“You can do irrefutably impossible things with the right amount of planning and support from intelligent hardworking people and pizza.”
Screenwriter Scott Gimple could well have been talking about the unerringly dedicated, determined, and downright quirky team (and menu) at Eastside Big Tom.
Family business has graced their 2023 4th Avenue East location for over 50 years and Michael Fritsch and his crew proudly serve burgers, hotdogs, ice-cream, milkshakes, and Goop-covered ‘tots from their drive-through and adjoining Snack Shack. Starting this February, these delicacies are joined by personal and family sized pizzas, cooked on site or take-and-bake.
Says Fritsch, “We’ve talked about it for more than 20 years” but now was the perfect time to go for it. At peak summer numbers, Big Tom employs nearly 30 staff members, but once winter rolled around “I just couldn’t let everybody in the ice cream shack go,” Fritsch laments. One easy way to keep employment steady was to jumpstart that perfect wintertime dinner on-the-run: pizza.
But unlike seasonal ice-creams or their infamous, unpredictable Glazed and Confused (a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich served between…wait for it…a glazed donut bun), pizza is here to stay.
“We keep getting the same question online and at the windows: ‘Why is a successful burger place getting into pizza?’ The right time came this fall,” shares Fritsch. “We’d had a great run over in the ice cream shack, the neighborhood embraced it in a big way, enough that I had to hire more staff over the spring and summer. The problem was, as a walk-up spot, the second the weather worsened, sales plummeted. Suddenly I had no sales to support four employees for 5 months. Normal industry practice is to button the place up, lay off or fire the staff, and reopen in the spring. I couldn’t do that. Not my style.”
And this style runs in the family. Eastside Big Tom has hired third generation employees of those who worked for Michael Fritsch’s parents. He’s known to unabashedly “hound high school student employees about their homework and college applications” and offers scheduling flexibility around often chaotic availability.
After nearly $20,000 in new equipment including four ovens, full-sized refrigerators, pots, pans, and baking sheets, savory pies – both hot and cold – are flying out the door. Scotty Cole is one of two dedicated pizza staff with three more currently learning the process. He explains that so far, popularity of to-go versus take-and-bake varies day by day.
Orders can be placed over the phone with pick-up times in as little as 15 minutes. Very soon, online orders will be accepted for pick-up or delivery through www.eastsidebigtoms.com.
All the standard flavors like Hawaiian, veggie, and pepperoni are available and Big Tom also sells pizza on a gluten-free crust or with unique toppings like vegan chicken. They’ll even walk orders over to the nearby Boulevard Tavern where the Meatzzza special is a perennial fan favorite.
Speaking of fan favorites, follow Big Tom on Facebook where you’ll find frequent updates, specials, freebies, and news of take-and-bake deals. Current hits include the Big Tom Pizza (complete with goop, lettuce, tomato, and hamburger-esque toppings) and the Dirty Bird, echoing the bacon and jalapeños of their signature chicken sandwich.
While they work out any bumps in the road, baked pizzas are sold only as an 8-inch personal size and 15-inch family size. Take-and-bake pies are 15-inch only. Gluten-free crusts come as a 10-inch pizza (safely sold in its own baking tray) but Celiac sufferers should beware that some cross-contamination may occur.
Pizza is on nearly every American Top 10 list when it comes to favorite foods. Whether you’re looking for fast, cheap, comforting, or universally popular, nothing tops a cheesy, melty pizza. Well, to be honest, nearly anything can top a cheesy, melty pizza. And, knowing the culinary mad scientists at Eastside Big Tom, it won’t be long before they’ve experimented with it all.
Open seven days a week, breakfast, lunch, or dinner pies are only a phone call away. Give them a ring at 360-481-8711 to live the words of comedian Kevin James: “There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap.”
Eastside Big Tom
2023 4th Avenue East