A Reuben, shown here with a side of craisinberry mayonnaise, is featured on Tommy Colinas menu along with 10 kinds of burgers, 10 chicken sandwiches, four hot dogs and 13 other sandwiches.
This is a good time to eat lunch in midtown Omaha. Midtown Crossing brought several restaurants to the area, and now Tommy Colina’s Kitchen has created a new midday choice just up the street. Tommy Colina’s Kitchen opened in October in the old Don Carmelo’s space at 35th and Farnam. It’s a locally owned, mostly-lunch restaurant offering a wide range of traditional favorites with some upscale twists. My wife and I visited on a Monday at 11:30 a.m. You first serve yourself from the beverage area, then seat yourself and order from a server. I tried the T.L.T. sandwich ($6.99), which offers thick-sliced turkey on griddled sourdough bread with craisinberry mayonnaise. The ingredients were served cold, aside from the bread, and I would have preferred warm turkey. However, the unusual mayo lifted this dish from an ordinary sandwich into an interesting lunch. My wife ordered the daily special, which on this day was the Frenchy Burger ($7.89). It featured a half-pound, extremely juicy patty, topped with two slices of Canadian bacon and drizzled with goat cheese. This is a mighty meaty burger with a salty flavor, and is perfect for enthusiastic carnivores. Both entrees came with thickly-sliced house chips. On Mondays, a free cup of soup is also offered. I tried the Chicken Diablo (ordinarily $3.19), which had a peppery base and a slightly spicy kick. She had the Nana’s Minestrone (ordinarily $2.89), with plentiful vegetables in a nice tomato broth. “Daily Economy Deals” on other days of the week include discounts on certain entrees, and free drinks on Fridays. Burgers are the featured attraction here, with 10 versions on the regular menu. Co-owner and executive chef Jon Dye said in a later interview that the Tiajuana Taxi burger ($7.39) with jalapeno bacon salsa might be his most popular dish. There are also 10 “world chicken” sandwiches, four hot dogs and 13 sandwiches of all kinds. Most diners might miss the six salads, since they are listed on the back of the menu with drinks. Portions are large for lunch, and we both left quite full, spending about $20 for two entrees and two sodas. Tommy Colina’s is also open for Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Dye expects to expand into Saturday brunch within a few weeks. He said the focus is on classic breakfast items, such as eggs Benedict and fresh biscuits, with some modern ingredients. Dye and co-owner Grant Lundin have worked in many local restaurants, most recently at Shuck’s and Bailey’s. They decided to take the plunge with their own place last year. “We wanted to be in the midtown corridor, and we liked the space,” Dye says. “We wanted to be a lunch place. I don’t want to work nights anymore, and we thought this was a good location for lunch.” Don’t ask for Tommy Colina, by the way. The name is an amalgamation of “Tommy,” “Collin,” and “Melina,” children of the owners. Dye said winter is traditionally a slow time for local restaurants, but that business is picking up as spring approaches. It certainly was during our visit. By 11:45 a.m., the room was mostly full, with many large tables of co-workers. When we left at 12:30 p.m., customers were waiting for a table. The atmosphere at Tommy Colina’s is casual and utilitarian. The chairs are not very comfortable, but you’re probably not planning to linger very long at lunch, anyway. The most memorable feature is the east wall, where customers are encouraged to write graffiti. One quibble is that an icy blast of wind seems to rocket through the room whenever the front door opens. I recall this problem from the Don Carmelo days; you might want to look for a table in the back. When I was first assigned this review, I happened to sit with a group of Kiewit employees at an event. Since they work across the street, I asked them about Tommy Colina’s. Yes, they had all tried it, and said it was becoming an office favorite. “The menu is sort of all over the place,” one of them said, “but it’s all good.” Tommy Colina’s Kitchen is located at 3562 Farnam St. Hours are Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thurs.-Fri. 11 a.m. to 8 p m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call 502.9027 or visit tommycolinaskitchen.com.