hauf-brau.

                        I was thinking more along the likes of Capps Corner if they still do lamb shank and I decide to go the restaurant route. i might give a home made lamb shank a test run and see how that works.

                        1. re: rworange
                          hill food RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 10:17 PM

                          rw - that makes me sorta sad as it's all too familiar a scenario

                          1. re: rworange
                            s
                            sugartoof RE: rworange Feb 19, 2012 01:43 AM

                            One suggestion if you have a change of heart with considering Middle Eastern, Schwarma served over rice strikes me as a very safe way to go. The lamb is well done this way.

                            I think Joe's has a Lamb Chop.

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              rworange RE: sugartoof Feb 19, 2012 08:38 AM

                              It is not a matter of my change of heart, it is like hopping in a time machine back to the 1950's and taking out the Cleaver family.

                              The Beave: Hey Wally, this smells funny
                              Mom: Theodore, that's not polite. I'm sure it is delicous
                              Everyone takes a bite. Mom and dad exchange looks while chewing and chewing and chewing ... and chewing.
                              Wally; Gee, mom and dad, the Beave and me forgot we had stomach aches.
                              Mom: The Beave and i
                              Dad (looking extremely relieved); if you boys aren't feeling well we should go home.
                              Family takes off where at home they sneak into the kitchen one by one to make sandwiches.

                              it is like that ... without the manners, just faces and refusing to eat another bit.

                              it is not that i haven't made some progress. Someone tried a potato that wasn't a russet and liked it.

                              However, I lose any progress i've made if I go to a place that i know they won't be open to for a few years, if ever.

                              1. re: rworange
                                m
                                ML8000 RE: rworange Feb 19, 2012 09:43 AM

                                You might look for lamb shank or birria in the Mexican tradition.

                                1. re: ML8000
                                  Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Feb 19, 2012 10:04 AM

                                  El Huarache Azteca has barbacoa / smoked lamb on the weekend.

                                  http://www.elhuaracheaztec.com

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    s
                                    sydthekyd RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 19, 2012 11:10 AM

                                    Juan's Place in West Berkeley has birria on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They might enjoy the old school atmosphere there.

                                    1. re: sydthekyd
                                      m
                                      ML8000 RE: sydthekyd Feb 19, 2012 01:01 PM

                                      I went to Juan's Place last year and sadly it has gone down hill and I'm a fan.

                                      On the plus side I order the birria and it was excellent. My take on Juan's: the specials are safe but the standard Cal-Mex stuff, not so much.

                                      Here's what I found via a search, some place called Gallardos serves lamb shank birria...I want to go. http://www.foodspotting.com/places/41...

                                      1. re: ML8000
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Feb 19, 2012 05:33 PM

                                        Wow, I went to Juan's Place once, some years ago, and it seemed like it was already at the bottom of the hill. But maybe we got the wrong stuff.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          w
                                          wally RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 19, 2012 10:04 PM

                                          I thought it was the bottom of the hill a very long time ago(we are talking 25 years ago). I never had any birria.

                                2. re: rworange
                                  s
                                  sydthekyd RE: rworange Feb 19, 2012 01:27 PM

                                  My friend Susan just told me that Elephant Bar has a good one with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables, one for $10.95, two for $14.95!

                              2. re: rworange
                                little big al RE: rworange Feb 19, 2012 11:29 AM

                                I realize this is dangerously close to home cooking, but lamb shanks are pretty cheap, and ridiculously easy to cook at home. Unlike leg or rack, you cannot overcook them. My favorite secret is it is not necessary to braise them. Stuff them with little tampons of garlic, rosemary and anchovy (no one will ever know about the anchovy but you and I, trust me) and coat generously with coarse salt and pepper ,and roast in a moderately hot oven for about 2 hours or so. You can't wreck them.

                                1. re: little big al
                                  hill food RE: little big al Feb 19, 2012 11:35 AM

                                  umm, tampons? oh forget it, cheap joke zone and anyway I get what you mean.

