Located in Los Angeles, California, on a rainy yet over-crowded street in West Hollywood to be exact, next to the infamous Abbey and the infamous-er PUMP restaurant, sits one of the most fascinating establishments in the Continental United States, and possibly the world: the latest drinking and dining restaurant from Vanderpump Rules’ queen mother Lisa Vanderpump and her co-stars and employees, Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz.
The name of this fine place? TomTom Bar. Upon clicking the previous link and being directed to TomTom’s website, you may assume that they sell large clock parts used for hypnotics or clutter for an attic. That is not the case. TomTom is in fact a restaurant and bar, serving “a decadent menu of hearty, healthy and elegant bar food,” joining Lisa Vanderpump’s as-seen-on-TV hospitality empire, alongside SUR (Sexy Unique Restaurant) Restaurant, the aforementioned PUMP (self-described as “Los Angeles’ Sexiest Restaurant”), and Villa Blanca.
The origin story: Lisa Vanderpump liked how “TomTom” sounded as a restaurant. Okay, and also Schwartz has a good face and likability, and Sandoval’s enthusiasm and cocktail-shaking smarts would probably work well behind the-scenes. More anticipated than the 2020 election, TomTom finally opened last year in August, and, more importantly, I finally set foot inside the establishment this month. Why? Because I am a firm believer that Vanderpump Rules is the best television show of all time and if you think otherwise you’re just not an intellect and that’s that on that!
Every trip I take to LA involves at least one trip to an LVP establishment-don’t @ me-and my most recent trip was unlike any other. So if you’ll allow me, let me regale you with my time at TomTom. These are the best days of our lives, after all.
It was a rainy Saturday night in Los Angeles. My sister Lauren and I figured that since Los Angeles was under inches of water and most street lights had stopped working, we’d have a fine time getting a table quickly. (A gamble considering TomTom doesn’t take reservations.) Through rain, we exited our Lyft, utterly taken by the rustic flare of both Schwartz and Sandoval’s beautifully basic names on the marquee. What we weren’t taken by was the line snaking out of the front doors and under their awning. Of course, we waited.
Finally at the door, after just a few minutes, Richardson, one of Lisa’s most cherished workers, greeted us at the door. Remembering that he’s one of the only people in WeHo with common sense (he’s only been on Pump Rules a handful of times, and most of those were to showcase what actual hard work looks like against the likes of James Kennedy), I felt a sense of relief.
This not only meant that Lisa and the Toms were taking this thing super seriously, but also Richardson is hot, and that’s something that hasn’t been discussed enough. Buff, yet slender, with the height of an NBA player, Richardson looked good in that TomTom uniform. Next to Richardson stood a man not on television, even though he too was very attractive.
We apprehensively requested a table for two. Despite the rain and the time (it was only 7:30PM! FYI, TomTom is open from 5:30PM-LATE each night), the bar was packed. Nonetheless, Richardson’s friend and fellow host said he’d be back in 30 seconds to grab us for a table. They had seats in the back! Yay! Happily, my sister and I waited at the end of the bar for the host to come back. After five minutes, he was still working on that table.
While we waited “30 seconds,” we ordered drinks. Well, tried to. The bar was lined by tourists standing elbow-to-elbow in their most sparkling going-out dresses, as well as a handful of local patrons who may or may not have moved to L.A. in hopes of snagging a millionaire fiancé like Lala Kent. Everyone tried their best to look like they just happened to stumble into this new bar by chance, and not because the only reason they pay for cable is so that they can watch Bravo.
In the bar area, the music was either unremarkable or impossible to hear among the sounds of people trying to maintain a conversation while also checking the front door for the sight of a Pump Rules cast member. The first rule of TomTom is: you do not talk about why you came to TomTom. It’s not for the menu. It’s for the possibility of blowing up your Instagram with a selfie alongside either Tom. Or a Scheana, if the situation got dire. Sadly, it was not all happening that night.
As we tried to get one of the three bartenders’ attention, I was struck by the décor. Standing under the infamous Tom and Tom kiss art, I-height: 5’7”-struggled to reach the bar. Hand to God, standing at the bar felt like being in Lisa’s remake of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (Ken, I Shrunk the Customers). The marble top bar was so tall I had to stand on my tiptoes as my shorter sister’s proxy when communicating with the bartenders.'
When we finally got a look at the cocktail list, I eagerly looked for those frozen shots. You know the ones. Made only by a special machine that no one in West Hollywood, or possibly America (I don’t know, ask Sandoval), has. Spoiler alert: the shot wasn’t there. I didn’t ask if it was an off menu item because I didn’t know how to describe what it was and I had a feeling that the less questions, the better. With that, I ordered the Madame Butterfly and my sister ordered the Clockwork Pink. Both drinks cost $16 and were beautiful shades of purple and pink, respectively.
