Suburban restaurant openings, on the whole, happen much more quietly than in the chef-driven city landscape. A casual burger joint in a shopping mall in Lombard? Yawn.
Only, this one's just a little different.
Tom & Eddie's, opening Friday at the Shops on Butterfield in Lombard, is the brainchild of Ed Rensi and Tom Dentice, a couple of retirees who, um, used to run McDonalds. Rensi, whose first job at McDonalds was working the grill, retired as CEO in 1998; Dentice was executive VP in charge of operations of training. So they know a little something about the burger business.
Their concept for Tom & Eddie's -- gourmet burgers -- isn't novel, especially these days, what with the M Burgers and DMK Burger Bars and Five Guys sprouting like weeds. But it's as far as you can get from the Golden Arches, with hand-formed patties (and not just beef, but ahi tuna, turkey and edamame, too), housemade potato chips and toppings such as Nueske's bacon, peppadew peppers and the ubiquitous, beloved fried egg.
There's no lack of marketing savvy, either. Starting at 10 a.m. Friday, the restaurant will hold a drawing for one person to win a weekly burger meal; the winner will be announced at 9 p.m. In addition, any customer who comes in "dressed to the nines" (echoing the opening theme) in a tux or gown during the first nine days gets a meal on the house.
I had a sneak peek at the burgers -- or stylized renditions of them -- back in April, when Rensi and I met at the studio of Chicago food photographer Stephen Hamilton. I was reporting a story on Hamilton; the client Hamilton was shooting that day happened to be Tom and Eddie's. Rensi, a big, tall guy, talked like a pitchman, in a big, booming voice. The story was about Hamilton, but the floor was most certainly Rensi's. We're going for quality here, he told me, a top-notch burger, no fooling around.
I saw him again at the National Restaurant Association show in May at McCormick Place. This time, he was hawking the SpinFresh fryer, which operates using centrifugal force. Rensi is on the company's board.
Did I mention he owns a NASCAR team?
Already in the works: Geneva and Deerfield locations of Tom and Eddie's. First, though, the opening Friday in Lombard. Don't be surprised to see Eddie working the grill; he's hard to miss.