                            2. re: rworange
                              Das Ubergeek RE: rworange Feb 19, 2012 02:12 PM

                              Well, they could always order the kabobs and rice at Alborz, which is unthreatening, but that doesn't help the lamb shank issue.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                rworange RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 19, 2012 04:43 PM

                                No, really ... kabobs are out and anything that is even touches on Middle Eastern.

                                However, thanks for the ideas about Mexican. It never occurred to me to go that route. I don't often think of lamb ... beef, yes ... goat, sometimes.

                                1. re: rworange
                                  rworange RE: rworange Mar 10, 2012 07:02 PM

                                  I found my lamb shank place, a new joint in Petaluma called The Athinean. The cooking is being done by the people who orginally owned Papa's Taverna. Friday night is lamb shank night. If I can't drag people up there, I'll probably order take out and bring it home ... which sadly isn't possible for the bugatsa which is served warm and definately on my top ten tastes of 2012.
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/836640

                          2. re: rworange
                            m
                            ML8000 RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 01:19 PM

                            Not cheap but Kokkari would be where I'd go if I really wanted lamb shank.

                            I wonder if Aziza serves lamb shank...that might be very interesting.

                            1. re: ML8000
                              g
                              goodfoods RE: ML8000 Feb 18, 2012 01:43 PM

                              Kokkari braised lamb shank $28.00
                              Aziza lamb shank $27.00
                              My mouth is watering

                              1. re: ML8000
                                Civil Bear RE: ML8000 Feb 19, 2012 10:49 AM

                                Aziza'a lamb shank has a sweetness that is off-putting to me. I actually prefer Tommy's simple version.

                                1. re: Civil Bear
                                  m
                                  ML8000 RE: Civil Bear Feb 19, 2012 01:02 PM

                                  That is interesting. I can't imagine sweetness with lamb shank. Good info to know.

                                  1. re: ML8000
                                    wolfe RE: ML8000 Feb 19, 2012 01:52 PM

                                    I would think several of these preparation would yield sweetness to some degree.
                                    http://www.yummly.com/recipes/lamb-sh...

                                    1. re: ML8000
                                      drewskiSF RE: ML8000 Feb 19, 2012 02:10 PM

                                      The shank at Mezze in Oakland has some sweetness from apricot & cinnamon. fwiw, it's also Moroccan style described as a tagine.

                                      1. re: drewskiSF
                                        b
                                        bigwheel042 RE: drewskiSF Feb 19, 2012 08:54 PM

                                        And I had the lamb tagine at Aicha two weeks ago, also Moroccan. Savory/sweet, though most of the sweetness comes from the addition of prunes.

                                    2. re: Civil Bear
                                      Robert Lauriston RE: Civil Bear Feb 19, 2012 05:34 PM

                                      Aziza's lamb braised with eggplant is good and not sweet. I accidentally ordered the sweet one once and boy, that was a mistake. Common in Persian and Moroccan cooking.

                            2. v
                              virtualguthrie RE: pane Feb 15, 2012 08:16 PM

                              I think the pastrami sandwich is pretty good... and at $5 it's a really great deal. I don't think Tommy's is the kinda place that's supposed to blow your mind, it's just good solid food in a fun atmosphere.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: virtualguthrie
                                s
                                sparky403 RE: virtualguthrie Feb 15, 2012 09:59 PM

                                it's a classic - one of those places that I am less concerned about the food - particularly when just getting full is the order of the day.

                                Interesting Trivia - Tommy's is where Metalica met and used to hang out prior to their stardom

                              2. o
                                ola RE: pane Feb 15, 2012 10:53 PM

                                I used to go there as a kid with my family back in the 50s when Tommy Harris was still around,. Neither the menu nor the quality have changed. The pastrami and the turkey sandwiches are good. The place is what it is.

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: ola
                                  rworange RE: ola Feb 16, 2012 01:01 AM

                                  Yes, it is unchanging. It is funny, but over the years Chowhound reports pop up now and then and that is usually my comment ... no different than the first time i went.

