Take me out

Cooks Morgan Maher and Bailey Newell serve up a burger at Tommy's Grandstand.

Cooks Morgan Maher and Bailey Newell serve up a burger at Tommy's Grandstand.

Photo/Allison Young

For more information, visit www.tommysgrandstand.com.

Not being much of a sports guy, I’m the last person you’d expect to find at a business featuring batting cages. My earliest memory of baseball has nothing to do with the game, it’s the hot dog and Sno-cone I enjoyed with my grandpa. I couldn’t tell you who played or won, but man, that Sno-cone was great on a hot summer day while waiting for the game to end.

Fast-forward to Tommy’s Grandstand, an oasis of ballpark cuisine tucked away in the industrial zone of southeast Sparks. I’d seen the sign a few times when a business meeting or wrong turn sent me past that corner, but I never gave it a second thought. Then an invite to a social media event led me to discover why this business has been thriving for years despite its less-than-visible location. You might initially visit for the batting cages and other entertainments, but you’ll come back for the food.

Tommy’s menu features all-American casual comfort foods, including cold deli and hot grilled sandwiches, a few salads, chicken strips and wings, big ol’ hot dogs (including chili and corn dogs), and the usual assortment of deep-fried bar appetizers (jalapeño poppers, cheese sticks, etc.). There’s even a country-fried steak sandwich and sourdough veggie melt listed side-by-side, proving that red and blue can coexist. The kids menu will keep your little sluggers fueled up ($5.45), there are plenty of soft drink options, and a full bar is available for mom and dad while the kids burn through tokens.

However, burgers hold the top spot on Tommy’s menu, served with either a quarter pound or half pound beef patty and a variety of toppings (the menu notes the beef is extra lean and prepared daily). When faced with a new-to-me menu featuring mostly familiar options, I usually look for something that stands-out as a house special. Tommy’s didn’t disappoint in this department. I was immediately drawn to the quarter-pound pastrami cheeseburger ($6.05), ordered it medium rare and was asked, “Do you want jalapeños on that?” Yes, sir. Yes, I do.

It should be noted I wasn’t particularly hungry that evening. I had eaten a decent breakfast, followed by a pretty substantial lunch, so the plan was to try a couple of bites at Tommy’s and take home the leftovers. There were no leftovers. If you know the feeling of paying for food that doesn’t live up to expectations, then understand when I tell you this burger was the total opposite of sad disappointment. That handmade burger was way above-average on flavor, cooked and seasoned perfectly, and whoever thought of adding pastrami and jalapeños to an already excellent cheeseburger should receive the Nobel Prize for Being Awesome.

My wife enjoyed her basic quarter-pound cheeseburger ($4.90), though she agreed mine was something special. She had requested bleu cheese, but what she received was a little cup of salad dressing on the side. Bleu cheese isn’t actually on the menu, so this was just a bit of miscommunication on both sides. Not a big deal.

Speaking of sides, we ordered french fries and onion rings to share ($3.10, $3.80). The fries were plentiful, crispy shoestrings of salted perfection, delicious without additional condiment. The rings were fresh, battered onion (not frozen, minced and breaded), and though they weren’t the best I’ve ever had they were better than many I’ve been served. They disappeared even faster than the fries.

The prices were very affordable for what we received, the service was fast despite being slammed with orders, and food is definitely not an afterthought at Tommy’s. You’ll never get me in a cage trying to defend against a ball-firing robot, but I’ll definitely return for another pastrami burger and those perfect fries.