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Jul 7, 2013 06:06 PM

Drinks and apps at Tom Ham's Lighthouse.

After dropping Mr12 off at camp somewhere in the Midwest (I think it's called Julian), MrsName and I headed back to the coast for cocktails and apps at Tom Hams Lighthouse. I had the Tom Ham Manhattan, she had a G&T. We shared calamari and ceviche.

We agreed the room had a great view, and MrsName's G&T was very good.

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      1. re: phee

        No no no. Too litle gin! (Kind of like the "half full" / "half empty" conundrum.)

    1. I am so fond of my memories of visiting Tom Ham's with my Mom (Ohh, my god, in the sixties.

      So glad they are doing well.

      1. Curious, how was the ceviche?

        1. Awesome. .
          Was the calamari more tentacles or the pedestrian rings?
          Was it busy?

          17 Replies
          1. re: Beach Chick

            Am I too subtle, folks?

            You know I try to stay positive, and attempt to say nothing if I have nothing good to say.

            In that spirit, I will reiterate the view was very good.

            1. re: Fake Name

              Nothing wrong with being subtle or not wanting to bash a restaurant but on a food discussion board it would help to get some comments why a dish didn't work, e.g personal preferences or badly executed in the kitchen. Otherwise there wouldn't be much difference between Yelp and CH where the posts tend to be more about the OP than the restaurant.

              1. re: honkman

                Yeah, I take your point...

                I just hate to hate, ya know?

                But, OK, I'll bend the rules.

                The place is weird. Really weird. Entering the lobby, it looks like a vacant building. Empty lobby, some empty rooms all around, and a stairway to the right. One assumes one should go up the stairs, but that's just an assumption. At the top of the stairs is the hostess stand that we skipped to head into the bar.

                The bar and dining room also have a very odd feel to them- it's as if it's "too big" High, vaulted ceilings (beautiful) and a long room feel like some sort of Great Dining Hall, or a convention center that's been set with tables. To the southwest, a long wall of windows (good) open up to the bay and a beautiful view of North Island and downtown. Then an unfortunate lineup of large flatscreen TVs with "The Game" on. Really poor execution, but I happen to hate TVs in bars and especially restaurants and acknowledge my personal bias. Difficult to enjoy the peaceful view when being visually pummeled with TV sports. And my son would say : Epic Fail.

                We took a hightop table inside the bar, and didn't have to wait too long for our bartender to offer bar menus, photocopied on 8.5x11 20# bond paper (ok) but had obviously been dragged through water several times. Had that wrinkley once-wet-now-dried look to them. I'm no germophobe, but these were pretty seedy, and had seen better days a few weeks earlier. Further, years in the advertising and graphic design business make me fussy about menu design, which these papers didn't have.

                Our server was a nice guy, and as it was a Sunday, I suspect he was a beginner in the service industry. Nice enough, but had that awkward manner that suggests he started there about the time the menus were new.

                The cocktails were the usual odd concoctions that sounded terrible. One of the drinks that I remember was a mixture of Prosecco, gin and violet liqueur. Obviously *Craft Beer* was on offer, as if that's unusual.

                I like a good Manhattan, so I gave their version a go:

                Tom Ham’s Manhattan- Ballast Point Barrel Age Rum, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, Cherry Bitters.

                This was my fault. I saw "Manhattan" and thought "good", just like at Burger Lounge I saw "Classic Burger" and never suspected it'd have mustard. Truth is, had I spent the extra .00657 seconds to read the ingredients, I'd have known it'd be nothing like a Manhattan at all, and might have been less disappointed than I was. And I certainly was disappointed. The drink was pathetic, not strong enough to escape a spider's web. Full of bar ice, a cheap Mezzetta maraschino cherry, and no flavor. I find a good Manhattan rich, flavorful and full of whammy. This was none of those- I was prepared to accept "their own twist on a Manhattan" but this was not even in a nearby borough.

                MrsName wisely opted for a standard G&T, and it was good.

