What is in a name, anyway?
The snug corner location at 8060 E. 22nd Street, right next to Skate Country, has had a few names before landing on its current one. First came Luke’s, followed by Kenny D’s, and now the “Kenny” has been replaced with Tommy. So, please welcome Tommy D’s to the neighborhood!
The thing is that all of these names have a very distinct and yummy connection: they all serve or have served, Chicago-inspired subs, sandwiches, and hearty street fare. On your way to catch a Cubs on TV? You’re going to need a dog or two to get you pumped and ready. How about them Bears? Yep, you better grab an Italian Sausage.
Here in Tucson, we have the Wildcats and the Cardinals up in Phoenix, so when you stop in for a bite you’ll be transported to the city that hosts the reflective bean art thingy.
Funny story about the owner of Tommy D’s, his last name doesn’t start with a “D.” Tommy’s last name is McCrea. Tommy McCrea owns and operates a Chicago-style sandwich shop, but Tommy is a Tucson native and has yet to visit Chicago.
The name “Tommy D” came from his friends calling him that all throughout his school years and into the time he began studying theater. Just yelling down the hall, “Yo, Tommy D!” When it comes to the never visiting Chicago deal, that one really doesn’t matter — at all. There are masterful sushi chefs or sando masters out there that have yet to jet to Japan, and let’s not get started on some who practice French techniques (that’s what the internet is for).
Tommy D’s has been open now for a year but their grand opening/let’s make it totally official/one-year anniversary day of letting you all know they are here, serving big, brash, and beautiful beefy bun berthed sandwiches begins this Friday, January 27. The ceremonies and eat-a-thon start at 11 a.m.
“I have been coming to this place my whole life,” said Tommy. “After I saw the sign on Kenny D’s door that said ‘permanently closed,’ my heart sank. When I took over, the place was in really bad shape and the space you see now took us three days to get it to look like this.”
Tommy D’s is a streamlined “come and get it” and “make yourself at home” type of joint. In just three days they got it from meh to point yeah! It’s a feat I am still reeling about.
That tells you about the ambition and pride that Tommy has put into this business. The interior is just the start. What Tommy and his wife, Janna, have accomplished with revitalizing that spot has evolved into the quality and quantity of their food.
Gone are the lackluster “oh, they’ll eat it anyway” meats purchased with a shrug from discount big box supply depots. Tommy D’s has upped the east side grub game by bringing in pure Angus beef for their sammies and burgs.
The immediate reaction after biting into their signature Italian Beef Sandwich was pure succulence and melt-in-your-mouth glory. It was so tasty. What added to the fantastic eating experience was the inclusion of a rather spicy giardiniera, which is a pickled selection of peppers and carrots in oil. At first, I thought sure, they get Angus beef but the giardiniera has to come from a can or jar because who has time to make something this intricate and complex?
Tommy D’s does.
“Our giardiniera is hand cut and pickled for a week,” said Tommy. “It’s pretty hot and I have to warn some people that if they don’t like spicy food then they should probably hold off on our giardiniera. It’s got a serious kick.”
For those that stray from the lanes leading to the mas picante, I weep for you. Tommy D’s giardiniera is so bright and piquant that I actually ate some as a side dish. Colliding with that shaved Angus beef and melted Provolone, the crunch and punch of that giardiniera made it all come together. Mike Ditka would totally approve.
Now, if you’re a restaurant staking claim on being a Chicago-swayed eatery then you better bring that Chicago hot dog swagger. Tommy D’s does not disappoint — at all.
Full on Vienna beef dog, poppyseed bun, sport peppers, dill spear, tomatoes, celery salt, and, of course, that electric green relish that only belongs on a dog such as this. Don’t forget the spicy mustard because if you put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago… well, let’s just say certain people have “disappeared” for a far less heinous crime.
The burgers are just as inviting and intimidating as the rest of the fare here.
Also, a surprising menu item at Tommy D’s is the inclusion of a gyro. After trying it, I knew that it had to be a part of the "meat lovers" family because, thankfully, it does not include lettuce. Just like ketchup on a Chicago dog, lettuce does not, or should, exist on a gyro.
For those not into meat, Tommy D’s offers a delight of salads, a veggie sub, and a zucchini parmesan sandwich. If you omit the cheese and mayo from those sandwiches, you’ve got yourself two delicious vegan treats right there in your hand.
“When I took over I told people that I wasn’t going to change anything, just make it better,” said Tommy. “Sure, we gave it an upgrade in looks and quality of ingredients, but the floor is the 80’s original, cleaned up of course, but the style of food we serve and the love we put into it is just a carry-over from the namesakes of the past. Well, I guess that is one thing I had to change. The name.”
So, yeah, what is in a name?
A name is just an identity for things or a single thing. Tommy D’s is a name for a place you need to get to when you’re hungry and definitely a spot to check out on their big day, Friday, January 27. Bring your appetite, bring the family, and most of all, bring your good name for a good time.
Oh, and Tommy D’s has wings, too. Try the spicy varieties. This is Tucson, by the way. Not some Midwest city that… well, I won’t mention any names.
The sandwich shop is open 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday - Saturday and 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Tommy D's is located at 8060 E. 22nd St. #100. For more information, call (520) 722-8900 and visit tommydscrafteats.com.
Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine...