Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Say "Tomato," I Say "Welcome Back!"

Ever since The Tomato closed the doors of its original Denton location in 2007, there had been much speculation--first on its MySpace page (which seems so ancient now) and then on Facebook--about when and where the reopening would finally take place. And for those of us die-hard fans, there seemed little doubt, no matter how much time had passed, that The Tomato would be reborn again--somehow, somewhere.

It was a bit entertaining for a while to see all the possible future locations--Loop 288, a few blocks off the Square, the proposed second incarnation of New Fry Street--but in the end, all those leads came up dry. And then a few months ago, the announcement was made on their Facebook page: "You say: TOMATO! We say: Sanger, TX....June-ish. Details and pics to follow..." Need I say that I "Liked" that status?

And of course, June-ish turned out to be May-ish; in fact, the grand re-opening took place last Friday--not, I would think, because it was Friday the 13th, but because it would be exactly four years to the day since the original Denton location had shut down to make way for a business development that never got off the ground (grumble, grumble). I couldn't make opening weekend, but I got there as fast as I could, when a friend driving from Oklahoma to DFW Airport today suggested the meet-up. (And had I been able to make it on Friday, it would have been nuts; a friend went on Saturday and said that they told him that they went through 11 batches of dough on the first day, while a typical Friday in Denton would have only required four!)

So it should go without saying that the Sanger Tomato experience will not be exactly the same as the Denton Tomato experience; Bolivar and 3rd will not become Hickory and Fry anytime soon. The location, apparently a former nightclub (which is one thing in common with the original Tomato if true), is a lot smaller, and the building isn't configured for the famous balcony from where so many of us watched the world go by in Denton. The only signage at the moment is a big banner in the front window (though there is a hanging sign from a previous tenant that is, happily, almost tomato-shaped.) There's plenty of nearby street parking that doesn't require feeding a meter. As one college friend pointed out, it would be rough to try and stumble home to your apartment from there (though it appears that lofts have gone in, or are about to do so, across the street). And while my first impression shows Sanger to be a nice, sleepy small town, it's a sleepy small town just the same.

But you know what? None of that really matters in the long run, because the heart of the Tomato experience was always some Really Freakin' Good Pan Pizza and Breadsticks. And I'm happy to say that, after spending my lunch hour(s) there today, that experience has been revived to perfection, as if the hiatus of the past four years was all an illusion.

I've always been a fan of the Tomato Special (nee Gutbuster, from the days when it was a corporate Flying Tomato store), which is pretty much "the works"--pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers. I had to confirm with the cashier to be 100% sure, but I even remembered what came in a Slice Special (one slice, breadsticks and drink), and that was my fare of choice today. Sure enough, from the first bite of a breadstick (which was a little bigger than before--no complaints here, mind you!), everything was exactly as I had remembered it.

A few things have been kept from the old location; I smiled when, at meal's end, we deposited our plates and forks in one of the exact same receptacles as before. And I'm pretty sure the wood used to make the counter where silverware and napkins is kept was also salvaged from Denton as well, and some of the wall hangings looked very familiar.

So while Sanger is not Denton, it's not all that far, and it wasn't even a bad drive for me from Garland (I made it in an hour). There's a chance that there will be a Denton location again in the future, but the owners and financial backers were ready to go, so they jumped on a good opportunity when they saw one. It's hard to believe that it's been four years, which means that a whole generation of UNT students has gone by (OK, not the music majors; they'll be there for a fifth year just like I was) without experiencing some Tomato-y goodness, and this has to change. Local alumni: Make the drive north; it's worth it. And current students, come see what all the fuss is about; I think you'll agree that it's some really good eatin'.

Me, I have a birthday in three weeks. I'll be back then, if not sooner.

No comments: