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Renovated Tommy's opens for the spring

The new on-campus restaurant, Tommy's Rubs and Grubs, officially debuted this weekend to big crowds, although the location will not be able to serve alcohol until a liquor license is finalized.

Tommy's was operating during part of November and December, but the restaurant underwent extensive renovations during Winter Break and re-opened Friday with an expanded, cook-to-order menu, owner and namesake Tom Meyer said.

Meyer, who also owns the Q-Shack restaurant in Raleigh, said student feedback last semester and this weekend has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I'm not bragging, but we got a lot of 'best food on campus' comments," he said.

Sales were through the roof this weekend-especially Monday, when the Great Hall was closed for the holiday, Meyer said.

"I beat my projections for Monday's sales by over $1,000... but I'm more concerned about giving students what they want," he said.

Jim Wulforst, director of dining services, said the new restaurant has his full support.

"All our comments about the food have been really good, and Tom is always there-he's really connected with the students," Wulforst said. "Once everyone figures out that [Tommy's is] open, we'll have even better business."

The previous tenant in the McClendon Tower location was Rick's Diner, a 24-hour operation that closed amid a sea of complaints about its food quality.

Meyer said he is definitely conscious of his predecessor's difficulties.

"The last thing I want is what happened with Rick's, where people begrudgingly go because it's open-I don't ever want to be in that state of mediocrity," he said.

Meyer added that measured by sale volume, Tommy's is doing approximately 85 percent of Rick's business, while having less than half of the diner's operating hours.

"We've been really busy, especially between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.," said Jeffrey Lovely, a Tommy's employee.

"Then you have another rush from 12 to 2:30 in the morning-people coming in, having fun and eating," he added.

Among the changes introduced this weekend were new floors and lighting, as well as menu options such as grilled chipotle shrimp, steak salad and four new panini sandwiches, Lovely noted.

One renovation that did not make the final cut was the addition of a beer bar, which Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, vetoed in October.

Meyer said his restaurant was never intended to be a place for heavy drinking, although six draft beers will be available when the liquor license is finalized in a few weeks.

"Three-fourths of our business is a proper dinner, which is exactly what I wanted to see," Meyer said. "It's people taking the time to eat a proper meal and sit down with their friends to enjoy it."

Sophomore John Barone said that when Tommy's was open last semester, he ate there every week with his friends on the varsity wrestling team.

In fact, when a fire alarm went off in the West-Edens Link, Barone's friends weren't even disappointed-they just headed straight to Tommy's.

"It's outstanding," Barone said. "It's even better [now] than it was in the fall."

The top student complaint has been the lack of breakfast options, which will be rectified soon by the addition of a late-night breakfast menu, Meyer said.

Katherine MacIlwaine contributed to this article.