                                  And as you said, it is what it is.

                                  pane, do you have a suggestion for a hauf-brau you like better?

                                  Tommy's would not be the top of my local hauf-brau, um, joints. I like Brennan's in Berkeley better. However a hauf-brau is a hauf-brau is a hauf-brau.

                                  There's a idea .. food trucks have been upscaled ... i wonder if anyone has considered an upscale hauf-brau ... beautifully plated, organic, local ingredients with name chefs and clever twists on the standard fare.

                                  However as it is, they pretty much all serve food that is various colors of beige. The deserts should usually be avoided no matter which hauf-brau. The veggies such as carrots and green beans are exactly as over-cooked and under-seasoned as they were when the place opened in 1947.

                                  You have to use your eyes when selecting. if it looks like something has been sitting a while get something that looks like it is fresh from the kitchen.

                                  They use Robert's corned beef, also a SF institution. Some Chowhounds make a special trip to the tiny shop in SOMA to get their fix. However, even the best corned beef can sit too long and dry out. The same with the turkey which usually is a good choice.

                                  There aren't many places in town with whole turkey legs on the menu. Thick slices of carved-to-order ham isn't that usual to find either.

                                  The bread and rolls will be average and there are times that those can be dried out.

                                  It is the only place I can think of that has buttermilk still on the menu.

                                  if anyone is looking for beer week pizazz, it won't be found at Tommy's. Yet it offers, as mentioned, surprisingly more than a place in this category. I would be suprised to see Pliny the Elder or Younger here though. It was one of the watering holes of Herb Caen and who knows if his ghost doesn't drop in now and then.

                                  Tommy's can be hit or miss, however most of the time it will be an respectable dinner at a good price.

                                  It is one of the most reviewed restaurants on the web with thousand of entries on foursquare and close to 1500 on yelp. While I might not personally agree ... i think it is more of a three star hauf-brau rather than four star ... it meets a need for many people.

                                  It is also a late night spot, serving until 1:45 and it is open on all holidays.

                                  The specials for each day are on the website. On Sunday there are sausages served.

                                  It isn't a place for everyone and a person has to go there with reasonable expectations.

                                  It is not on my list of places that I recommend to tourists, but I have when people have specific requests that Tommy's can meet.

                                  I'm certainly not a regular. It has been years since I last ate there. However, there are times when I have a hankering for corned beef and cabbage or a thick slice of carved to order ham.

                                  address

                                  http://www.yelp.com/biz/tommys-joynt-...

                                  1. re: rworange
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Feb 16, 2012 08:22 AM

                                    Brennan's was tops before they moved, the new space has a lot less character.

                                    There's not a lot of hofbraus left around here.

                                    http://divefood.blogspot.com/2006/03/...

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      m
                                      ML8000 RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 16, 2012 10:01 AM

                                      I went to Brennan's in the Fall and I think the food is better at the new place but it does have less character. OTOH, it's clean and I've seen families with kids eating there. I had the turkey leg and it was good for what it is.

                                      re: Tommy's Joynt...it's not spectacular food, just cheap and decent and depends on what you order and when (combo of preference and what's there). The brisket isn't very good the one time I had it, the roast beef is okay but not a great cut. The turkey however is perfectly fine for what you get for under $10 bucks and that's what I get if I go.

                                      1. re: ML8000
                                        Windy RE: ML8000 Feb 16, 2012 10:08 AM

                                        i also like the turkey and pastrami. And friendly service and prices. (Especially cocktails). Tommy's is what it is and never pretends otherwise.

                                        1. re: ML8000
                                          k
                                          Kim Cooper RE: ML8000 Mar 11, 2012 10:36 PM

                                          It's been years since I was there, but the buffalo stew was just meat and gravy, no potatoes or carrots. I think of stew as having both, and sometimes other stuff.

                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          rworange RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 16, 2012 10:06 AM

                                          Since I only went to the old Brennan's just before they closed, I didn't have an emotional attachment to it. I went to the new place when it first opened and then this last December.

