Food, Fun Mix At New Eatery

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'Surf-inspired Restaurant Offers Creative Fare'

By Heather Korbini,

Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Tommy Callan takes a seat inside his sandwich cafe, 'Tommy Gone Loco,' at 471 Lafayette Road in Hampton on Thursday morning. The surf-inspired restaurant is decorated with surf boards and photos of Callan's Caribbean travels. I want people to have fun, and enable people to have a good time with what I have a good time with, and that's food," said Callan. "I'm the guy up at 2a.m. cooking omelets for everyone at parties."

HAMPTON — The surf's up in Hampton, where you can find a distinct island atmosphere and great food at a new eatery featuring fun twists on the standard breakfast and lunch fare.

"Tommy Gone Loco," 471 Lafayette Road, opened its doors Monday, April 8, 2002, to a warm welcome from locals.

"Since the second day we were open we've had a nice reception from the community," said owner Tommy Callan.

According to Callan, the cozy 12-seat shop adorned with surf boards and photos of Callan's Caribbean travels, has seen a steady stream of 50 to 60 lunch customers daily who stop by to try one of his playful creations.

"I want people to have fun, and enable people to have a good time with what I have a good time with, and that's food," said Callan. "I'm the guy up at 2 a.m. cooking omelets for everyone at parties."

Callan, a Seacoast native who found a way to turn his passion into his profession, explained that a previous job at the Blue Strawberry in Portsmouth gave him some experience in "throwing weird things together to see what happens."

"I like to get playful with food," he said.

His unique, surfboard-shaped, bright pink menu offers a variety of items with catchy names and non-traditional combinations.

"Everyone has commented on the menu - reading it word for word and quoting it. People love the names and they have fun ordering by name," said Callan. "People will call and say 'I need a Mmm-good', or 'I'll take The Press."'

According to Callan, the most popular selections, are "The Tumbler," a turkey sandwich with Havarti cheese, bacon, sprouts, lettuce and tomato; and the "Green Apple," which is also a turkey sandwich with cheddar cheese and green apple.

"Smooth Move," "Back Splat," and "Head First" are also among some of the creative sandwiches offered at 'Tommy Gone Loco'.

Breakfast items, which include "Bagel Bombs," hot coffee, fruit cups and granola are available, as well as daily soups, salads and a selection of Annabelle's Ice Cream. The creative chef also wants to provide another 20 or so different sandwiches on the menu. He said he has seen the same people come in four or five times a week and wants ensure he provides a variety of options for his customers.

"I wrote the menu in about five minutes. The playfulness stems from my non-traditional attitude. I haven't done things in the traditional blocks that most people do," said Callan, who said he tried working a 9 to 5 job but it lacked the personal connection he craved.

A surfer at heart, Callan explained that he just wanted to get back to the beach.

"We're having fun. I'm in shorts and flip- flops. How good does it get?" said Callan.

He said he designed the warm, friendly restaurant like a place that he would like to hang out in. Tiki lights are strung along the ceiling, and a television on which he plays a variety of surf-inspired flicks hangs in the corner.

The eatery also boasts the "Loco Lounge" area, where people can comfortably hang out and chat.

"Eventually I'd like to have some acoustic gigs and poetry readings," said Callan. "We're not an uptight cafe. Kids can run around in here — I even hand them free cookies."

Freebies seem to play a big part in Callan's unique word-of-mouth marketing approach, which includes leaving menus on people's cars, a promotion offering free Cokes with the purchase of a sandwich, as well as "Muffin Mayhem" — complimentary muffins with the purchase of a coffee.

"We're having fun with the way we're introducing it to the community and inviting them to come in and eat," said Callan, who often hands out samples of cheese and soups so people not familiar with certain fare can try it out.

"You know the 'Soup Nazi' on Seinfeld? Well I'm just the opposite. I try to make it easy as possible for people to try something new," he said.

"I'd rather spend money giving something away than on the traditional (form of marketing)," explained Callan. "When was the last time someone gave you something for free?"

Callan also plans to offer boxed beach lunches this summer in coolers that customers can keep. He will cook to order whatever he's asked to, and can accommodate catering large functions.

Callan's easy-going banter with the customers depicts his laid-back approach to life. I'm here to have a good time. You gotta have a good time and do what you want in life," he said.

Eventually Callan would like to own a bed and breakfast on a Caribbean Island; for now he'll settle for the little oasis he's created at 'Tommy Gone Loco'.

Eat in or take out, the food promises to be fresh and unique. 'Tommy Gone Loco' is located at 471 Lafayette Road and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For information, call 929-7873.

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