Tommy’s Cafe & Bakery
Where 5580 Thomaston Road Hours Mon-Fri 6:30am-6pm, Sat 6:30-2pm
Tommy Sadler is a friendly, charming, enthusiastic sweetheart of a man – when I visited his new restaurant Tommy’s Cafe and Bakery early one morning for an interview, he was busy in the kitchen doing what he does best; instead of having me wait for him to finish, he insisted that I come hang out and talk while he worked. I perched on a stool on the other side of his work table and watched as he effortlessly prepared donuts, donut holes, filled donuts, and other pastry delights, all while discussing his history with and passion for baking and cooking without missing a beat. He’s truly gifted at what he does; nothing will make you realize this more than taking a bite out of one of the many fresh-prepared sweets he has available every day. Apple fritters are my favorite pastry splurge, and – no kidding- the one at Tommy’s is by far the best I’ve ever had. The size of a small dinner plate, the fritter was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, filled with real diced apples and cinnamon – true textural and flavor perfection. Proud, Tommy was quick to tell me “It’s a family recipe.”
Baking and cooking really are in Tommy’s blood – he’s from Perry, Florida, where, in 1954, his grandfather opened up Johnson’s Bakery, which sold donuts, pastries, and short-order menu items. “I grew up in there,” says Tommy. “I can remember taking naps on flour sacks as a young kid. My mom worked there, and back then you didn’t just get a babysitter – she took us to work with her. After school we’d walk there and work putting together boxes or cleaning up.” As he got older, Tommy graduated from odd jobs to baking. “As a teenager, my uncle – he was the owner after my granddad – he’d come get me before school and we’d go down and cook donuts. I had quite the following at school, so to speak, because I’d go in there smelling all good from the bakery.”
The Air Force brought Tommy to middle Georgia in 1981, and he’s been here ever since. He and his now ex-wife owned the Casserole Shop for quite some time, but the business ended up out of his hands after the divorce, which is why he started anew under his own name. “That’s worked out to my benefit,” he says. “I’ve taken a lot of the experiences I had there and used them to make the best possible business here. If you surround yourself with the best people, the best staff, you’re guaranteed to do well.” His new place offers donuts and other baked goods, a variety of breakfast biscuits and sandwiches, a daily hot lunch special, several short-order lunch choices, and various frozen casseroles and takeout options for grab-and-go convenience.
The employees at Tommy’s really do radiate genuine kindness – I noted a steady stream of customers coming in the door early Friday morning to order their country ham and egg biscuits or dozen donuts, and Laccie behind the counter cheerfully greeted almost everyone by name. Back in the kitchen, chef Troy Johnson bustled around getting prepared for the daily hot lunch plate special. “He’s got a lot of professional chef experience,” said Tommy, “and when you mix my country cookin’ and ideas with his technical know-how, you get some magic. We’re usually on the same page with everything, so we come up with some great stuff.”
The hot lunch special is an amazing deal – $5.99 for an entrée, side, bread, and dessert. (Prices are slightly higher for seafood options.) “You can’t get a lunch like that for that price anywhere else in Macon,” boasts Tommy – though it isn’t boasting if it’s true, is it? “I want people to get such a good deal here that they tell other people – my success is in multiple people walking through the door to eat here, not in making a bunch of money all off one person. I’m not trying to send my kids to school off one sale.” Tommy’s Facebook page lists the daily lunch offerings – there’s a set schedule every day except for Wednesday. “Wednesday is Tommy’s Choice – that’s our day to try different ideas,” Tommy says. “One day we did blackened grouper tacos and sold the mess out of ‘em. Everything was made from scratch. We did shrimp burritos once; we did shrimp and grits this past week. Troy’s background is in seafood and Cajun cooking; he came up with the sauce for the shrimp & grits and it was a home run. We used my cheese grits casserole recipe with his sauce. Wednesdays are becoming really popular – it’s creative, we have fun, the customers love it.”
Tommy’s also offers catering services, and one wall of the restaurant is lined with freezers and coolers filled with grab-and-go casseroles and party-ready snacks like chicken salad, pimento cheese, or bacon and tomato dip. “Our bestselling casserole by far is the poppyseed chicken,” says Tommy. “Shepherd’s pie or baked spaghetti is probably a close second.” A small assortment of casseroles are available in the freezers all the time, but if you’re looking to pick up a specific one for an occasion (a list of available options is available online), it’s best to contact the restaurant in advance, because Tommy likes to cook things fresh – “I’ll even cook it in your own baking dish, if you bring it to me,” says Tommy. “You can pick it up, take it to dinner at your family’s house, even tell ‘em you made it – I don’t mind one bit,” he beams.
In a few months, Tommy’s plans to move a few doors down from their current location on Thomaston road – same shopping center, but a larger space that’ll give them more room to prepare and display a wider variety of food options. “Our future is very bright here,” says Tommy. “We have a lot of great ideas for what we want to do. We’re going to expand our menu once we’re in the new place – we’ll have more short-order options, more appetizers, because we’ll have room for more equipment in the kitchen. And the display case is a lot larger, so we can have lots more varieties of donuts and cookies.” Do yourself a favor and make the trip out to Tommy’s next time you’re in need of donuts to treat the office, an affordable homemade hot lunch, or a casserole to pop in the oven for a quick weeknight dinner – Tommy’s well-honed culinary skills and passion for quality food cooked with love, tradition, and creativity are evident in every bite.
Find Tommy’s on Facebook or on the web at www.letmecookit.com