Honest Tom’s: A Tex-Mex restaurant for vegans
The small restaurant near 44th Street and Spruce is constantly flowing with young and old alike who are in search of a quick burrito or taco.
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Honest Tom’s has long been known in West Philadelphia for their tasty burritos and tacos. The small restaurant near 44th Street and Spruce is constantly flowing with young and old alike who are in search of a quick burrito or taco.
It all got started in April 2009, when owner Tom McCusker opened up a food truck at Drexel and Clark Park. In those days, they only sold breakfast tacos and coffee and closed the truck around 11:30 am.
“A rush of people started arriving to the truck as we were closing, looking for lunch,” said McCusker. “We decided to start selling chicken tacos at 11:30 am.”
They quickly expanded the lunch menu with sweet potato, pork and fish tacos. The truck became such a hit that they decided to offer the same menu at a permanent location in early 2012. For the name, they chose Honest Tom’s, after being inspired by Honest Lou’s pet control. The original plan was to design the exterior after the wild pictures of insects on the walls of the exterminator, but only the name came to fruition.
“The restaurant just got busier and busier,” said McCusker. “People from the truck started coming to the shop and brought more people.”
The menu stayed more or less the same until earlier this year when they changed to an entirely vegan, whole food, plant-based menu.
“We wanted to offer something new to customers,” explained Tom McCusker, the owner of Honest Tom’s. “We had been doing the same thing for 10 years. We wanted to give the same group a new way to enjoy food.”
On offer are six main fillings that can each be served in either taco, burrito or bowl form. The six options are Chucken (roasted chickpea and plantain), Carbacoa (carrot and lentil barbacoa), Biff (walnut based), Sweet Potato, Grilled Veggie (seasonal selection) and Rice and Bean. Also available are nachos, chips, guacamole, pico de gallo and aguas frescas.
“Everything is made from scratch,” said Stefen Coleman, a cook who’s worked at Honest Tom’s for two years.
The process for making a new item is collaborative, with different cooks contributing new ideas about how to make a certain dish.
“We recently changed the way we make the chickpotle,” explained Coleman. “The way it is processed is different. It is now a little spicier.”
In addition to the menu changes, Honest Tom’s has also entirely revamped the interior with a new layout, wall decorations and color theme.
“We knew a lot of people didn’t read about the changes in the news,” said McCusker. “We wanted to catch them as soon as they came in with a completely different interior so they would realize it’s different.”
Even with the radical changes, Honest Tom’s staff have been working at the restaurant for a long time and plan to stay for time to come.
“This is our best job,” said Maria Lopez, a Mexican immigrant from Puebla who has worked at the restaurant for over 7 years. “None of us has wanted to leave.”
To learn more about Honest Tom’s check out their Instagram @honest_toms, website https://www.honesttomsplantbasedtacoshop.com/ or their Facebook page. Address: 261 South 44th Street Philadelphia, PA 19104. Hours: Everyday 11am to 9pm. Prices: $7 - $10.