For over 40 years, Tommy’s Restaurant provided affordable food and a simple, friendly diner atmosphere. The restaurant started in Monterey inside Cypress Bowling Alley in 1973, then moved to Seaside in 1977 where it became famous for the $0.99 "Working Man's Breakfast," and then moved in 2002 to Marina, where it remained popular until closing this year.
Judy and Tommy Lee owned the restaurant and ran it with their son, Richard.
Every morning for years, Judy greeted customers and made them feel welcome. “She remembered everybody,” says Bill Hazen says, a loyal customer for over 10 years. He calls their food “affordable and delicious.”
While the Working Man's Breakfast—two eggs, hash browns and toast—did rise in price, it only rose to $1.49. All items remained priced under $5, except for the fried rice combination, which was $6.50.
The pandemic impacted the restaurant industry and Tommy’s was no different. “We tried to hang on as long as we could,” Richard Lee says, “but it was costing us more to run it and keep it going.” The restaurant lost 70 percent of its revenue and their low-price menu left little to no cushion to absorb the costs. “We had no choice but to close unfortunately,” Richard adds.
It was not economic impact alone that the Lee family faced in the last year: The family also lost Tommy Q. Lee, who died at age 84 on Aug. 10, 2020. The family kept the restaurant going for about another six months, and the last day they served breakfast was March 27; Judy retired and moved to San Francisco.
“It’s going to be missed,” Hazen says.