Al Fresco

As many of you may know this year marked Tomato Head’s 25th anniversary.  But after our big celebration in August, we didn’t dwell too much in retrospective – there’s too much going on in our city and in our business to linger overlong on memory lane.  But as our 25th anniversary year winds slowly to a close and with the onset of summer and the increasingly de rigueur proliferation of “June is bustin’ out all over” memes, I find myself drifting back to memories of the first warm evenings eating outside on Market Square.

Like so many things we now take for granted, al fresco dining in downtown Knoxville was a rare treat, mostly relegated to sunny lunchtime escapes from the florescent tyranny of office work.  Our first moments dining in the waning sun weren’t particularly glamourous either – it feels very improvisational in memory: tables and chairs scraping across our threshold as we drag them outside to enjoy an al fresco slice or two almost all alone at first and, later, with a handful of friends. There was a time when the city virtually subsidized our seating – when customers sat at public tables on the square and we, happy to have guests at all in the evening, ran back and forth across the square to serve them.  Memories can be beautiful and a little exhausting, too.

Tomato Head’s Market Square Patio photo: examiner.com

I’d like to describe those moments as prescient, but the call of a pleasantly warm evening inspires many of us to set a table in the open air; and, of course, the as yet unsung beauty of the still, quiet square made a compelling backdrop, an urban equivalent of a verdant and mountainous vista that might tempt anyone who was paying attention as we were then.

The silence of the square is mostly gone, and outdoor seating is a rule rather than exception; but the liveliness brings a different kind of delight to al fresco dining – one that’s communal, joyful.  And you can hear that joy in the chatter of friends and the clinking of glasses, which recalls a time when sips of cool, crisp wine and a cold swallow of a pale ale were forbidden out of doors on the square.

So much has changed for the better, but the best things remain much the same: good food, good friends, and the agreeable atmosphere created by breaking bread together under the summer sun.  In addition to our patio on Market Square, we have a lovely covered patio at the Gallery – both of which await you and yours with a menu full of good eats, refreshing drinks, and the satisfying sensation of an al fresco summer meal.

We look forward to seeing you on our patios soon.

Earth Day 2016

Earth Day makes me sad.

I say that only because this year marks the 46th celebration of what many call the birth of the modern environmental movement, and I am older than Earth Day. That brings to mind unfortunate jokes about being older than dirt at a time when I’m not sure whether to celebrate my age or lament it.

Of course Earth Day is ultimately an optimistic celebration, and so, in that spirit, I think that being older than Earth Day means that I can remember some of the first positive impacts of the movement that led to its creation. Like many Tennesseans of a certain age, my awareness of littering was forever framed by a Tennessee Department of Transportation public service announcement featuring a catchy tune and an unshaven man driving a beat-up convertible. The car was filled with trash that the driver gleefully discarded like so much confetti as he drove along and befouled the otherwise picturesque landscape of Tennessee.

The commercial was set to a memorable tune called Tennessee Trash, which was sung by Ed Bruce (the same fellow who wrote, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” and he also played the part of the unwashed litter bug); it first appeared in 1976, six years after the first Earth Day. I can still sing a few stanzas of the song: “A little bit of litter goes a long, long way” and “Lord, there ain’t no lower class than Tennessee Trash.”

I can’t say for certain that the celebration of Earth Day specifically motivated the commercial, as it did another famous PSA from Keep America Beautiful; commonly known as the “crying Indian” ad, it featured actor Iron Eyes Cody standing alongside a highway with a single tear in his eye – the result of a bag of litter tossed at his feet by a passing motorist and a symbol of the gross and public disrespect for the nation’s natural beauty. This ad first ran in 1971 to coincide with the second Earth Day and remains a haunting, iconic memory for those of us who saw it.

(You can see both of these public service announcements on YouTube, and they’re worth a look.)

Fortunately the conversation didn’t die with time, and now we’re a little more likely to think about recycling that litter instead of just picking it up for a landfill deposit. At Tomato Head, we began recycling very early in life, back in the days when Mahasti’s old Datsun B-210 was the recycling vehicle and separation of paper and plastic was the rule. Those memories make us particularly happy about today’s single stream pick-ups. Still, whether it was easy or not, we’ve always tried to eliminate waste – we figure that over the last 25 years we’ve recycled over a million pounds of cardboard, metal, glass, plastic and paper.

Today, like many forward thinking businesses in our town, we consider our business in terms of sustainability. In addition to recycling, we compost almost every scrap of food that qualifies. And when we remodeled our Market Square location we included lots of LED lighting, water free urinals, and more elements that make the building less taxing on the world. In fact, while that remodel increased our space by 50%, it only added about 10% to our utility consumption. We’re proud of our efforts, of course. But more than that we believe in a holistic approach to sustainable business, which is why we support organic agriculture, food grown close to home, and other companies that share our goals of helping create a clean environment.

The “Tennessee Trash” commercial ended with the ominous words, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.” While that might be true, we prefer to think of it in a different way, one that reflects the hope and optimism of Earth Day: we have seen the solution, and it is us.

100 Reasons to Stay in Knoxville. Or, 11 really, really good ones.

Travis Gray’s good-natured goodbye to KnoxVegas in this week’s Metro Pulse story “100 Reasons to Leave Knoxville” got us thinking about all of the reasons why we stick around.

Is it the kudzu? Traffic on Kingston Pike? The views from House Mountain?

It’s hard to pick just one so here are a few close to our heart. What are a few of yours?