                                          I think they are growing into the place and the new joint will be developing character. The food was better than i remembered. The rye bread was great and the ham was very good I needed the thick cut ham fix. Again, like any hauf-brau I may have just got there at the right time.

                                          Still, when it re-opened I figured that would be my only visit. But after the ham sandwich, I'll probably be back ... maybe I'll have my St. Pat's corned beef and cabbage there this year with an Irish coffee.

                                          I just took a quick look at the yelp reviews of Brennans to see if the star rating went up since it opened but there was some family that had a problem so it seems they all put in one star reviews. Scrolling down though, one guys comment that it was the only place in Berkeley that served American food made me laugh.

                                          That reminds me. i've never been to Tommy's at night. But there are lots of restaurants that change character late night. Grubstake at 3am is a different place than at 7 pm. So IMO people should not think of Tommy's as a joint with whores. I kind of wonder if this guy was a rowdy drunk that Tommy's told to leave and thus the reason for threatening to bring in undesirable clientel.

                                          When I was looking at Tommy's website I din't know they had Irish coffee. I might stop by for one someday if i'm ever in the area ...and maybe the clam chowder ... though soup is never usually a good idea at a hauf-brau either ... and clam chowder in California in a hauf-brau ... a double hex.

                                          Brennan's address

                                          http://www.yelp.com/biz/brennans-rest...

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            escargot3 RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 16, 2012 10:55 AM

                                            The food ALWAYS tasted great at Brennan's -- cause I could never leave without two of those delish Irish coffees...

                                          2. re: rworange
                                            BernalKC RE: rworange Feb 16, 2012 10:21 AM

                                            > i wonder if anyone has considered an upscale hauf-brau ... beautifully plated, organic, local ingredients with name chefs and clever twists on the standard fare. <

                                            I *love* the idea. Except I would keep it closer to the original concept and dispense with the named-chef, clever-twist claptrap and just re-work the hauf-brau as an economical format for modern, locavore, sustainable comfort food. But that's just my personal emphasis and tastes. I agree totally that this is a format that deserves to be updated.

                                            1. re: BernalKC
                                              m
                                              ML8000 RE: BernalKC Feb 16, 2012 10:30 AM

                                              Pluto's, a small local chain in SF and Palo Alto, has done the upscale-ish or modern hof brau. Upscale isn't the right word...modern and updated might be. Basically they serve carvery meats and healthier sides and salads. I use to go to the one on Irvining when I lived there. They've been around for a while...at least since the mid/late 90s.

                                              http://www.plutosfreshfood.com/index....

                                              1. re: BernalKC
                                                rworange RE: BernalKC Feb 16, 2012 10:37 AM

                                                But ... don't you think Hubert Keller's Hauf-Brau House has a certain ring to it? i mean the guy tried burgers ... why not hauf-brau?

                                                1. re: rworange
                                                  BernalKC RE: rworange Feb 16, 2012 11:58 AM

                                                  OK, I'd welcome it for sure. But it might be just as exciting to have some unkonwn -- the next Charles Phan or Anthony Bowien or -- make a name for themselves by updating the concept while keeping it cheap and simple.

                                                  Then again, maybe there is no such thing as new and cheap in this town, and the revival will have to happen in some place like Portland where cheap and out-of-the-blue is still possible.

                                              2. re: rworange
                                                m
                                                ML8000 RE: rworange Feb 17, 2012 02:02 PM

                                                One thing that has changed is Tommy's Joynt has received lots of TV time on travel and food shows, so tourist jam it.

                                                1. re: ML8000
                                                  t
                                                  TopoTail RE: ML8000 Feb 17, 2012 05:56 PM

                                                  I couldn't believe it when it showed up on the Food Network's Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. Guy Fieri was going on and on about how great the place is--like it's some secret San Francisco gem. Give me a break.

