By Rose Dorcey
Tailspin Tommy’s is one of the new kids on the block, as far as Oshkosh, Wis., restaurants go, but it’s quickly becoming a pilot favorite. Why? Much of it has to do with the owner’s love of aviation, the aero-theme décor, great food, friendly staff and modest prices.
Oh, there’s one more thing. Tom Steinle gave a portion of his AirVenture week receipts to the EAA Young Eagles Program.
“Paul Poberezny is a regular here,” explained Steinle. “We got to talking one day, and we decided to do this. I didn’t start flying until later in life, but I had a lifelong love of aviation. The whole purpose of the aviation-themed restaurant was to foster an interest in aviation in people of all ages, especially kids, so maybe they can start flying much younger than I did.”
Steinle has been flying for about six years, after serving in the U.S. Army and missing his chance to fly Army helicopters.
“On my 30th birthday, I told my superior officer that I wanted to fly helicopters,” said Steinle. “The first thing he asked was how old I was, and at 30, I was too old. The training stops after age 28.”
A few years later, shortly before he married his wife, Teri, the couple were sitting outdoors when a plane few over. She noticed how he gazed intently at the plane as it flew off into the distance. On his next birthday, she gave him flight lessons.
“I want you to pursue your dream,” she said. He’s been flying ever since.
He brought his love of aviation into the restaurant, and has lined the walls with posters and aviation memorabilia. Excerpts from a World War II diary are displayed in a corner. The collection is growing, and donations are coming in from both military and civilian aviators. Tom loves to talk flying with anyone who comes in.
“AirVenture week is a wonderful time for me,” he said. “Vets come in and share their stories. It really becomes a labor of love.”
But what will really get your attention are the twinkling stars above you. Steinle spent hundreds of hours “morning, noon and night” painting the ceiling black and then installing thousands of feet of fiber optic cable to create a one-of-a-kind star field. It’s a sight to see. While dining in the evening, you have the illusion that you’re sitting outside, under the stars.
“It started out, I was only going to put in 250 light points. Then I decided on 500. As I was working on it, I made the mistake of leaving the instructions on the table in front of my wife. She said, ‘Did you know that all you have to do is take off this part and you can install up to 2,500 lights?’ It turned out she was right,” Steinle laughed.
How is the food? What’s the menu like? Tailspin Tommy’s is famous for their super sized subs, sometimes called grinders. There are over two dozen varieties from which to choose, all served on fresh baked Italian bread, from Tommy’s own recipe, in 8-inch or 16-inch portions.
“People who actually order the 16 inch take one look at it and say, ‘Oh my, Gosh,'” said Steinle. “It comes on two plates.”
Subs can also be served on low-fat, low-carb wraps for those watching their carb intake. The sub sandwich menu includes many with chicken. There’s chicken parmesan, broiled chicken, southwest chicken, Santa Fe chicken and chicken cordon bleu (Steinle’s favorite). There are roast beef, seafood, ham, pork and turkey subs and a Rueben, too. There are two chicken salads, BBQ chicken quesadillas, and of course, for an appetizer, chicken wings.
“We also have cold beer,” said Steinle.
There are tasty combinations in their popular specialty pizzas–taco, Hawaiian and BLT are just a few. There’s the B-52 and the B-17, with lots of pepperoni, and there’s even an Ultralight–with lots of fresh veggies and a low-fat, thin crust for the calorie conscious.
The family restaurant offers a healthy, fresh alternative to fast food.
“It’s good fast food,” said Steinle.
The food is so good, that the OSH tower folks might just recommend it to you when you land. Steinle tells a funny story of when he had just finished hooking up a scanner and speakers to broadcast tower communications throughout the restaurant.
“We just got the speakers going, and the first thing we heard was a pilot ask, ‘Where’s a good place to eat?’ They told him to go to my competition,” Steinle said. “So I got the tower on the phone, and then I took them up a bunch of great food.”
Don’t be surprised to hear the OSH controllers recommend Tailspin Tommy’s from now on.
For more information, visit [http://www.tailspintommy.com].