  1. Tomato Head redecorated.
  2. We still have 3/4 of the Urban Wilderness Trails to bike.
  3. We’re still waiting on the dome for Market Square.
  4. Man, Vestal, you know?
  5. We’ve got Hooters AND Twin Peaks.
  6. The only place where the interstate bypass comes right back downtown.
  7. All of the kudzu south of the river.
  8. Your boss has a nervous breakdown when it “snows.”
  9. Where else are so many children named Peyton?
  10. We’re not sure of the legalities with quarry swimming but we do know you can keep any roadkill you find.
  11. Gay Street has, like…Pioneer House.

If you missed Travis’ article, click the photo for his list of reasons for leaving. We wish him good luck and we’ll always save a place for him on The Couch.

April Loving Spoonful Fundraisers for Appalachian Mountain Bike Club

The Tomato Head celebrates the conservation and trail preservation efforts of the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club with their next round of Loving Spoonful fundraisers. The last three Tuesdays in April provide our community the opportunity to help raise awareness and much needed funds for AMBC trail development in Knox County.

“AMBC is excited to be partnering with The Tomato Head in the month of April,” said AMBC Secretary Molly Robinson. “We love to support local business, and Tomato Head’s commitment to healthy, quality food and sustainability is a perfect match. Funds raised from this partnership will go directly to the trails and our efforts to conserve Knoxville’s open spaces.”

Appalachian Mountain Bike Club currently maintains the Knoxville Urban Wilderness trail network in south Knoxville and Concord Park in west Knoxville as well as Sharp’s Ridge in north Knoxville and I.C. King Park in south Knoxville. AMBC provided over 1300 man hours for the layout and construction of trails in Hastie Natural Area.

By partnering with Knox County, Ijams Nature Center, TWRA and numerous private land owners, AMBC developed 35 miles of multi-use natural surface trails at Forks of the River WMA, Ijams/Ross Marble Quarry and Marie Myers Park.

“The network of hiking and biking trails created by AMBC in South Knoxville creates a world class outdoor attraction that is within easy cycling distance of our downtown and close-in neighborhoods. What truly amazes us is the dedication of the AMBC volunteers who get the work done, said Tomato Head co-owner Scott Partin.

“On any given weekend 30-50 incredible folks will show up and toil for several hours with hand tools, literally hacking the trails out of the forest. We are inspired and humbled by the work done by our fellow Knoxvillians and are honored to support their work this month.”

A portion of the proceeds generated at each event goes directly to AMBC.

April 15 (Sandwich Day Fundraiser) Both Tomato Head locations during lunch and dinner will offer a special AMBC sandwich with $3 dollars from each sandwich sold going to the nonprofit.

April 22 (Pint Night Fundraiser) Foothills Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Aged People’s Porter. AMBC receives $1 from each draft sold, whether it’s the  Bourbon Barrel Aged People’s Porter or any tasty craft beer we offer on draft. This event takes place at both Tomato Head locations.

April 29 (Beer Dinner Fundraiser) Four course menu paired with a selection of Foothills Brewing beers. Tickets are only $45 (including tax and gratuity). AMBC receives $10 from each ticket sold. Our location in The Gallery Shopping Center at 7240 Kingston Pike hosts the beer dinner.

  • Cucumber Benedictine. Benton’s Country Ham. Flour Head Bakery Parker house roll. Torch Pilsner.
  • Wilted mixed greens. Asparagus. Radish. Spring onion. Crispy salami or crispy mushrooms. Ricotta Salata. Jade IPA
  • Braised Lamb or Seitan. Herbed Polenta. Spring Vegetable Succotash. Hoppyum IPA
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Tartlet. Marscapone cream. Carolina Strawberry Blonde
Seating is limited so call 584-1075 today for reservations.

For more information or interviews, please contact Molly Robinson, AMBC Secretary, at 865-250-0425 and mollymr1@gmail.com, or Michael Kuczmarski, The Tomato Head’s Marketing Director, at marketing@thetomatohead.com and 865-850-2318.

About Appalachian Mountain Bike Club

The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club is a chapter of the South East regional division of IMBA, committed to complement the goals and purpose of IMBA. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable trail access for off-road bicyclists and, to maintaining the trails on which mountain bikers ride and other user groups rely on. The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club supports the conservation of open spaces and is committed to educating mountain bicyclists to ride sensitively and responsibly in order to protect the natural environment and the experience of other trail users.

About The Tomato Head

Opened in 1990, The Tomato Head serves delicious sandwiches, pizzas, and burritos for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans, and is committed to teaming up with East Tennessee nonprofits to enrich the lives of the less fortunate in the area. Its new charitable donation program, Loving Spoonful, is a partnership between East Tennessee nonprofits, regional craft breweries and the restaurant. It consists of a series of fundraisers and special events with a percentage of the proceeds raised going to our community partner of the month.

Win dinner for two and a night at The Bijou Theatre

Celebrate mountain and outdoor culture when the Banff Mountain Film Festival arrives in Knoxville on March 25. Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Knoxville and The Tomato Head are offering you the chance to watch daring individuals confront some of the world’s most intimidating landscapes from the comfort of the Bijou Theatre.

Register to win dinner for two at Tomato Head and tickets to the March 25 show by sharing your favorite climbing, skiing or hiking pics on Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #KnoxBanff, or we won’t be able to find it and you’ll be #SOL.

Here’s a sneak peek http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEC4TKfBGhc&feature=youtu.be

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design