The Couch Tomato
By Noel Bartocci
Photography by JPG Photography
Nestled into the corner of Main and Rector Streets in Manayunk, The Couch Tomato has been a culinary staple in town since 2003. Even more impressive than their longevity in our community has been their perceptual ability to keep the menu fresh (pun intended). Their mission has always been to provide organic, hormone and antibiotic free, and an overall “natural” product whenever possible. However, what has truly kept them in the game has been their flexibility with evolving their menu combined with an unmatched customer service — from date night to a quick bite. Their mission has provided a sturdy foundation for success, one The Couch Tomato has built upon steadily and consistently to the point where we are still celebrating their excellence 15 years later. It really all comes down to one word — “quality.”
“We’re constantly striving to source more local, organic, and clean ingredients,” Kristina Petrick, one of the on-point managers at the restaurant, explains. “We’re committed to having the best for our customers.”
The Couch Tomato exhibits its meal flexibility by offering a consistently rotating selection of soups, sandwiches, salads, and pizzas — some perennial and some seasonal — all of which help bolster the steadfast reliability of their everyday menu. It really is the best of all worlds — comfort as well as spontaneous surprises.
“We’re always listening to feedback and try to support our customers,” Kristina said. “We have one regular in particular who was dying for Chipotle Crab Chowder.”
For those unaware, Chipotle Crab Chowder is one of The Couch Tomato’s more popular seasonal chowders. I don’t feel bad inserting my opinion that it’s freaking delicious.
Kristina continued, “He would ask all the time, but it just wasn’t quite the season yet for all the ingredients. He would say, ‘If you have it, I’ll order three at least three times a week.’”
A few days later, the restaurant reached out to let him know it was on the menu.
This is not the first time that Manayunk Magazine has afforded attention towards The Couch Tomato, but in the past, we’ve done so for different reasons. This year, the townspeople of Manayunk wanted to specifically praise The Couch Tomato as the Best Lunch Spot. So let’s talk a little about lunch!
For me, lunch is arguably the most undefined meal of the day. Breakfast and dinner come with preconceived notions as to what should be served, whereas the nebulous nature of lunch sometimes lends itself to uncertainty or indecision. What’s the best thing to eat in the middle of the afternoon that puts many other spots at a disadvantage, besides The Couch Tomato? Some patrons would say soup, some a salad or sandwich, while others would just go straight to a slice or two of pizza made on organic crust. What makes The Couch Tomato the perfect place for the middle meal is its inherently flexible menu and on the fly ability to modify — they serve it all, how you like it, and fast. But before the lunch rush even occurs, they’re hustling behind the scenes to get stuff done. A typical morning at The Couch Tomato consists of satiating catering crowds before noon rolls around.
“We start the morning with catering and taking customer orders. Before we even open, we’re feeding hundreds of people,” Kristina explains, detailing the lead up to the midday rush.
Also included in the morning routine is unloading the fresh components delivered directly to the store. Anyone walking down Main Street in the AM hours has likely seen the staff unloading palettes of ingredients as needed. If anything, it illustrates their commitment to fresh and local components for all their dishes. That commitment extends to how they intend to evolve their offerings in 2018.
“We listen to every comment and every request. Just this year, we’re making a concerted effort to have even more vegan options,” Kristina excitedly relayed.
Now, that doesn’t mean eliminating other non-vegan dishes, but what it does mean is making sure the menu maintains quality and adds even more inclusivity. Dietary restrictions and preferences are not trends to chase for The Couch Tomato, but simply new opportunities to continue a conversation with their customers — conversation that includes reward.
Another popular aspect of their business is the Tomato Points program — an effort to tangibly give back to repeat customers. Quickly summarized, for every dollar spent, you get a point. For every 100 points earned, you receive $10 towards your next meal. There are other incentives for those diehards who, over time, will reach well beyond 1,000 points (items like an official The Couch Tomato tee so you can rep your favorite restaurant). While it sounds insurmountable to reach that many points, it’s something that passively collects over time. Just let those points collect while you’re enjoying delicious meals. That’s a win/win situation.
Couch (as we locals have short-handed it) is a Manayunk mainstay. Like other things that are consistently good, it’s easy to take for granted just how clutch they’ve always been. The Couch Tomato is and will remain an ever-present option for whatever lunch (or dinner) questions ail you, regardless of if you’re there every day or haven’t been in some time (if that’s the case, consider this your official reminder). Whether it’s your first, quickest, easiest, or last option for lunch, chances are, you won’t walk away dissatisfied.