Tom + Chee on Bardstown Road, I succumbed to a little bit of panic. Luckily, the gods were smiling on me... just ten minutes or so into me feeling terribly awkward and lonely at the event, a familiar voice said, "Would you join us at our table?"
And so I got to enjoy the whole soft opening hoopla at Tom + Chee with Tony and Heather, two-thirds of Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble. A great night of food. And a great night of conversation.
Tom + Chee started as a vendor in a tent by the Fountain Square skating rink in Cincy in 2008. They've since been featured on Man vs. Food and Amazing Eats. The new outpost on Bardstown Road across from Java is their first outlet outside of Cincinnati.
I spent a lot of time talking with James, their PR person, and what I loved most was how much he talked about 'passion'... way more than he talked about food. He said that the Cincinnati folks vetted the Louisville franchisees, Natalie and Rich Tinsley, as passionately as they vetted Tom + Chee. The word "love" came up again and again with James.
The food was awesome. I'm not a particularly healthy eater-- although I am trying to turn over a new leaf these days... if you're going to change your life, you might as well CHANGE your life-- but my favorite sandwich of the six or seven I tried was the Hippy + Chee: hummus, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and cheddar on wheat. On the flip side of that, Tom + Chee features a whole series of grilled cheese sandwiches with smooshed up potato chips inside-- brilliant! I did this with every sandwich that I ate in my middle school cafeteria. I tried the BBQ + Bacon: bbq potato chips, bacon, American cheese on white. Delish-- the potato chips add just the right amount of sweetness to offset the smokey bacon.
My disinterest in sweets aside, I might be in for tasting a cheddar on glazed donut... One of the few sweets I like is apple pie, and I like it best with a big hunk of sharp cheddar melted on top. As our friend Rachel said, "Yummo!"
I haven't even gotten to the Tom part of Tom + Chee-- the tomato soup. There are at least 5 variations on tomato soup on the menu. The overall favorite at our table was the creamy tomato soup. The best part about the soup menu-- you can add a "soup dipper" to any sandwich purchase for just $1. That's around 4-6oz of soup to dunk your sandwich in. Awesome.
I'm pretty excited for a new, reasonably-priced, reasonably-local chain that serves one of the most universal of comfort foods. As I said, everyone in the building was very helpful and very friendly. They even made Tony and Heather a series of meat-less meat sandwiches to accommodate their vegetarianness.
My only concern is that Tom + Chee opened on a week of 90+ degree days. Grilled cheese and tomato soup-- gazpacho even-- couldn't be further from my cravings. I hope they can hang in there til the bitter days of November, when you'll have to beat me away with a stick.