Tomato Jam Cafe

Once in a blue moon, you’ll find a happy little lunch spot that just seems to wrap you up in its warmth, coziness, and overall good vibes.  Tiny little Tomato Jam Café, located in a Doctor’s Park across from St. Joseph’s hospital, is one of those spots.  This is one of those places that you at first erroneously assume won’t have a lot of veggie options, because it just smacks of comfort food.  Once you dig a little deeper though, you’ll discover lots of old favorites, like Grilled (or “Griddled”) Cheese, and Egg Salad, mixed in with more eclectic fare.  You’ll find salads, sandwiches, and even housemade black-bean burgers with lots of creative touches, and a choice of side to boot!  My personal favorite side is the tomato soup—there is nothing more fortifying on a cold winter day than a cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, in my humble opinion.  Tomato Jam Café makes you remember why this is such a wonderful cold weather combo.

Today, though, we had the rare opportunity to get to try their breakfast.  I was off from work, and after batting around several very good ideas (Sunny Point Cafe, Over Easy Café) I finally remembered that this was a prime opportunity to try Tomato Jam for breakfast, since they are only open on weekdays.  Tomato Jam has gotten a lot of attention for their “cat head” biscuits.  They’ve been featured on Jane and Michael Stern’s website roadfood.com, and their book 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late.  The whole grain biscuits were named one of the five best biscuits in the South by these folks.  And don’t worry, intrepid meatless friends, the biscuits are remarkably free of cats.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)  In addition to this honor, Tomato Jam Café was featured in Parade magazine for their pimiento cheese and had an inclusion in the Tupelo Honey Café cookbook.

But, as usual, I digress.  The point is, that with that much hype, how could the biscuits possibly be as good as all that?  I like to consider myself a bit of a biscuit connoisseur, so this stuff is serious to me.  (Okay, maybe not serious exactly, but important.  There’s almost nothing more annoying than a poorly constructed biscuit, particularly when you’re a Southern native.  If they’re too dry, or too doughy, or too greasy, it’s a total deal-breaker.)  I am happy to report that these biscuits were delectable.  And yes, at least as big as a cat’s head.  Smothered in vegetarian gravy, they’re just about perfect.  Add the “meat” option, which can be veggie sausage, and scrambled eggs (making the whole thing a “Wendy Lou”), it’s over-the-top delightful.  And there’s so much food that I couldn’t even finish.  I did stop inhaling biscuits and gravy (vegetarian!  Yay!) long enough to try the tomato jam, for which the restaurant is named, on a piece of Sean’s biscuit.  It was amazing—sweet with just a hint of spiciness and a real departure from most other fruit jellies.  I highly recommend it.  Sean had the three-egg omelet with roasted tomato, sautéed spinach and caramelized onion and his choice of cheese and “meat” (veggie sausage, of course).

This place seems to have a loyal following as well.  The employees greet the locals warmly, who then settle into their dining routines.  As an aside, we came in right at the end of the breakfast period, and there were only two biscuits left, which of course we had to try.  An older regular came in right after us who was super-disappointed to be missing out on his biscuit, and for a few minutes, we felt kind of guilty about that.  But it just goes to show you that other Tomato Jam Café fans are also serious about their biscuits.  And how.  Do yourself a favor and try out this off-the-beaten-path hidden gem for breakfast or lunch.  But make sure you get there early, before the last cat heads have skedaddled.

2 Responses to Tomato Jam Cafe

  • Wow, thanks for the great review! You have totally captured the feeling and flavor we are aiming for! Just one point to clarify: Chef Dan Wright has the recipe in Tupelo Honey’s cookbook, not the café. Glad you enjoyed your breakfast! Hope to see you again soon. We believe good food is to be shared in order to feed the soul.
    TJC

  • Scoops says:

    Glad you liked the review! Sorry it took so long to respond to this. And thanks for the clarification.

    Oh, and a big shout out to Chef Wright for winning the WNC Chef’s Challenge! What an awesome accomplishment!

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