By Joni Williams
Tommy Mattonie’s Coastal Cafe on Eglin Parkway in Shalimar has been a family favorite for many years. Only problem is it’s where our kin like to go have breakfast. As in these folks actually like to get up at the crack of dawn. We’re perfectly happy getting up at the crack of 8 or 9, and noon is even better.
We were happy to finally stop by Tommy Mattonie’s for lunch one afternoon before they closed at 2, and we sampled some lovely brews. We weren’t going for that other brew they’re renowned for—their delicious, freshly brewed coffee. This time, we were here for beer.
The refrigerated assortment consisted of Abita Turbodog, Abita Amber Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Blue Moon, Miller Lite, Bud and Bud Light, priced at $4.79 and $3.79. We also hungrily eyeballed the extensive lunch menu packed with po’ boys, salads, smoked meat platters and a changing daily special, priced around 10 bucks or less with a few just over. We’d say they have cheap eats, but quality-wise it’s anything but.
We wasted no time ordering an Abita bottled “real sugar and vanilla” root beer and a Turbodog that arrived just as swiftly to our table, accompanied by two frosty mugs. Tommy Mattonie’s, you had us at hello but sealed the deal with those icy glasses. Not only is this our favorite way to drink beer, it was especially appreciated for the Turbodog.
As a typical dark, caramel-malty ale, Turbodog’s signature notes are chocolaty and deep, almost coffee-like. Yet we always detect something akin to a subtle celery aftertaste when this particular brown ale sits and loses its chill. Not bad, mind you, just not as good if it stays perfectly cold. Maybe we should just drink faster.
We probably would have were it not for the huge salad put in front of us. This thing was so big it could have fed a family of five. Or one piggy brew reviewer. Made of sliced lettuce, veggies, shredded cheddar and a generous portion of pulled pork plunked in the center, it wasn’t your typical chick food, either. Hungry chick, yes. Chick on a diet, no.
As if the macho salad wasn’t hearty enough, we opted for rich bleu cheese dressing and were delighted to find Tommy Mattonie’s serves the real deal, the kind with little chunks that make your tongue curl with happiness. Our Turbodog complemented the smoky meat and biting cheeses perfectly. We highly recommend the pairing, if you’re into big, bold flavors.
But we completely understand if you’d prefer to play it tastefully safe with a Sierra Pale Ale, which we’re told is the house favorite. This is one good beer. It’s light, clean and refreshing with just a hint of citrus. You can drink it with almost anything, or nothing at all. If you have a zero-tolerance employer to get back to after lunch, opt for the bottled no-ABV Abita Root Beer that’s a tasty cut above the corn syrupy supermarket brands. You can even get it with a shot — er, scoop — of ice cream.
If you’ve never been to Tommy Mattonie’s, it can be tricky to find as it’s an unassuming place tucked between a couple of small businesses across the street from the towering Eglin Federal Credit Union building. Blink and you might miss it. But don’t.
Once inside, you’ll find a home-style wonderland buzzing with friendly servers and patrons varying from large, chatty groups to solo, at-ease diners. More than likely, you’ll also catch a glimpse of the cafe’s silver-haired namesake circulating, catching up with patrons in a most genuine way that goes beyond polite chitchat. Not sure how he does it, but he seems to remember just about everyone who passes through the front doors.
It’s this warm atmosphere—along with the lip-smackin’ fare—that keeps us coming back again and again, even though Tommy Mattonie’s is now almost an hour’s drive away for us. It doesn’t matter how awake we are (or aren’t) or which brew we’re going for. It’s always worth the trip.
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