                                                  1. re: TopoTail
                                                    rworange RE: TopoTail Feb 17, 2012 06:04 PM

                                                    Yeah, that is so wrong. When you pump up a place to more than it is that leads to disappointment. It is unfair to the restaurant. Better to have lower expectations and be pleasantly surprised if it meets someone's idea of wonderful ... and it would be really a shame if a tourist put this on their to-try list.

                                                    1. re: TopoTail
                                                      Robert Lauriston RE: TopoTail Feb 18, 2012 10:50 AM

                                                      That's Fieri's thing: go to a place that makes mediocre food and act like it's the greatest thing in the world.

                                              3. d
                                                Dustin_E RE: pane Feb 16, 2012 08:52 AM

                                                i like their side of spaghetti with meat sauce for $3.

                                                tommy's is not worth a special trip, but if you're in the area, and want cheap meat dishes, it is one of my favorites.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Dustin_E
                                                  hill food RE: Dustin_E Feb 16, 2012 10:32 AM

                                                  or as a druggie roommate put it in 1991 "OMG it's like a meat parade and cheap!"

                                                  I've never been, so I reserve direct comment.

                                                  1. re: hill food
                                                    d
                                                    Dustin_E RE: hill food Feb 16, 2012 10:53 AM

                                                    :-)

                                                    the only unfortunate thing is the alcohol there is not particularly inexpensive.

                                                    1. re: hill food
                                                      t
                                                      tjinsf RE: hill food Feb 16, 2012 05:08 PM

                                                      he had it right and it's awesome.

                                                  2. t
                                                    tjinsf RE: pane Feb 16, 2012 05:12 PM

                                                    it's all about sandwiches and specials. Tommy's is many things but fancy isn't one of them. I don't really get why people expect it to be something it's never claimed to be. It's a meat line and beer place and has never been anything else. It does what it does and it does it well. If you want a cheap hunt of slow cooked meat and a good beer without having to wait around or being in a restaurant that had a design team this is the place to go.

                                                    15 Replies
                                                    1. re: tjinsf
                                                      pane RE: tjinsf Feb 16, 2012 06:59 PM

                                                      Good to know on the specials and sandwiches, of which we had neither.

                                                      I guess what I was expecting was the interior to be exactly as it was, but the food to be better. Not better as in more expensive, not better as in "Niman Ranch beef served with house-made freshly ground mustard sauce," just tasty food prepared with a care, which is what I'm looking for whether I'm eating pho ga in the Tenderloin or foie gras (RIP) at Atelier Crenn.

                                                      Though I'm sure that an expensive hauf-brau would make a *killing* in the Mission right now.

                                                      1. re: pane
                                                        rworange RE: pane Feb 16, 2012 11:49 PM

                                                        >>> Not better as in more expensive, not better as in "Niman Ranch beef served with house-made freshly ground mustard sauce," just tasty food prepared with a care

                                                        What gets confused is that the OP mentions Mikkeller tasting at Amsterdam Cafe ,,, twice. So that sets up the premise that Tommy's is failing on that level. Then there is the yelpy business about whores. i had my pocket picked at Ferry Plaza once ... does that define that area? Stuff happens.

                                                        Back in 19xx (cough) when I first went to Tommy's, just looking at the outside I wasn't epecting much and I got what I expected. This was long before the internet and predates Chez Panisse when fine dining meant Continental .. or Velvet Turtle. Even at that time I didn't think it was the finest of its genre. Just as Tad's wasn't doing what it was doing well.

                                                        So for me what was valuable was to avoid the baked beans. which I might have been sucked into on some future visit in the next few years. I'm kind of hoping there's a clam chowder comment as that will probably lure me, despite intuition.

                                                        I know that the way beef is prepared (other than corned or pastrami) at a hauf-brau ... well, let's say time has passed this prep by.

                                                        Hauf-braus can be great ... at least back East. While I was being a bit silly about an upscale version, it would be nice to have just tasty food prepared with care at a good price with decent booze ... but I'd be lured to an upscale ironic version ... though that would have to taste good and offer value ... unlike most upscale food trucks.

