Tommy’s Tavern + Tap opened in Mount Laurel this afternoon, and I was there for the opening!
The team from the new upscale Tavern were awesome to allow me in to see the beautiful new restaurant and bar, taste a variety of their scratch-made food.. and most importantly learn about the family culture and mindset that is intertwined throughout everything in the restaurant.
And of course I’m sharing the experience with the 42Freeway readers!
If you aren’t familiar with Tommy’s Tavern + Tap, it is a growing family owned restaurant group originally based out of North Jersey, but now consisting of 10 different locations in New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
For the new Mount Laurel location which opened today, they have found a new home in the Centerton Square Shopping Center, taking over a building which previously was home to TGI Friday’s. (42Freeway was the first to break this news last September)
On the outside they’ve added a full season patio dining area, and inside everything is completely new… interior, bar and dining experience, as well as a large open kitchen in the back.
As the name states, at it’s core they are a tavern… and in fact the large bar is prominently positioned in the center of the space, surrounded by a variety of dining seating options.
But every aspect of the restaurant and dining experience is elevated and more upscale.
Now the word “upscale” can mean different things to different people, and I think for the context of 42Freeway readers a key factor is that the entire menu is scratch-made in all 10 restaurants!
The Steak Sandwich features an 8 ounce NY Strip steak that is carved in the kitchen. The soups are made from fresh ingredients at each of the locations. The pizza features the highest quality San Marzano tomatoes and Grande mozzarella, cooked in a coal-fired oven. And the sushi is crafted from freshly delivered ingredients.
Nothing is frozen. Everything is fresh.
Wait.. wait.. step back a bit! Did I say “Sushi”?! Why yes I did.
You could try to come up with other area restaurants which seemingly would fit in the same category as Tommy’s Tavern, but very few of them are offering and excelling in a menu that offers traditional yet upscale tavern food, coal-fired oven pizza, AND sushi!
But what really hit home with me was as I spoke to operations manager Andre Braxton was, he spent as much time talking about the Tommy’s Tavern family and culture that is intertwined throughout the restaurant, as he did the food and dining experience.
(Cherry Hill area peeps.. Tommy’s Tavern is coming your way! They will be taking over the Houlihan’s building on Route 70!!)
“What Makes Us Different”
I have to be honest Andre… you caught me off guard a little bit! I just assumed with my visit happening right ahead of the opening that you’d be too busy and preoccupied with final opening details to have time to chat with me.
But it seems your team has it all under control! So I wasn’t fully prepared when you said “so what do you wanna ask me?” Well we quickly got to “What makes Tommy’s Tavern Different”
And there we stood in a beautiful new restaurant, with an amazing kitchen and menu… and what really stood out to me was your comments on the Tommy’s Tavern Family, the culture, and the “grow from within” mindset.
I learned the namesake founder of Tommy’s Tavern wasn’t really a restaurant guy.
Tommy was a successful CPA (and attorney) who as the kids got older and his daily life was changing, wanted a business for him and his wife to run together (along with the family).
A restaurant seemed like a logical choice to bring friends and family together, enjoy a great meal and a delicious drink… with Tommy of course visiting the tables of friends and loyal customers.
I don’t think it was ever the plan to be so successful and have 10 locations in just a few years. Tommy just wanted a fun business that the family could enjoy doing together.
But it seems that mindset of putting the customer experience first and letting everyone know they are part of the family… is likely what has made Tommy’s Tavern so successful in just a few short years.
It just felt like the right thing to do… and in turn he and the family were rewarded with happy customers, and happy cash registers.
Sadly, Tommy passed away unexpectedly almost a year ago… and while that was a devasting loss to the family and business, they have decided to honor their husband and father by continuing on with the restaurants in the way that Tommy would’ve wanted.
Andre tells me soon after Tom’s passing, his wife Yvette spoke to employees and asked if they had visited Disney World… to which most responded “Of Course”! She then asked… Do you know who Walt Disney is? “of course!”
Her point was that even though Walt Disney had passed long before any of the staff had visited the theme park… it was clear decades later that everything about Walt Disney World is still Walt’s vision, Walt’s culture, and Walt’s pride in the business.
And that’s what the Bonfiglio family continues to do for Tommy’s Tavern and their customers. Tommy’s Vision, Tommy’s Culture, and Tommy’s pride in the business.
Andre also shared that it’s important for the family business that they grow within and elevate their staff. I also met Christina who was part of the marketing team for Tommy’s, who started out at one of their restaurants as a Hostess.
Tommy’s Tavern + Tap Mount Laurel – The Experience
The building at Tommy’s Tavern + Tap Mount Laurel retains the same center position front door from its prior operator, but today it opens up to one large room with a center positioned rectangular bar as the main prominent feature.
To the left of the bar are three rows of dining booths and an exposed brick wall. To the right is another row of booths as well as a row of high top tables.
And to the very far right is an entrance into the new all season patio space which has large glass sliders which can be opened up to better connect with the main restaurant space, or closed for private events.
The interior balances the contrasts between darker wood accents, with lighter touches such as an exposed light wood roof. Sidewall brickwork leans towards a lighter backdrop with it’s blended shades of induvial bricks.
The center bar features 14 televisions hanging from a center position (for prime viewing), and an additional row of TV’s line the dining area above the patio doorway.
