Each morning seven days a week at 10:30 a.m., Tom + Chee opens for business. Before 15 minutes elapse, the restaurant is nearing capacity with a full dining room and patio seating, and the line to order stretches to the front door.
This kind of popularity has been the norm for the Evansville East Side restaurant since the tomato soup and grilled cheese eatery officially opened its doors to the public Aug. 14, says Evansville native Steve Hammer, one of Tom + Chee’s two franchisees. Fellow Evansville resident Brad Gillenwater also operates the chain restaurant. Evansville’s Tom + Chee is located at 2121 N. Green River Road near Cheddar’s.
“These grilled cheese sandwiches here are not your mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches. They are utterly incredible,” says Hammer. “It’s the classic comfort food made with a twist.”
Tom + Chee earned the spotlight when its founders, Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward, appeared on “Shark Tank,” an ABC show during which aspiring entrepreneurs make business presentations to a panel of “shark” investors. The episode, which aired in 2013, shows four of the five “sharks” negotiating before Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran buy into the business.
Before “Shark Tank,” Tom + Chee started in Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati in 2009. They sold grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and hot chocolate in a 10-foot-by-10-foot tent to cold ice skaters.
Today, there are 36 Tom + Chee locations throughout the country, 170 more in various stages of development, and more than 35,000 franchise inquiries from around the world.
Tom + Chee acquired this popularity with its unique menu, which features 15 original sandwiches ranging from the classic “Tom + Chee” made with diced tomatoes, garlic seasoning, and mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, to the “Armagoetta” made with Goetta, spicy cherry peppers, fried onions, sweet hot mustard, and pepper jack cheese. There are no fryers, freezers, or microwaves used at Tom + Chee — everything is made from scratch daily.
Another option is to build your own grilled cheese with various veggies, meat, and extras. Choose from four fresh salads, three homemade soups, or surprise your taste buds with a grilled cheese donut (choose from nine). Tom + Chee also has vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
For more information about Tom + Chee, call 812-401-2433 or visit tomandchee.com.