Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, September 5, 2017

I had something happen to me at a restaurant in Chicago recently that hasn’t occurred to me in a long time. It was wonderful. It was awe-inspiring. It made me have hope in humanity.

Yep. I got served a couple of slices of ripe tomato.

What? you say. That can’t possibly be cause for so much celebration!

Well, I disagree. Too many restaurants these days offer slices of this esteemed fruit in its unripe stage, whether it’s on a burger bun or in a Caprese salad. And that doesn’t sit well with me. Pale, all-too-firm, flavorless variants just don’t do the trick, but I’m worried they are just fine with many eatery owners and chefs, who look at the ingredient as more of a decoration than a viable consumable.

Folks, that’s lazy gastronomy. There’s no reason why a tomato on a plate can’t be perfectly ripe. Customers deserve them. This isn’t a tough thing to find.

So why this issue is so pervasive is beyond me. I don’t think it has to do with cost; one can purchase inexpensive, deep-red tomatoes in many local markets that won’t melt the purse. They taste better, they look better, they feel better. Overall, they are better than the unripe version when it comes to a variety of dishes … unless the sole purpose is to showcase the less-than-ripe iteration in items such as fried green tomatoes. On a burger bun or in a Caprese salad, however, they should be as crimson as the devil’s hubcaps. They should be sweet, soft, squishy, lovely. No white or green centers, please. They should give to the knife and fork. They should not fight back.

The restaurant in Chicago that recently served me slices of ripe tomato was called 312 Chicago, by the way. It’s in the Kimpton Hotel Allegro. It’s certainly not the only place in the world that serves ripe tomatoes, but it has to be applauded for doing so, because this practice has become all too uncommon. I’d like to see it more frequently, but who knows if that will come to pass. In any case, 312 did it right. The chef and manager ought to be commended.

As is anyone else who believes in the worth of ripe, toothsome tomatoes. You can’t help but trust a person who subscribes to the credo of that. I’m in that pool of admirers, definitely.

Too bad some in the industry haven’t yet followed suit.

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