After a session at the bridge club , my wife and I didn’t feel like going home and cooking . We both thought that a deli sandwich would hit the spot but the only delis we knew were on the other side of town . Rather than drive that far , we decided to look for something closer. On South Avenue in Scotch Plains we came across Tom the Green Grocer , a shop we ‘d checked out before but never patronized. We knew they served take-out sandwiches and soups and decided to give the shop a try.
The term ” Greengrocer ” is hardly ever heard these days and Tom the Greengrocer is unique.The outside yard is more like a nursey or garden center, with plants and pumpkins , cut flowers and flowering shrubs for sale . The inside is completely different as there is a gourmet section and vegetable stand on one side and a sales counteron the other. The vegetables are all in prime condition, perfect, gleaming and without blemish , artfully arranged for maximum effect. The quantities are limited but there are some vegetables that one does not usually see in the local supermarket. The gourmet section is where we linger while our sandwiches are being assembled.There is a dizzying variety of jams , jellies ,breads, sauces , relishes and spreads, more than I’ve seen in most gourmet shops. Like the vegetables , they are lovingly displayed and it is difficult to resist their allure.
We usually walk towards the rear of the store where there is a sandwich station on the left and a deli counter with cold cuts, soups , pies salads and cheese on the right .The cheeses are interesting but we are hungry and make a beeline for the sandwich station. The sandwiches offer some unusual choices as for instance ” Fresh Oven baked Turkey with sweet cranberry spread,alfalfa sprouts and sliced pear on whole wheat ( $ 6.95).( To see the full menu click on www.tomthegreengrocer.com/menu.html ) The first time we went to Tom the Greengrocer I had the Italian sub … Ham , Cappicola, Provolone, lettuce,tomato, onion and balsamic vinegar on sourdough bread ( $8.95) but my wife raved so much about the rye bread that, the next time, I had the ham and swiss on rye. She was right . The rye bread was the best I’ve ever had , even better than that at the Jewish deli in Clark.
Good as the food is , as enticing as the gourmet section is , that is not I like best about Tom the Greengrocer . It’s that the people there are so darn friendly, so genuinely nice. Even though we’ve only been there twice , the second time the guy at the deli counter remembered us from the week before and greeted us like old friends.He made us feel welcome , treating us like valued customers and making us feel good . This sort of service is rare these days when businesses try to attract customers with cheap prices and money saving deals to the exclusion of everything else. These days , everyone wants to save money but ,sometimes , price is not the only consideration. Tom the Greengrocer is not cheap ( neither is he expensive ) but I ‘d gladly pay a little extra for the kind oldfashioned service I get there. Walmart , Target , Pizza Hut and Burger King are fine in their own way but , once in a while , I want be pampered.
Tom the Greengrocer was started by Tom Szabo in 1962 and it is still a family owned business. Next year will mark their fiftieth year in business and I hope they are there to delight customers for another fifty.
Tom the Greengrocer , 2305 South Avenue , Scotch Plains , NJ o7o76. ( 908) 232- 9216.