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The Tomato Head

by Ashley on May 23rd, 2011

When I’m in East Tennessee, I am there to visit family and friends… and to eat at the Tomato Head. Seriously. If I don’t get to eat at the Tomato Head before I take off from McGhee Tyson Airport, my trip isn’t really complete. So what makes this place so great, you ask? I’ll make it easier on myself by just listing all the reasons why I love the Tomato Head.

  1. Fresh-from-the-oven goodness. The Tomato Head bakes all it’s breads, pizza crusts, and baked goods (cookies, cakes, and pies) from scratch. The bread that’s hugging your sandwich was baked that morning.
  2. Fresh, local ingredients. The veggies in the restaurants’ dishes are organic and/or grown locally. That means you’re getting food that hasn’t had to travel very far, isn’t loaded with weird chemicals, and is supporting the surrounding farming communities.
  3. Great flavor combinations. Smoked salmon and pesto on a pizza? Monterey Jack, pineapple, and tofu on a sandwich? An egg and chorizo burrito? Yes, yes, yes… And they are all fantastic. The Tomato Head has a collection of tried-and-true dishes that have become mainstays for some of my family members and friends (the Oh Boy sandwich is always a favorite), but the restaurant also has daily specials that include new and innovate flavor pairings. Follow them on Twitter to get updates on what they’re serving up that day.
  4. Options for everyone. Whether you’re a hardcore carnivore or a devout vegan, there is something at the Tomato Head for you. The restaurants have lots of meatless options or meat alternatives, including tofu, soy cheese, and soy sausage (yeah, I didn’t even know such a thing existed!). Their salads and soups are also delicious. Plus they have cookies—even vegan cookies—and they are fantastic.
  5. Multiple, historic locations. The first Tomato Head is located in Knoxville’s historic Market Square: one of the best places for people-watching in the city. This location is packed during the lunch hour and a bustling dinner spot in the evening. There is also brunch on the weekends and a patio for the warmer months. A few years ago, a second location opened in Maryville (south of Knoxville) on Broadway, right in the center of town. This location can accommodate a few more people inside and also boasts sidewalk dining. The specials vary by location, but the food and the vibe are of the same caliber at both.
  6. Supporting local artists. If you visit either of the Tomato Heads locations, you’ll be surrounded by the work of local artists, most of which is available for purchase. In addition, their menus sport the work of Yee Haw Industries, a Knoxville-based letterpress print shop. Such an affinity for the arts attracts a diverse group of people to the Tomato Head, both in its employees and its patrons. You never know who you might see!
  7. Friendly staff. I’ve never had a bad experience at either location. The staff is always friendly, attentive, and eclectic—fits perfectly with the food and the atmosphere.

Despite this list of “loves,” there are a few things that I do not like about the Tomato Head (::Gasp!:: I know. You must be shocked!).

  1. No-go on the waffles? The one bad food experience I’ve had here was the first time I got brunch from the downtown Knoxville location. I decided to get waffles (one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods), but didn’t realize that all the condiments were cold. You can’t put cold blueberries on a hot waffle; it’s sacrilegious. That turned me off from brunch at the Tomato Head for awhile, until I tried a breakfast burrito. Now I’m a fan. I can’t vouch for the waffles of the present day, but I’d try the burritos and savory items first, if I were you.
  2. The WC is where? At the Knoxville location, you have to walk through the back kitchen to get to the powder room. No matter what restaurant you are in, that is never very pleasant.
  3. Only in East TN? There is a Tomato Head in Chicago, but it is not the proper Tomato Head. Don’t confuse the two!

So, if you ever heard me rave about the Tomato Head, now you know exactly what I’m talking about. I strongly recommend that any visitor to East Tennessee stop by either location (or both you have have the time). You won’t regret it. Seriously.

Yelp Review: 5 Stars

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