Slimy, yet unsatisfying: Tom + Chee disappoints

Bobby Shipman

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Before I begin my review, I’d like to point out that I am not your average cuisine connoisseur. I’m not really a food “connoisseur” at all. I am just your average, everyday foodie with a crunchy twist – I’m vegan.

Despite my restrictions, I still have an insatiable appetite and desire to experiment with new and unusual tastes. I like variety, but living in southern Indiana poses daily hiccups in my food excursion as I am constantly limited on the places I can go.

Most restaurants around this area don’t cater to my lifestyle, and when they do the options are scarce. So when a restaurant chain rolls into town boasting a vegan-friendly menu, my taste buds flutter.

Tom + Chee is a new restaurant that nestled into town recently at 2121 North Green River Road. The restaurant’s interior is playful with bold reds and yellows painting the walls that complement its grilled cheese and tomato soup-centric menu.

I must have subconsciously prepared myself since I realized as I stepped through the threshold that I was sporting a bright, mustard t-shirt – I had cheese on the brain. Sadly, I would be greatly disappointed.

Because of my naturally picky tendencies, any time a menu gives me the options to “build my own,” I take it.

I chose wheat berry bread (they were out of white and it turns out the berry did not imply a fruity aftertaste) with grilled onions and mushrooms, diced tomatoes and of course, vegan cheese. I remained wary of the sauces because I can rarely tell anymore what is and isn’t milk-based.

Then I ordered a cup of chunky tomato and basil soup.

I got my number and took a seat. During my 12-and-a-half minute wait, I examined the other customers to get a read on their reactions as they bit down, but it was a fruitless venture.

My meal arrived and I bit down myself. The bread was flavorful and lightly toasted to perfection. The vegetables were fine but small, but my largest complaint came from the cheese’s utter lack of flavor. It was slimy, gritty, underwhelming and a little cold. 

One might argue, “It’s vegan cheese. Of course it was gross.” But I have had my fair share of warm and flavor-filled faux cheeses in my day. A restaurant that takes that modern, forward-thinking step into catering to its diverse clientele should also understand said clientele.

So many restaurants provide one or two options and they think they’ve done it. They think they have cracked the code to widening their audience. I want options, and I want good options, not ones that meet the bare minimum requirement of just being present.

However, the soup saved the day. The tomato basil tasted classic and spicy-sweet, without too many chunks. It was exactly what one expects out of a simple, chest-warming dish.