For nine decades Tom’s Tavern has been a venerable Phoenix landmark in the heart of downtown Phoenix. Since 1929, back when Tom Higley converted the old City Morgue and old pipe shop into a burger joint and gin mill, Tom’s has been a city favorite.
Over the years Tom’s earned the reputation as the local gathering place for all kinds of Arizona big shots. 21 Governors, 25 Mayors and hundreds of city council members have discussed the events of the day, dined on classic dishes and enjoyed libations with professionals, celebrities and locals.
Tom’s legend avows that the main attraction was not the food, but a small door leading into a darkened, smoke-filled room, smelling of bourbon, pool cue chalk and stale cigarettes, and housing pool tables. These eight pool tables were where local politicians, judges, attorneys, and townsfolk could rack ‘em up.
According to a long-time employee named Leroy, who worked at Tom’s from 1943-1977, “More cases were decided at Tom’s than in the courthouse.”
By 1977 the urban sprawl of Phoenix took its toll on the establishment. With increased competition, a decaying building and a changing downtown landscape, Tom’s original location on Adams Street was torn down.
As downtown experienced a rebirth in the late 1980s, Tom’s was reborn. The year 1988 unveiled the new Tom’s Tavern at One Renaissance Square although there was a new physical location at One Renaissance Square, Tom’s long-time customers once again enjoyed standards from the original menu such as the infamous burger, chili, and spaghetti red.
Today, as Arizona celebrates its centennial, Tom’s is once again experiencing its own renaissance to complement the continuing evolution taking place in downtown Phoenix. While Tom’s is being refreshed and renewed, it is important to the new owners, the Bidwill Family, that the traditions, character and rich political history of Tom’s continues well into the future and is matched by a first-class high-quality food presentation.
While the original 1929 brisket chili recipe from Tom Higley is still being used, new features such as the in-house smoker will allow the premium cuts of meats, butchered on-site, to be served upon a delicious new menu for diners.
Another important initiative of Tom’s is doing its part to unite area farmers, ranchers, and consumers in order to stimulate the sustainable local food economy in Phoenix and Arizona. Tom’s is committed to using Arizona farms and ranches that use sustainable methods of production or grow organic produce, and marketers who sell locally produced food products.
Although the pool tables are now only a memory, the walls of Tom’s are now covered with familiar photos of the notables who have passed the time within the wood-trimmed walls of the tavern. You may recognize many politicians, celebrities, councilmen, mayors, governors, senators, rock stars, movie idols, policemen, firemen, judges, lawyers, philanthropists, business leaders, and sports stars. Look around, and you may even spot one of them enjoying their favorite tavern fare with friends and cohorts.
Fresh, innovative and delicious food with exceptional service is what you will receive every day at Tom’s Tavern & 1929 Grill as this historical icon prepares to serve Phoenix for the next 100 years.