48 draft beer taps sit together in the center of the bar featuring a variety of national and local choices including Mudhen, Evil Genius, Flying Fish, Kane and more.
And while it’s an open space… at no time was it loud.
I was in the restaurant before the opening and soon after the doors opened at 4:00 o’clock, the place quickly filled with customers and it was still easy to talk to people.
When I first arrived at the restaurant there was one person waiting for the opening and it turns out he was a 42Freeway reader! Jerry N. called out “hey are you the 42 freeway guy?!”. We ended up sitting next to each other at the bar, and was later joined by his fiancé Karen. Even though the bar and dining area was filled with people by this time, we had no problems chatting about a variety of things.. mainly 42Freeway stories because that’s all I chat about, ha ! They both gave me a few tips on new restaurants that I have not covered yet! Coming soon…
And even though they just opened and will likely see crowds of people for the next few weeks and longer, they put customers first again and according to their website they are offering their midweek specials right from the start.
Starting at 4pm, Monday is half priced specialty cocktails, Tuesday is half price wine list, Wednesday is half priced sangria, and Thursday is $2 off all draft beers.
Tommy’s Tavern – Menu
For most the menu is the key deciding factor for a new restaurant… so in a way maybe I’ve saved the best for last!
Andre introduced me to Chris Perrino who is the chef for Tommy’s Tavern + Tap.
Well when I say chef… I learned a little bit later that he is the Director of Culinary Operations for the entire Tommy’s hospitality group, and he and his staff are responsible for the entire menu at the Tommy’s Tavern restaurants!
It was explained to me that while they have one large open kitchen area in the back, it is really three different kitchens with three different teams.
The main Tavern menu kitchen is in the center, the coal-fired pizza staff is on one side, and the sushi kitchen is on the other. This allows those chefs of each kitchen to be focused experts on their craft!
So I am really intrigued by the sushi aspect of the restaurant and asked if I could take a photo of the prep station area… to which Chris responded ”Better idea, how about I bring a few things out for you”
So I walked around a little bit and took more photos of the restaurant.. and soon was summoned back to the kitchen area’s front counter where the Mount Laurel chefs had prepared a variety of their signature dishes!
It was literally plate after plate of dishes!
First up were the sandwiches which included the Steak Sandwich, which is not meant to compete with our classic Philadelphia cheesesteaks. They elevate things at Tommy’s Tavern, remember?!
The Tommy’s Tavern steak sandwich is an 8-ounce New York strip steak, carved in the store… topped with wild mushrooms, cold fired roasted onions, melted provolone cheese and a garlic aioli which is spread on a toasted ciabatta bread.
This truly was an amazing blend of flavors, and the meat was incredibly tender. Sure it’s all of the same ingredients of our familiar cheesesteaks but yet this was completely different.
Well just look at the photos and you know this thing is amazing. In fact I had sent pictures to my son and daughter (separately), and both of them pounced on the steak sandwich ”oh I want to try that!”
The Crispy Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich was next, which is hand-battered chicken with chipotle mayo, melted pepper jack cheese, sliced tomato and slaw, on a toasted ciabatta bread.
The combination of the crispy yet light batter and the incredibly tender, perfectly cooked chicken just made for an awesome bite. The texture was crispy, soft, tender and delicious.. with every bite.
For pizzas, Chris and the team brought out two different varieties from their specialty pie menu!
Mr. B’s Favorite is a white specialty pie featuring cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, basil and extra virgin oil. As you would guess from the name this was Tommy’s favorite pizza variety!
I could easily taste that the ingredients are above traditional pizzas… and the extra flavor picked up from the coal-fired stove really just takes it to another level. The of course use a food grade anthracite coal to give it a flavor profile that Tommy loved.
The margherita pizza featured sliced mozzarella, san marzano tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil… and as my wife said later on “even reheated at home in our air fryer, this is amazing”
An artisan flatbread came out next which was “Christina’s Prosciutto Padana”. It features imported prosciutto de Parma, coal-fired onions, seasoned cream, grana padana and mozzarella.
This was probably one of my biggest surprises from the menu because I typically lean towards more of being a “red sauce” guy… and this flatbread just wowed me with its flavors.
For the sushi rolls the team prepared the Volcano Roll which is crabstick, cucumber, avocado, topped with spicy tuna, crunchy onions, spicy Mayo, eel sauce and sliced pickled jalapeno.
Like everything that the Tommy’s Tavern staff prepares, this is a beautifully looking dish… but something the way this was prepared with the drizzle of sauce on top against the black plate really pops in the photos I took!
And the final item that crossed over that counter was Tommy’s Roll, which was another favorite of founder Tommy which featured yellowtail, avocado, cucumber, topped with jalepeno, salmon, pepper tuna and cilantro.
A perfect blend of fresh seafood and ingredients, and I loved the extra little kick from the jalepeno!
Oh and every one of these items was under $20… prices ranged from $15-$20.
Tommy’s Tavern + Tap Mount Laurel is open for lunch at 11am, serving dinner until 11pm during the week, and midnight on Friday and Saturday. The bar stays open later (see full hours below).
This is South Jersey’s first Tommy’s Tavern + Tap and trust me.. it’s worth giving them a visit.
And soon… they are coming to Cherry Hill, taking over the former Houlihan’s space!
Links and Location
Tommy’s Tavern + Tap Mount Laurel
40 Centerton Rd
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054