Vassar Student Association

Exploring the Hudson Valley: The Big Tomato

The Big Tomato


I don’t like breakfast food. Not even a little bit. I have never eaten an omelet. Eggs are probably number three in my list of top five phobias, just after spiders and Republicans. I hate orange juice, pulp or no pulp, even when it’s mixed with vodka. When I was still a wee underclassman, I actively avoided the All Campus Dining Center before 11 a.m. so that nobody would judge me as I skipped the bagels and pancakes and went straight for the sandwich station. Okay, I’ll be honest—the chicken fingers station. I’m from the South. If it’s not fried, I’m just not that interested.

So you can imagine my level of surprise when I found a place that serves breakfast food I can enjoy without being ferociously hung over. It was on par with the shock I felt when I found out Madonna was cheating on Guy Ritchie, which was brutal. Seriously, you can ask my therapist.

Don’t get me wrong—the Big Tomato is not the kind of place where your mother and her friends meet for brunch and mimosas. Here’s an example: The last time I went there, I brought along a friend whose taste in food is decidedly more refined than my own. When he asked our waitress if he could have feta cheese in his omelet, she gave him a look of obvious amusement and said, “Feta? You’re at the Big Tomato, baby.”

They may not have feta at the Big Tomato, babies, but they have everything else, probably for less money than you’ll spend at the vending machines when you’re drunk and hungry on Friday night. For less than $5, you can get the Complete Breakfast—two pieces of toast, two eggs any style, home fries or hash browns, a small juice and a never-empty cup of coffee. And if you’re really hungry, drop another $2 for bacon or sausage. I haven’t tried the sausage yet, but the bacon is absolutely worth the extra money. It’s just the right amount of crispy, meaning it won’t break into a million pieces the minute you pick it up off the plate, but you won’t be chewing it like gum, either. I know, we college students lose interest once the price goes higher than $5, but remember: When we’re all paying off the bailout in 10 years you’ll dream of $7 breakfast. And happiness.

So what do you do if you’re like me BBT (Before Big Tomato)? Eat a sandwich, dummy! The Big Tomato has all kinds of them. They also have fish, pasta, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken—pretty much everything the Acropolis Diner has, but cheaper, greasier and served without judgment, even if you ask for egg whites only. Okay, your waitress will probably smirk at you. But then she’ll say, “Back in two shakes” and you’ll think you’re inside an episode of Happy Days, minus the jukebox and the poodle skirts.

And don’t forget to pay attention to the décor. The Big Tomato has the most incredible wallpaper you’ll ever see. It’s covered in—what else—tomatoes, as well as some other unidentifiable fruits and vegetables in varying shades of yellow, orange and avocado green, meaning it’s probably been up since Nixon was president and people still used the word “luncheonette.” There’s also a giant map of Sicily, the birthplace of John, the owner/cook/manager. John is just as friendly as the rest of his staff—he talks to the customers at the bar while he flips omelets—and if you become a regular (and you should), he’ll remember what you like.

So the next time you’re on Main Street and you see the sign with the smiling tomato, go in and give the Big Tomato a try. Would that tomato be smiling if it weren’t happy to be there? No.

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