I’ve been eating at Eastside Big Tom for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’m pretty sure I consumed a Big Tom burger or two in utero. With a side of onion rings and goop, to be sure. It’s a family favorite; full of memories and fun over the years. Both sets of my grandparents ate there with my parents as children. Then my parents took me and now, I take my kids. Big Tom is in our blood and often, in our tummies.
Hailing from Olympia’s E. 4th Avenue for the last fifty years, Eastside Big Tom has quite the history beyond my family’s infatuation. Founded in 1948 as Eagan’s, the Fritsch family took ownership in 1969 and it has been Eastside Big Tom ever since. It’s no surprise they’ve been an Olympia staple for so many decades. Eastside Big Tom is a fabulous, down home burger joint. They were the first drive-thru in Washington and these days are well known for their generosity.
In early 2020 there was an impromptu “free day” announced on the Eastside Big Tom Facebook page. All orders from 10:30 a.m. through 3 p.m. were 100% free. Not a dime was collected. All in all, Eastside Big Tom gave away $2,800 of food. Just because. When asked why, owner Michael Fritsch wrote:
Well, I had a great therapy appointment today, and then read a post from my Aunt Ida where she’s been paying it forward for the last month or so at various drive-thrus down south. Inspired, I decided that’d be awesome to do here. In true last-minute fashion, I told the staff five minutes before we opened what we were up to and turned the signs over. What a ride...so many faces of gratitude, so many thanks, and so many questions, mostly “Why are you doing this?” The staff was free to answer however they wanted. Mostly, they just let people know I was in a really good mood and felt like sharing. Regardless, we spread a little joy today, and that was pretty cool...
Then again on Fritsch’s birthday, there was free cake and discounted birthday milkshakes. And in January they announced that all day, every day - patrons could receive free hot chocolate from the walk up window until springtime. You know, just to make these cold, wet, Washington days more bearable.
It’s not just the generosity and celebrations that make Eastside Big Tom a worthy stop. Their food has a near cult following.
The signature Big Tom is everyone’s favorite - double meat, double cheese, goop, lettuce, pickle, onion, and tomato. I always like to add a less-than-$2 corn dog to my order, too. There is just something about a Big Tom corn dog . Mmmmm! Our family can never decide between the crinkle cut fries, onion rings or tots as a side to our burgers, so it’s usually one of each, family-style with lots and lots of “goop” for dipping.
What is goop you ask? Well, it’s a secret! A heavenly secret sauce! That blend of dip perfection is Big Tom’s claim to fame and will forever be. If you haven’t tried it, well, you just don’t know. Yet.
As you drive down 4th Avenue, you won’t miss Eastside Big Tom. The decor will catch your eye for sure: giant dinosaurs, a Mystery Machine, and lots of characters! Hop in the drive thru line if you’re in a hurry or park and saunter up to the walk-up window. There is great outdoor seating, photo opportunities, a magnet board for kids (or kids at heart), and lots of token Olympia people-watching opportunities. Eastside Big Tom is a true gem of our state capitol when considering the quick bite options around town. One you won’t forget and one you’ll return to with generations to come.
Eastside Big Tom is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday from 10:30am to 8pm. They are closed Sundays and with reason. Just another thing I love about good ol’ Big Tom.
Keep a close eye on their Facebook page. You’ll love getting to know Michael and Brenda Fritsch and you never know when a great sale or celebration will be taking place. I hear a special milkshake day is around the corner!