Tom-n-Lou’s Drive In, which opened Feb. 4, at 8819 Ogden Ave. in Brookfield, is bringing vintage charm and affordable fare to hungry community members. Burgers and sandwiches are offered via counter service, can be ordered for pick up via Toast, or through the drive-thru window.
Although the property has seen a great deal of restaurant turnover in recent years, Tom-n-Lou’s owner Lacey Mizell believes past establishments struggled because the property was offered as a rental. Rates would increase regularly, making it challenging for restaurants to survive.
Mizell, who is a project manager with a construction company, bought the property and sees controlled costs as a distinct advantage.
“Purchasing the building was an investment opportunity,” said Mizell. “The pandemic created favorable conditions to purchase the property, and Brookfield is a growing community. Twenty-five thousand cars pass this restaurant every day.”
In fact, purchasing the building preceded the menu concept behind Tom-n-Lou’s Drive In. Mizell, who has restaurant experience, intentionally designed the tightly edited menu to be easy to execute in a limited amount of available space.
Tom-n-Lou’s is housed in just 700 square feet and Mizell thought elevated American fare would be easy to execute in the compact space and remain appealing to residents.
Just because the building came first and the menu came second doesn’t mean the food isn’t a top priority at the diminutive drive in.
All menu items are cooked to order at Tom-n- Lou’s and boast a thoughtful retro flair. Fresh beef burgers are hand-packed before being griddle cooked and smashed. All burgers are customizable and cooked to a customer’s desired degree of doneness before being topped with choice of cheese and assorted garnishes.
“The fried chicken sandwich is my pride and joy,” said Mizell. “And the pulled pork sandwich is really special, too.”
The boneless chicken is buttermilk brined, double breaded and fried to golden brown. Topped with mayonnaise, tomato, lettuce and onion, this sandwich is more than a notch above most chicken sandwich offerings.
Tom-n- Lou’s pulled pork is slow roasted for 10 hours with aromatics including fennel seeds and bay leaves. Arranged on a bun and served with a side of barbecue sauce, the succulent pork over delivers on flavor.
Additionally, Mizell received village approval for a new curb cut on the Grove Avenue side of the property, allowing for the creation of a dedicated drive-thru lane with a second entry for parking. Plans are in motion to add a beer garden on the property when the weather warms.
Mizell says she is also dedicated to hiring high school students to work at Tom-n-Lou’s Drive In. She views younger employees as an untapped and valuable resource. The business owner is eager to give driven students their first job opportunities.
In time, she hopes Tom and Lou’s will become more than a drive in and wants to use the restaurant to engage with residents and give back to the community.
“I would love to work with a Girl Scout troop to organize a free food pantry on the property.” said Mizell. “I would also love to sponsor a local Little League team. I want Tom-n-Lou’s to be part of the Brookfield community.”