                                                      2. re: tjinsf
                                                        b
                                                        bigwheel042 RE: tjinsf Feb 16, 2012 11:10 PM

                                                        The draft beers are OK but nothing special. And most of the stuff in bottles is novel (dozens of export lagers from far-flung places) but of middling quality. Nice enough for washing down a corned beef sandwich, but you can do better in the beer department elsewhere for a similar price.

                                                        1. re: bigwheel042
                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: bigwheel042 Feb 17, 2012 08:59 AM

                                                          In the 70s, Tommy's had a lot of imported beers I never saw elsewhere, but as beer culture around here became more sophisticated around here I figured out that the bottles hadn't been stored properly and/or were past their pull date and stopped going there.

                                                          Have they improved on that score? Because my standards of what constitutes "good beer" have gotten a lot less tolerant.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                                            bigwheel042 RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 17, 2012 08:26 PM

                                                            No idea but I have a hard time believing that they really manage to sell sell all that many of the random Armenian or Brazilian beers they stock. So it's probably a safe bet that those at least have been stored longer than they should. In any case I tend to steer clear of most of them anyway...there just isn't that much of a difference between Efes, Singha, Steinlager, etc. and I'd usually rather just drink Anchor Steam.

                                                          2. re: bigwheel042
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                                                            sugartoof RE: bigwheel042 Feb 19, 2012 01:52 AM

                                                            I remember the first time I went, I was really shocked they had such a diverse selection. It's no Toranado but it deserves some credit.

                                                            The packaged quality sourdough rolls are pretty funny, and if you take out a turkey sandwich don't expect much in the way of trimmings, unless a mustard packet will do you.

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                                                              bigwheel042 RE: sugartoof Feb 19, 2012 09:07 PM

                                                              Why does it deserve credit? Most of those beers (oooh, Heineken Light!) are not good. It's hard to keep 50 beers on tap and keep the lines clean. It's not that hard to keep 100 different bottles of random export lagers in the storage room...it's just hard to sell enough to ensure their freshness, and Tommy's most likely doesn't sell enough and simply serves beer that's slightly off.

                                                              Selling a list of 70 bad, indistinguishable-from-one-another beers and 10 good ones rather than paring down to 20 good ones? I call that a marketing gimmick. Maybe Tommy's does it because distributors charge less for watery Vietnamese and Peruvian lagers than they do for domestic craft beer and they don't think their clientele will accept the higher prices, but it's still quantity over quality.

                                                              1. re: bigwheel042
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                                                                sugartoof RE: bigwheel042 Feb 19, 2012 11:20 PM

                                                                Selection is nice. Wether you trust the bar itself is another discussion entirely.

                                                                Some people get tired of the same standard 20 beers at every bar, so it's a nice surprise that Tommy's has a wide array of choices in addition to the hof brau it's really known for.

                                                                I'd ask if you have actually ordered any of the more oddball choices, but if you prefer "domestic craft beer", it's probably not your thing anyway.

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                                                                  bigwheel042 RE: sugartoof Feb 19, 2012 11:41 PM

                                                                  Actually, I have tried a fair number of them, though not all at Tommy's. Baltika 6 is good, an exception on the list.

                                                                  My point is that there is ***not*** a wide array of choices. It's all variations on the same damn beer, just brewed in 40 different breweries in 40 different countries. Are there trivial differences in flavor profile between Cusquena and Bohemia? Sure, probably. Are those differences meaningful in any way to anyone who likes to drink more interesting/better beer than Corona? NO.

                                                                  1. re: bigwheel042
                                                                    rworange RE: bigwheel042 Feb 20, 2012 07:03 AM

                                                                    To the person who cares about the bottle their Corona is served in, it matters.

                                                                    IMO, in Mexico and Central America all beer is the same ... it all tastes like Corona. However, a person who is loyal to Gallo, Atlas, Victoria, etc will moan that they can't get their brand. In Mexico, there are people who feel there is a distinct difference between Corona and Modelo.

                                                                    So, getting a specific brand from Tommy's might ring someone's bells and as someone said elsewhere before craft beer, it was a big deal.

