2016 | Dine

First Taste: Tommy Joe’s Restaurant

A new location means burgers and wings with a breeze

Tommy Joe's grilled cheeseburger with salt and herb fries

Laura Hayes

The Story

When fries are a starter instead of just a side, it’s a sign I’ve found a place to soak up workweek woes with cheap drafts and bar food. Enter the new location of Tommy Joe’s Restaurant, which recently re-opened in Woodmont Triangle after 19 years on Montgomery Lane. Maybe you know the space from when it was Roof or Urban Heights after that.

To complicate matters, Alan Pohoryles, who started Roof, now co-owns Tommy Joe’s with RW Restaurant Group, which owned Urban Heights.

Got that?

As co-owner, RW Restaurant Group assists with recipe development, operations, accounting and marketing.

Tommy Joe's new location in Woodmont Triangle. Photo by Laura Hayes

The new digs suffer from being on the second and third floor. But what they lose in not being at street-level they gain back in the form of a main bar and dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows and an expansive 2,000-square-foot roof deck. Being a sports bar, flat screens adorn the walls and the main bar conquers most of the dining room. 

The Food

The menu is a tour de eats I want to grab at during a game, starting with “poho style” chicken wings that get double basted and double grilled in a zippy glaze of hot and peanut sauces. These I’d return for, along with the salt and herb fries whose well-seasoned outer crusts snap when bitten, revealing still-tender interiors without excess grease. 

 

Left: "Poho style" wings. Right: Crispy calamari. By Laura Hayes

Conversely, the crispy calamari starter is not a home run. While I appreciate the cool twist of slipping in fried banana peppers disguised as calamari, no addition can atone for a dish tasting only of the acrid oil it was fried in. The deep fryer is due for spring-cleaning.

The rest of the menu spans soups, salads, shucked oysters, sandwiches and entrées topping out at $28 for a filet mignon. We sampled the jumbo lump crab cake sandwich, which came as advertised, with visible morsels of crab. It could have benefitted from more seasoning. The burger (half-off on Mondays) was the better pick with its thick, juicy patty and option to pile on toppings.

Unfortunately, our entire order suffered when everything arrived in unison after a nearly 40-minute wait. It was impossible to attack appetizers and entrées at once, so our food grew cold before we could eat it. A cold wing is as sad as a missed love connection. Food seemed to be flying out to other tables, so it was likely an isolated problem, and one that came with a warm apology. 

Bar Buzz

 

Left: The main bar at Tommy Joe's Restaurant. Right: The rooftop patio. By Laura Hayes

Tommy Joe’s is not a place to come on a craft beer expedition. The beer list dominated by familiar, brews such as Yuengling. A selection of house wines is also available. As far as cocktails, you won’t find a menu. “I look at it like McDonalds—you can go into any sports bar and know the basics are there,” Pohoryles says. “The least tenured bartender has been bartending nine years, so our staff knows how to make almost any cocktail.” 

The Vibe

My dining companion asks, “Is this a dive bar?” Not a good sign for a spot auditioning as a sports bar. The dining room feels a little sleepy because of the lack of music and slow service. Though, a gaggle of men completing their fantasy baseball draft in a blocked-off area may have been responsible for the lack of tunes.

However, every seat is taken on a Monday at 6p.m. by dads, undergrads and gaggles of workers. Bar stools too are filled by patrons cashing in on a generous happy hour. Food and drink specials are offered daily from 4 p.m. to 7p.m., including a half dozen wings for $3.50 and a curious combination of an oyster shooter and 4oz. Miller Lite, also $3.50. Judging by the wing piles, this is a big draw.

Go, Wait or Skip

Wait. Not only for service to improve but Pohoryles says they will soon expand the menu to include more items like tacos, quesadillas, buffalo sandwiches and more. Plus, the best part of about the new Tommy Joe’s (besides those waffle fries) is the 2,000-square-foot roof deck, which is sure to be packed when the weather gets warmer.

7940 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda, 301-654-3801, www.tommyjoes.com