Tom and Sabrina Anderson are a couple of former high school sweethearts who stayed together and who recently opened up their own eatery, Big Tom’s Backyard Grill and Bar. They hope to maintain the …
Tom and Sabrina Anderson are a couple of former high school sweethearts who stayed together and who recently opened up their own eatery, Big Tom’s Backyard Grill and Bar. They hope to maintain the nostalgic atmosphere of their youth, as well aspursue a passion they both enjoy: cooking great food.
Big Tom’s has been open for four months in the former location of Yesterday's at Willie's, which was the former location on Mouse Creek Road of Jenkins Restaurant.
Tom, a railroad worker, started dating Sabrina in 1993 when the two attended Bradley Central High School.
When the pair were dating, they’d go to Jenkins every Friday night and described it as “the place to go.”
“We used to talk about how cool this place is," she laughs that it is ironic the site is the location of their restaurant.
Sabrina has multiple sclerosis and last year — as a result of feeling stir-crazy constantly sitting at home — got a job working alongside her three kids at Jenkins. Tom would soon follow and the family said they immediately fell in love with the atmosphere of closeness the restaurant brought with it and yearned to emulate that in their own venture.
All five of the Andersons worked at Jenkins until February 2018, when they knew Willie Jenkins was interested in selling Yesterdays at Willie’s. They then transitioned to Yesterdays at Willie’s to work under Willie and Renee Jenkins and to learn the tools of the trade prior to taking the reins.
“This let us learn the business and train under them,” Tom said. “When we started in July, we hit the ground running. We changed a little, but maintained the original decor like the signatures on the wooden walls and kept the original Yesterdays sign.”
For this family, cooking looks to be as natural as breathing, and the Andersons said their speciality is home-cooked meals.
These meals include steaks, barbecue, deli foods, chicken salad and countless other all-American favorites with a few unorthodox culinary creations thrown in. One of these unique dishes is a Monte Cristo, a fried ham-and-cheese sandwich found only in select eateries.
All foods at Big Tom’s are hand made by Big Tom’s 45 employees. They provide specials each week as well.
“We’ve definitely got some unique offerings like our smoked bologna. Plus, we have some sandwiches designed for hungry folks, like the Big Tom’s Big Porker, which is smoked bologna, pulled pork along with chicken-fried bacon. We also have one called a Defibrillator, which has three pieces of Texas toast, pulled pork, a quarter pound hot dog cut in half and Mac ’n’ cheese,” Tom said.
The company also serves what’s called a “Big Weiner,” which is two, quarter-pound hot dogs on a foot-long bun.
Big Tom’s motto is “The gathering place where friends become family.” This feeling of togetherness is furthered by the seven family members who work at Big Tom’s, with Sabrina stating the entire restaurant has quickly become one, big family overall.
Event catering is also offered, with guests given the option of renting out the entire restaurant for an evening. Several prominent events have been held at Big Tom’s recently, including weddings, birthdays and a private viewing party for Josh Davis, the local singer who competed on NBC’s “The Voice.”
“We’re very reasonable on price and will work with you. We are trying to expand and get into more events too, like the upcoming bacon event at the Tri-State Exhibition Center,” Sabrina said. “I’d love to represent our restaurant at community events to not only get our name out there, but also let people try our foods.”
Despite not holding a degree in cooking, the Andersons said their opening weekend was absolutely slammed with people and still maintain a decent wait time to this day.
They have a line of T-shirts to further promote the elements of familiarity and inclusion at their business that read, “I’m part of Big Tom’s family,” and also feature live music each Wednesday evening.
Sabrina said the majority of people who come to Big Tom’s are now weekly regulars, which is something they hope to foster with more and more Cleveland residents.
Big Tom’s can be reached at 423-790-7391 or by going to its Facebook page. Located at 88 Mouse Creek Road, it is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed Mondays.
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