Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore, a ‘small business backbone’, returns triumphantly for indoor dining

After being unable to offer indoor dining for nearly four months, popular eatery returns for full service

SYCAMORE – Diann Beaulieu has been in the restaurant business since she was 13 years old.

“I love the fast pace of the restaurant business, and I also love serving good food and getting to know my customers,” Beaulieu said.

Beaulieu is the owner of Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore featuring Catering by Diann. The restaurant, located at 1670 DeKalb Ave. in Sycamore, has been a staple of the community for more than 40 years.

“We’re all about good food fast, and fast food fresh-made to order,” she said. “The quality of food and the ingredients you use make a big difference.”

Beaulieu said what sets Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore apart is that at the restaurant, the customers are known by their name, not by an order number.

“Small businesses are the backbone not only of our town, but also of the country,” she said. “I appreciate each and every one of my customers through the years, even more so through the difficulty of the pandemic.”

Pandemic preparations

After nearly four months unable to serve patrons inside because of surges in COVID-19 cases, the restaurant reopened for indoor dining this past week after Region 1, which includes DeKalb County, advanced to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan.

The restaurant’s staff wears masks and gloves, tables and booths have been marked for social distancing, and the restaurant continues to use one-time-use Styrofoam and plastic containers instead of plastic baskets for customers’ ease and hygiene.

Throughout the pandemic, the restaurant has offered carryout, drive-thru and delivery by its own delivery staff.

“Where most restaurants and businesses had to let staff go, we actually had to hire more,” Assistant General Manager Josh Osenga said.

The restaurant has 41 staff total, with six or seven additional staff being added to help with drive-thru and delivery orders.

“Training was a little different because it was done over the phone,” Osenga said. “Making sure our staff and customers are safe during the pandemic is a serious concern, and we have always done our best to keep everything safe and clean.”

The history of Tom & Jerry’s

Tom & Jerry’s restaurants were started by two Northern Illinois University graduates, Tom Rosenow and Jerry Blessing, in the 1970s. They didn’t own the restaurants for long and sold them to John Pappas by the mid-1980s.

Although other Tom & Jerry’s restaurants, including locations in Rockford, Belvidere and Rochelle were once tied to the original locations, they now are independently owned and operated branches.

Diann Beaulieu started working in the DeKalb Tom & Jerry’s in 1994, then the Sycamore restaurant in 1998. She bought the Sycamore location in 2002 and the DeKalb location in 2004. She sold the DeKalb location in 2006.

In 2012, Beaulieu expanded the Sycamore restaurant and started Catering by Diann, which caters large and small community events and occasions.

“The catering business has grown exponentially, but it has changed due to the pandemic,” she said. “We had more than 70 weddings booked last year and only did a handful. We certainly missed being a part of people’s big day.”

Catering by Diann is accepting orders for Super Bowl catering, with ribs, chicken wings, Italian beef sandwiches and mostaccioli being favorites for game day. For ordering information, call 815-895-4420.

‘Everyone has a favorite on the menu’

Sarah Meyer has worked at Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore for 18½ years, starting as a cashier when she was a student at NIU. She now is the restaurant’s general manager.

“I love that every day is different at the restaurant; it’s never the same,” she said. “What makes the restaurant different from others is that it’s homemade.”

The restaurant serves homemade soup daily, and although the food is quickly served, it’s made to order.

Lee and Rick Reed of Stillman Valley visit the Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore every time they return to town. Lee always orders the stuffed pepper soup, and Rick orders a Polish sausage or Italian beef sandwich.

“Everything is good, we love the food,” Lee Reed said. “You can’t get the soup anywhere else. We always have to stop whenever we’re in town.”

Meyer said that everyone has a favorite on the menu. Kitchen manager Jose Mendez said he can’t choose just one item as his favorite.

“I love everything, because everything we make is good,” he said.

In addition to “Chicago fare,” including hot dogs and Italian beef, the restaurant also serves gyros, fried chicken, wraps, sandwiches, hamburgers, seafood and soups. The restaurant offers a different basket special every day. For dessert, the restaurant offers several flavors of milkshakes, avalanches and floats.

Their ribs have won the award for “Best Ribs” at the Sycamore Ribs, Rhythm & Brews Festival in 2015 and 2018. Every Thursday night, the restaurant offers a barbecue night with their award-winning ribs, chicken and pork chop sandwiches. The restaurant is also offering a special on their ribs through Jan. 30 as part of Sycamore’s Eat Week.

During the summer, the Thursday night barbecues are held outdoors on the restaurant’s patio, which can seat 86 people following social distancing guidelines. During the summer months, the patio has an overhead tent, garden lights and potted flowers for decoration.

Beaulieu said that although some menu items have changed over the years, the restaurant’s dedication to quality and customer service has not.

“We’ve added a few things over the years to offer our customers different options,” Beaulieu said. “When I first started, there was pizza on the menu. I think that customers have come to know and love what we offer, and the food on our menu hasn’t varied very much.”

‘More than food’

When describing Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore, Meyer said the restaurant is “more than food, it’s a gathering place.”

“We’re a staple and tradition in the community for more than 40 years,” she said.

“We’ve been here for more than 40 years for a reason – people love our food, they love us and we love them,” Osenga said.

Beaulieu said what she loves the most about the restaurant is “that it’s part of a great community like Sycamore.”

“I love the restaurant because I love the customers,” she said. “I love getting to know people. They come in often, I see their kids grow up, we talk about jobs and traveling. You find things out about each other and become friends through the years. At Tom and Jerry’s, our customers are our friends. They are our family.”

Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore featuring Catering by Diann, 1670 DeKalb Ave. in Sycamore, is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For information about the restaurant, visit www.sycamoretomandjerrys.com or call 815-895-4420.

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