By SUSAN ERICSON
Trying to enter Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright last Saturday was a challenge.
Pushing an empty stroller out the door, a woman sporting a Gucci diaper bag on her shoulder heard a screech from her toddler. At issue: a cup of lollipops spied on the hostess desk.
Stroller, Mom, Dad and child — now clutching a fistful of pops — finally made their way out the door, and we entered to see that the place was packed. Tables, bar stools— all taken, but a raised booth against the far wall that could have fit a party of six was available.
We expected the place to be empty at 3 o’clock on a sunny weekend afternoon, but we were wrong. “It’s like kid central in here today,” our waitress, Mandy Madsen, said, and noted that it was unusually crowded because it was Sea Bright Day. Working at Tommy’s since it opened in July. she took it all in stride.
While perusing the compartmentalized menu, we listened first to Loretta Lynn belting out “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and then a heavy metal tune, followed by the Beatles doing “Here Comes the Sun.” If the music is supposed to help set a tone here, it’s style is as perplexing as the menu.
A large coal-fired oven is used for a myriad of pizza offerings. Twenty specialty pies in categories of red sauce and white are separate from the option of white or gluten-free pizza dough and the additions of traditional or gourmet toppings.
There is also a separate and extensive sushi menu and, as expected, a tavern menu offering burgers, wings, salads, pasta and sandwiches. We opted for a small order (10 pieces for $12) of “Tommy’s Original Coal Oven Roasted Wings,” to start. This was an excellent choice, as the wings were neither breaded nor deep-fried. They were succulent morsels of seasoned chicken under a light coating of oven-roasted onions and one roasted Italian long hot pepper that brought a piquant, sweat-inducing kick.
The 10-ounce hickory-bacon burger ($14) came with a heap of seasoned fries and a small ramekin of coleslaw. Slicing the burger in half, we found our order for medium rare was actually rare to raw, with burger juices filling the plate. Our waitress efficiently whisked away the platter and returned a few minutes later with a fresh burger cooked exactly as requested. To receive such considerate attention on a more-than-busy day shows a first-rate degree of professionalism.
The industrial, brick walled design helps set a relaxed, upscale-ambience to this beach town eatery. With a menu that offers just about anything your hungry heart might desire, PieHole expects the place to continue to be quite busy.