Tom & Eddie’s is not a franchise; it’s the brain-child of two retired men who like to stay very busy. If ever two men know how to make a burger, it’s Tom Dentice of Oak Brook, IL, and Ed Rensi of Downers Grove, IL. From 30+ year careers with McDonald’s, they also know the hundreds of steps that take place before a burger is sizzling on the grill.
Dentice and Rensi are raving fans of a good burger. Now in retirement, the two longtime friends started dreaming about a fictional “perfect” restaurant.
“If we could do anything, anything at all …”
It would be family friendly with a one-of-a-kind concept. It would provide customers these essentials: delicious food, personal customer service, and a relaxed and happy dining experience. They would serve cheeseburgers and sandwiches perfectly paired with many choices of freshly-made sides.
Let’s do it,” Rensi said. Dentice agreed, and it was a go.
From their careers, both knew the restaurant industry inside and out. They had experienced every operational and managerial job imaginable, and they kept pace with one another. Sometimes Rensi was Dentice’s boss, and sometimes Rensi worked for Dentice. The titles were irrelevant; it was the trust that mattered. And the fun.
Both agree that a world-class burger starts with the meat and that means hand-formed patties of Fresh 100% Natural Angus. “Natural” means the cattle were raised without growth hormones or antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet. In addition, the beef is “Certified Humane,” by the Humane Farm Animal Care, a national non-profit 501(c)3 organization created to improve the lives of farm animals by setting rigorous standards, conducting annual inspections, and certifying their humane treatment.
Add a malt or milkshake made with Häagens-Dazs® ice cream, hand-dipped, stirred and blended with whole fruit and premium syrups; Coca Cola; Diet Coke; Sprite; Boylan’s all natural sodas; freshly baked cookies; or build-your-own ice cream floats, and you’ve found hamburger heaven.
After a year of planning, hard work, and cooking hundreds taste test meals, the very first Tom & Eddie’s is ready to go.
Both Dentice and Rensi have a ton of energy and an equal amount of food creativity. For example, their menu features signature burgers like the “Bushel & a Peck,” topped with Granny Smith apples, walnut butter, brie cheese and caramelized onions.
“The Ampersand” burger is topped with Neuske’s apple wood smoked bacon, melted smoked Gouda, a distinctive BBQ sauce, Haystack onions and a fried egg.
Then they designed “The Islander” which is a sushi-grade ground Ahi tuna burger, topped with fresh fried wontons, Hass avocado slices, Wasabi peas, and Wasabi mayonnaise.
Other “Lean and Green” items include turkey and edamame burgers.
Guests who wish to customize their order can create a “Me, Myself & I” burger, made from the customer’s choice of cheese, unique toppings, Turano rolls, and signature sauces – all high quality ingredients.
The menu also features a line-up of chicken sandwiches, soups, crisp salads, and a bountiful selection of beer and wine.
Dentice and Rensi choose only top-quality and the best tasting ingredients. They are committed to using local products including Mustard Girl mustards, Turano breads, and Puckered brand pickles. They include unique products such as Peppadew sweet piquant peppers, Jamaica relish, and Boylan’s all natural soda.
The restaurant has a warm and inviting look and feel. Orders are placed at the counter, cooked in an open view kitchen and delivered with a smile to the table. Other features include a condiment bar that Dentice and Rensi call “A Tower of Taste,” an area where local entertainers can perform, a customer loyalty club, a kids’ menu, free WiFi, carry-out with the option to order online.
Beyond the ambiance and food, the two things that Dentice and Rensi believe in are integrity and commitment to community.
“You can have the best food in the world,” Rensi said, “but if you don’t have happy, satisfied customers, you can’t have a successful business. We welcome any and all feedback and suggestions from our guests.”
They mean it. During the winter, they developed a Taste Testers program through the culinary arts program at College of DuPage. For weeks, they offered Tom & Eddie’s lunches and dinners to hundreds of friends, students, and members of community organizations. Participants could order anything for free in exchange for filling out a detailed questionnaire. The feedback was taken to heart and the menu tweaked accordingly.
Now the tests are over, and it’s time to fire up the grill.
“This is fun,” Dentice said at the prospect of this retirement dream. “It’s just an expression, but I feel like we’re getting the “Garage Band” back together!”