Remembering Tomlinson’s Restaurant

Wednesday, July 6, 2022
The first Tomlinson Restaurant was at the corner of McCallie Avenue and Houston Streets. My earliest eating experiences there were noon on Sunday for dinner. Located in an area of many different churches, Tomlinson’s was the ideal place for Sunday dining out.

The first thing I noticed upon entering was the aroma of seafood. I recently found a copy of their original menu on line and it indicated seafood was their speciality.
Upon entering from McCallie Avenue, you found yourself in the east end of four separate room rooms fronting McCallie Avenue. A counter was on the right side with solid wooden booths without cushions along the left. At the far end were the doors to the kitchen with little diamond shaped windows.

Turning right you would be taken by the hostess into the second dining room also with solid wood booths which lined both walls with two tables with white cloths next to large windows facing McCallie Avenue. This was where my family often was seated and Stella was our usual server. The service was always good and Stella made it look easy although I know it’s hard work.

The food was served on tan ironstone plates with a thin black and red border similar to the dinnerware on trains of the time. I had read that Japanese ate fish and rice with hot tea. So I usually ordered fried trout with rice and a little pot of hot tea. I didn’t know the Japanese didn’t eat tartar sauce or pear salads which were served with your entree but I enjoyed them anyway.

Tomlinson’s served a sliced pear with grated cheddar cheese and a dob of mayo and half cherry for color on a leaf of lettuce. Once or twice I had a fruit cocktail or occasionally a cup of vegetable soup instead of the pear. Saltines and Melba toast were placed on the table and you got another small plate with a pat of real butter. For their entree, my
parents usually got fried chicken so I tried it but I went back to the fish. 

The third room only had tables with white cloths and bent wood drugstore chairs which today reminds me of Tujaque’s Creole Restaurant in New Orleans. Some of our friends got out of church about the same time as we did. Often we would meet and eat together in that third dining room sliding  several tables together.

The fourth room was a lounge but was closed on Sunday. In order to get to the bathrooms at Tomlinsons you had to exit a door in the back of the third dining room into a little hallway which allowed us kids to peer into the lounge. It was usually dimly lit with some neon around the bar and I remember it had a juke box. I also remember it was always cold compared to the rest of the restaurant.

In 1959 the Tomlinson family closed the restaurant on McCallie and opened a more modern version in Brainerd. The new restaurant was located at Brainerd Rd and Spring Creek where CVS is today. By that time we had stopped eating there for lunch on Sunday, but occasionally we would go there on Sunday evenings.

The new restaurant featured more natural lighting especially in the lounge which was to your left as you entered. There were two dining rooms on the right with a tall planter in front of glass windows at the end of the second room. I was told some of the family had living quarters upstairs. Mr Bob Tomlinson was usually at the restaurant welcoming customers.

That restaurant did a thriving business until it closed to be replaced by Captain Ray’s Sailmaker around 1977 at that same location. Captain Ray’s closed before we had the opportunity to eat there. It 
was replaced by the Fifth Quarter. Thanksgiving Dinner along with their salad bar became a family favorite with us and we were sad when it closed as we were when Tomlinson’s went out of business.

The Quasi Gourmand 


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