Greasy meats and frozen treats at Tom’s Drive-In

Jamie Gajewski

Everyone’s least favorite part of a carnival is feeling like you are going to throw up after stepping off of the Tilt-A-Whirl. This is exactly how I felt after consuming a Perchwich and a 99-cent rootbeer float at Tom’s Drive-In located near Woodman’s off of College Avenue.
I may have felt like this because the food was extremely greasy, or possibly because Paul Jackson and I chose to eat our food in what appeared to be an actual Tilt-A-Whirl pod, or possibly part of a spaceship.
Truthfully, I am somewhat of a rookie when it comes to eating fast food. I usually steer clear of brightly colored heart attack centers because the only meat I eat is fish and I have freakishly high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Therefore, it was essential to bring along Paul Jackson, an expert on all things wrapped in foil. Paul has sampled fast food in all 50 states, as well as on five other continents.
Paul suavely ordered a Tom’s Special, which is some sort of dead cow patty with cheap vegetables and fatty sauces. Paul chose to hold the tomatoes.
According to the drive-in’s Web site, Tom’s is “famous for good food.” While the Perchwich was more than twice the cost of a Filet-O-Fish, I think that the poorly titled sandwich made me feel about six times as sick to my stomach as the fishy McDonald’s entree.
I blame the ambiance. Not only does one feel like he or she has been thrust into the middle of a space-age carnival, but the overly stimulating neon lights and murals of fire breathers bring back painful memories of terrifying clowns popping balloons in my face and me getting lost amongst gaggles of strung-out carnies and pimpled teenagers.
While the actual meal was mediocre, the root beer float was more satisfying than winning a gigantic stuffed Pegasus in a Skeeball competition.
For only 99 cents, a generous helping of creamy vanilla ice cream floated in a sea of frothy root beer. The ice cream reached all the way to the top of a clear plastic lid. I found it to be quite impressive, and that was just the small size.
The Tom’s Drive-In Web site is located at I am not sure why “drive-in” is pluralized, but it does mean that the word “veins” appears in the site address.
On the Web site there is a nutrition section that lists the portion, calories, carbs, protein, fat, fiber, cholesterol and sodium for each item.
It is horrifying. One large mint shake packs in almost a day’s worth of calories: 1,606. A box of mozzarella sticks breaks the scale at 4,590 calories per box and over 12,000 mg of sodium.
To Tom’s credit, the restaurant does offer a veggie burger, containing 3 grams of fiber, for its more health conscious customers. I get the feeling these customers are as rare as the winning duck in the duck pond.
Milkshakes were sold for a mere 20 cents when Tom’s Drive-In first opened in Appleton in 1960. Hamburgers and fries were even less, just 15 cents each.
Today, Tom’s prices have greatly increased. Each of our sandwiches cost $4.19 before tax. The price of a shrimp dinner basket was over seven dollars. Although the high prices may imply quality, the only items worth your money are the delicious frozen treats advertised as coming from “The Arctic Zone.”
Tom’s offers shakes, malts, cones, floats and sundaes. Customers can also choose to blend ice cream with the candy of their choice. This has been dubbed an Arctic Blast.
Ice cream treats come in standard flavors such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry as well as more exotic combinations like blueberry, pineapple, mint and butterscotch.
If someone you know has never been to a carnival, drag them through the glass doors at any one of the seven Tom’s Drive-In locations throughout the Fox Valley and Green Bay.
Not only will their stomachs experience an authentic feeling of sickness, but their dreams will also be filled with horrifyingly colorful images for weeks.