Honestly, if millennial pink had a signature cocktail competition in West Hollywood, half of their menu would be contenders. The colors of the drinks were crafted to be photographed-and would look even better in a Lux filter with 500 likes.
I picked my drink because it was one of the few on the menu that didn’t have some element of spice, like jalapeños, habañero, or whatever TF firewater bitters are. My sister Lauren picked hers, because she loves all of those things. And guess what? We loved. Every. Sip. Mine, made with champagne, vodka, and lavender tea leaves, was refreshing and not too sweet. So, perfect. Lauren said that hers had the perfect mix of sweetness and spiciness, and was one of the best cocktails she’s ever had.
By this point, we were about 30 minutes into our 30 second wait time, and realized that we didn’t know who to go to for an update because the hosts had left the stand and if there was another host, we couldn’t tell since the TomTom uniforms are just dark suits and light shirts. That said, the wait did grant us the opportunity to enjoy the show of the TomTom bartenders shaking cocktails like gold medal Olympians. Some even wore braces on their elbows to protect their tender bones from breaking clean off.
As we finished our drinks, Lauren and I marveled at the (sexy) unique (restaurant) décor . I’d call it oversized clutter, mixed with clockwork, mixed with “did the lights go out in here?” mixed with very tall tables, mixed with velvet, mixed with a bowl of lemons that I felt paid homage to Shannon Beador. If you know, you know. (And if you don’t, nine lemons, and in this case more, represent good feng shui for success and prosperity. I don’t have the word count to explain Shannon Beador.)
Most impressive: the cleanliness. TBH, I’ve gotten drinks at both SUR and PUMP, and those two restaurants leave much to be desired. Tablecloths and chair covers are dingy at best, and much of the furniture seems like it came from Big Lots and refurbished by a moderate-level Pinterest enthusiast. Everything in TomTom was crisp!
Finally, we were alerted that our table was ready and whisked away through the crowded bar area, past some booths. We emerged in the restaurant’s Garden.
WE’RE NOT IN SUR ANYMORE
Reader, it was a masterpiece. The space was filled with flowers, wooden tables and pillows. The vibe was chic, rustic, like a darker version of Lisa’s own home. As soon as our butts hit our seats, our waiter was at our table offering water and inquiring about second cocktails. Both my sister and I got the Clockwork Pink, but I got mine without everything that made it spicy. It was still delicious.
Surprisingly, those in the dinner area of the establishment were less Instagram-happy than those at the bar. I witnessed a birthday party with more focus on the birthday girl than the venue, an older group of people who seemed to be talking business, and a handful of dates.
Oh, and let’s talk about the music. As if someone took the playlist of my heart and sent it straight to the Toms: old 90s and early 2000s classics played on repeat. And, the playlist was drowning in old St. Louis classics, both my and Sandoval’s hometown, from the St. Lunatics and Chingy.
Looking over the menu, I knew I’d have the same issue as I did with drinks. Almost half of the items had chilis, jalapeños, or other spices that would make it impossible for me to eat. But, I tried-especially since I’ve never actually had food at any LVP establishment.
Under our waiter’s recommendation, we started with the Spicy Cauliflower “Wings.” I was willing to test the limits of my taste buds because cauliflower is my favorite food. Our order came out quickly, but our plates and silverware did not. Anyway, wow. After the first bite, I could tell that they were amazing. Until they weren’t. After a few more bites, I realized that I’d just ordered small balls of fire that were wreaking havoc on my body.
Through small coughs and clammy skin, I tried to eat around the skin of the cauliflower, but the spices were cooked in. I soon gave up, but my sister couldn’t stop eating her new favorite food. For our main meal, Lauren settled on sliders and I on their shrimp tacos that said they had no spice. We also shared their Harvest Salad, which starred greens, walnuts, dried cranberries, and every other basic salad addition.
The sliders were served on a wooden serving board with TOMTOM chiseled in, which we loved and undoubtedly so will many a drunken diner who tries to steal it in her clutch. My tacos, a set of three, were garnished with flames from the inner sanctum of hell. At this point, I was sure Lisa and the Toms were set on burning me and my mouth out of the building. The salad was delicious, but my mouth was so burned I could barely eat it. Lauren’s sliders were “fine.”
Okay, so Lisa’s restaurants are not exactly known for their food (SUR’s goat cheese balls, notwithstanding), but I was expecting more variety and sliiightly better food. A consequence, perhaps, of the other restaurants’ mediocre Yelp views. And that TomTom is brought to you by the creative minds of the men who brought us Ass Steaks. Their saving grace is certainly their cocktails, décor, and realistic possibility of seeing someone from Vanderpump Rules IRL. Sadly, I didn’t, but at least I got Richardson!!
Bottom line is this: The food could taste like Giggy’s dog biscuits, and I’d still return again and again and again, because I support the fine arts.
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