                                                                    1. re: rworange
                                                                      Das Ubergeek RE: rworange Feb 20, 2012 08:30 AM

                                                                      I would just interject that while five years ago I would have agreed with you, craft brewing is making inroads in Mexico and there are a couple of dozen surprisingly good breweries, mostly in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Baja California. Try Cucapá from Mexicali, Rámuri from Tijuana, Minerva from Guadalajara, and Cosaco or Primus from Mexico City.

                                                                    2. re: bigwheel042
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                                                                      sugartoof RE: bigwheel042 Feb 20, 2012 08:42 AM

                                                                      "40 different breweries in 40 different countries"

                                                                      Sounds pretty notable.

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                                                                        bigwheel042 RE: sugartoof Feb 20, 2012 10:03 AM

                                                                        Yeah. Notable for people who like to look at pretty labels and don't care about drinking good quality, fresh beer.

                                                                        While Tommy's may have been at the beer vanguard 30 years ago or whatever I'm not going to give them any "credit" in 2012 for still acting like beer (especially American beer) is still in the dark ages.

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                                                                          sugartoof RE: bigwheel042 Feb 20, 2012 10:37 AM

                                                                          Who goes to Tommy's for anything expecting the 2012 vanguard?

                                                                          The whole point of the place is that it's caught in time.

                                                                          For a place that serves packaged sandwich rolls, and old style meats, the vast selection of beers is an unexpected bonus that rarely gets mentioned. It's worth mentioning it. It's not a microbrewery, or Toranado, but there's a fun selection that beats out many dive bars, and people who appreciate that.

                                                            2. re: tjinsf
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                                                              Nopa RE: tjinsf Feb 20, 2012 09:39 AM

                                                              Agreed, Tommy's Joynt is just a great place to get a simple meal and beer for less. It has stood against the test of time. I always recommend it. Some disagree; food satisifies many needs. At the basic level, food satisfies the need for sustenance. Food served at fancier restaurants satisfy the need to feel special. TJ won't do that, but you will leave full and your wallet will thank you.

                                                            3. Robert Lauriston RE: pane Feb 18, 2012 11:02 AM

                                                              I suspect Tommy's popularity with tourists is partly due to its prices. Can anyone speak to how the quality compares with other places in that price range, such as Chick N Coop or Little Henry's?

                                                              http://www.tommysjoynt.com/menu2.htm

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                rworange RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2012 11:34 AM

                                                                I tried both and both are better though i'm not a fan of Little Henry's and the chicken place isn't quite the same in terms of a meal.

                                                                For all the money that gets poured into restaurant design, I don't think anything has been as successful in luring people in as that painting on the outside of Tommy's.

                                                                Despite all the bells going off in your head that this is a tourist trap, it screams San Francisco and business that is historic and maybe worth taking a look.

                                                                And if you are from east of the Rockies, there's that buffalo stew that says wild, wild west. Tommy's was serving that long before it became trendy and you could get buffalo tacos at places like C Casa or name the upscale joint.

                                                                Also, showing up in tourists books doesn't hurt and even if you look at online sites such as yelp or foursquare, it comes up near the top of the list for traditional American food with literally thousands of reviews and a high star rating. It is also in the area of a tourists migration route.

                                                                1. re: rworange
                                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Feb 18, 2012 11:42 AM

                                                                  Chick N Coop has hofbrau-type meats and turkey as well as chicken.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    rworange RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2012 12:02 PM

                                                                    yeah, i know. it just doesn't strike me as the same for some reason I can't remember.

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                                                                    Kim Cooper RE: rworange Mar 11, 2012 10:47 PM

                                                                    It keeps the tourists out of the other restaurants?

                                                                  3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    Civil Bear RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 12, 2012 08:52 AM

                                                                    I'm a big fan of the chicken, turkey legs, and the BBQ sauce at Chick N Coop (Mission St. location only). The pastrimi platter in too bad either.

                                                                    Little Henry's has always given me the impression that everything is pre-frozen.

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