                The "raw bar" menu was also poor in its execution. Oddly designed (yeah, I know- but I just can't stand it) had both the standard prices and the happy hour prices on it. I think they ought to just slap their customers when handing over their grubby menus an other-than-happy-hour times. I looked at it and thought how ripped off we were by ordering anything that I could get for half-price at another time. To me, a menu like this is unbelievably stupid. What, you can't afford to replace the menus when they get dirty, and you can't afford to have a separate happy-hour specials menu? You have the {guts} to charge me $10.50 for a crappy drink, but can't afford a menu that doesn't insult me? Come on! Here's an excerpt:

                Honey Lime Chili

                The asterisk tells you the happy hour price. To me, they might as well say,"Are you stupid enough to pay $10 for this when it's only worth $8 at a different time of day?"


                "Ha-Ha! you dumbass, you missed our decent price, and because you're stupid enough to walk into our bar with the filthy menus right now instead of Monday-Friday from 3pm to 6pm, we're going to charge you more!"

                That in mind, I ordered the Calamari. I'm sick, I know. Could be worse- the spread on "Tenderloin Tips" is $12/$8. That's a four dollar difference on a $12 item, and they're going to rub my face in it.

                We also ordered the Salmon Ceviche- Avocado, Lime, Cilantro, corn chips $11/8*.

                These appetizers were ok. Nothing really wrong with them, but nothing special. The calamari (rings, some tentacles) had a dipping sauce that was a little unusual, but oily and odd. The ceviche was sort of creamy- never seen ceviche like it. Not bad, and helped cover the flavor of my bad drink. But not good either, and can get better off any mariscos truck in town who won't laugh at me for not being there during happy hour. Granted, I'd have to balance my paper plate on the edge of a trash can, but it's a small price to pay, and they don't have flat screens.

                BC, I have to give props to Honkman on this one. I made the same assumption you did about this being a good place for a cocktail and an app, but had no actual evidence of that. And I found it to be quite the opposite.

                Great location, horribly executed.

                So much for staying positive. I was lured to the Dark Side of Chowhound. I feel so dirty ; )

                1. re: Fake Name

                  Great post and very informative without being overly negative. You should visit the dark side more often

                  1. re: Fake Name

                    So the moral of this story is to eat before you go there, don't order a Tom Ham Manhattan, bring plenty of Purell and enjoy the view. Great and honest review FN.

                    1. re: Fake Name

                      Manhattan...rum?????...Harvey's Bristol Cream?!?!???

                      Wow, I have no clue what this is, all I know is that it is NOT a Manhattan. Maybe that's how they make 'em in Kansas?

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        Perhaps so, and were they in Kansas, it might be acceptable.

                        1. re: Fake Name

                          Kansas and Idaho are just a state of mind.

                          You can't find a good Manhattan or Martini, but you can find a shot and a beer.


                          1. re: Gypsy Jan

                            Exactly what I should have had.

                            Before going inside.

                      2. re: Fake Name

                        Wow. . who knew that cranky pants Berlin Boy would have nailed it.

                        1. re: Fake Name

                          I haven't posted here in forever but I had such a terrible experience at Tom Ham's on Saturday night that I feel compelled to share. In short, the service was uncomfortably, embarrassingly awkward. It was so bad that when the server came to tell us that they were out of the special I ordered (20 minutes after I ordered it), we decided to cut our losses and leave after the apps. Our mussels were served with stale bread and the "mignonette" with the oysters was just a ramekin of vinegar. We were never able to flag anyone down to get cocktail forks for the oysters, and we took matters into our own hands and stole knives from another table in order to saw through the tough tenderloin tips.

                          The view was excellent.

                            1. re: bethsd

                              Thanks for your comments, bethsd.

                            2. re: Fake Name

                              Wait, their Manhattan didn't have Rye (hell, or even Bourbon) in it? That's the dumbest shit I've ever heard.

                              1. re: Fake Name

                                Wow, FN, you must have been exhausted after writing this, since you usually like to be very brief if possible. Great review of your impressions and experiences -- one of your best writeups ever (or at least the longest, I think). Merci. This will save me some time and money.

                        2. Subtle and concise, both good.