Yes, Tommy Bahama, the outfitter of everyone’s golf-playing, Florida-visiting, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing uncle, has a restaurant! And it’s exactly the kind of place to take your golf-playing, Florida-visiting, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing uncles, as well as business associates, and get some shopping in besides. My family stopped by when they visited New York last spring, and never have we seen such a two-for-one deal, not even that time we went to J. Crew during a summer sale event and they were handing out free snacks and soda. Tommy Bahama has real food, and it’s surprisingly allergy-friendly and surprisingly fun!
The restaurant entrance is on 45th Street and 5th Avenue, and easily accessible from Times Square (1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, or R trains), Bryant Park or 5th Avenue (both on the 7 train), Rockefeller Center (B, D, F, or M trains ), and Grand Central Station (4, 5, 6, 7, or Metro North trains). Basically, if you can get to the tourist heart of Manhattan, you can find this restaurant.
The restaurant has two levels: a downstairs bar and cocktail lounge, and an upstairs dining room with a separate bar. The décor is pretty similar to the store, which features a lot of potted plants and patio furniture. The ceilings are very high, and the whole atmosphere was very relaxing and beachy, which is sort of an odd finding in the midst of Manhattan’s tourist bubble.
The service at Tommy Bahama is pretty spiffy, considering that we had a host to seat us right away, even though it was the middle of a busy workweek for everyone. A great point of interest is that the menu specifically addresses “severe or life-threatening food allergies” and clearly states the kitchen’s willingness to take care of you. Ten points to Tommy Bahama!
Our waiter was so friendly, but spoke so fast and with such an affected way of speaking that made it hard for me to understand some of the things he said. While that normally doesn’t bother me, because I also talk fast and am hard to understand, I find it really crucial to be able to communicate with my server when dining out, because I need to know that they understand exactly what I am trying to say about food allergies. That being said, he was very accommodating and we found our conversational footing eventually!
The first thing our waiter recommended was the coconut shrimp appetizer. At first he seemed to think that coconut milk was dairy, but we straightened it out with the kitchen fairly quickly. For those of you who may be allergic to tree nuts including coconuts, Tommy Bahama may not be the place for you. However, I am only allergic to actual dairy—i.e. milk, cheese, butter—so the coconut shrimp sounded exciting.
It’s always fun to get an appetizer that I can eat, particularly something crispy! Though I am not always a huge fan of coconut, I am a big fan of these coconut shrimp! They were crispy without being greasy, and surprisingly light for a deep-fried food, somewhat like a proper shrimp tempura. The sauce was a mango-papaya accent, more of a garnish than a dressing, and the pickled coleslaw in the middle was topped with crispy fried wonton skins. I am a big fan of shrimp cocktail as an appetizer, but this coconut shrimp was a like a fancier version.
For my main meal, I selected the house roasted pork sandwich, on our server’s suggestion. He went back and forth between the kitchen to assess all the ingredients for the sandwich, and even went as far as to call the purveyor for the bread when the kitchen was unable to clarify the ingredients. This above-and-beyond service is what we wish every restaurant was capable of providing!
I may have said this before, but a good sandwich is everything. The baguette was crusty and loaded with a generous helping of barbecued pork, coleslaw, and crispy onions. The whole combination meant that the sandwich had a lot going for it, in terms of mingling textures and flavors, between the pickled vegetables, the saucy, tender meat, and the delicately fried onions. In fact, the combination itself was its downfall, because the bread was not structured to be able to hold the weight of it all, and combined with the sauce, it became more of a Sloppy Joe than a classy island lunch. The delicious mess deteriorated from a sandwich, to an open-face sandwich, to a fork-and-knife affair, but it was completely worth all the sauce on my face. The fries were the perfect size, and their only fault was that there were not enough on my plate!
Overall, Tommy Bahama gave us a surprisingly satisfying lunch, and the casual, chic atmosphere allowed us to linger and savor our food and each other’s company. Value-wise, Tommy Bahama hits business-lunch prices on a lot of their entrees, even salads, but there are some items that are more student-budget friendly, and there is certainly a lot of food on the plates they serve. It’s a fun place to hit when you’re indulging in some hardcore retail therapy on 5th Avenue, even if you just stop at the bar for a few appetizers.
New York, particularly midtown, can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to finding food. We love finding unexpected pockets of delicious, allergy-safe dining, and Tommy Bahama was certainly as surprising as it was pleasant! We’ll be keeping them in mind, for lunch as well as last-minute presents.