Tomaso’s on Main: An Owner and Restaurant with Grit

photos by Zach Hoffman, by Jessica Lewis

Chef Tom Pratt is back with a new restaurant, Tomaso’s on Main. If you were a fan of the Gourmet Gas Station in Gallatin Gateway, then you will be happy with Tom’s new iteration of the former restaurant and catering service.

Unfortunately, the Gourmet Gas Station fell on hard times following the Great Recession and was forced to close its doors after 15 years of serving the Gallatin Gateway area. Tom then bounced around and took a job at the Inn on the Gallatin and then later at the Eagles.

Tom wanted his own place again, however the high priced downtown storefronts prevented him from doing so. The American Legion has a commercial kitchen upstairs, and it had been vacant for some time. This led to an opportunity to partner with the Legion, and Tom jumped on it.

Tomaso’s on Main opened on April 11, 2017 and he is still serving the Mexican fare he learned as a child from his mother and family housekeeper, Rosa. Tom has proven time and time again that he has the “true grit” to continue on in the food industry.
Some friends and I went to Tomaso’s and found the food not only delicious and high quality, but also a great bang for our buck! And you sure can’t beat the quick and friendly service. Be sure to go check out Tomaso’s on Main for the great Mexican food that Tom is known for. Tomaso’s is currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4:30 to 8:30pm; just take a seat in the American Legion and you will be served promptly.

Jessica Lewis: What made you want to get into the restaurant business?

Tom Pratt:  Oh, I just really enjoyed good food and feeding people and making people happy. I’ve made people happy with drinks but I’d rather do it with food and drinks, you know? And my mom was a really good cook. I grew up with a housekeeper from Sonora, my mom got some good recipes and I just have always liked cooking.

JL: How was Tomaso’s conceptualized? How did this place come about?

TP: It always takes two, you know, for something to work out. I thought it was a pretty good opportunity because the facility was there and it wasn’t being used. I really thought I could help the American Legion get some business down here. I always liked what I did at Gourmet Kitchen and there will always only be one Gourmet Gas Station for sure, but the thing that worked really well, that I did for 15 years, was that there was lot of good Mexican food. Probably around half the menu, and then there was other stuff to eat too. Good food, you know? Salads, steaks and fish, food I liked and that would work good in a restaurant. I’ve been here so long and I’ve seen it change so much, the little places that were small holes in the wall, with pretty inexpensive food, are mostly gone. It’s really an expensive place to want to go out and eat downtown and part of me just wants to rebel against that and just have some good food that’s affordable. I don’t blame anybody downtown though; it’s an expensive place to rent from. Because my rent is inexpensive here, I just want to pass it on.

JL: That leads into my next question. What makes Tomaso’s unique in Bozeman? What do you offer that other places don’t?

TP: Yeah, I can talk a lot. I like funky, not that the Legion’s funky, but like how the Gourmet Gas Station was. I mean, that’s how the name evolved; we just started doing real food. And then we would surprise people, some would have house guests and they would take them to the gas station to eat and they thought it was kind of funny. And I can see it working here. It’s a really comfortable bar, you know, I think we could do some really fun food here. I’m just taking baby steps because I started it by myself and I’ve picked up people as needed. I think an extra bite or two of something good on your plate is good advertising. And people who come in are really happy, and they come back and bring somebody.  

JL: What do you want people to experience here when they step through your doors?

TP: A comfortable atmosphere and good food and good service. Pretty basic, but I feel like good service is kind of a lost art and its maybe just old school stuff. I think with being small you can take good care of people; smaller amounts of food are affordable.

JL: What do you enjoy the most about being part of Bozeman?

TP: I love the location, geologists, and ski bums. I love the outdoors, I love all the old hippies that moved here and found a way to make a living. It sure has changed a lot in the last 10 years! What do I like the most? I like that I have a diverse customer base. With having the restaurant in Gateway, I’d get the blue collar workers, construction workers, ranchers and people from Big Sky. I just really like the diversity of people, you know? And the college influence is good too; it keeps you pretty young.

JL: You have been serving the Bozeman area for 20+ years. What fuels your “true grit”?

TP: I’m really stubborn. Once I start doing something I don’t stop! I believe in myself, you know? And I believe in the product, so I think that if you have a really good product, even if its from a gas station 15 miles out of town, people will come from wherever to eat there. I think I can do the same thing here; it’s a funky little location downtown. I think it’s just mainly what I first said, that I love food and I like seeing people happy. It ties into their most basic senses; people have bad days and if they can just come in and have a cold beer and a good burger, it makes them happy. Or even a fish taco; it doesn’t take much.

JL: Yeah I agree. Are there any upcoming events or specials you want people to know about?

TP: I would say the steak dinner that just started; it’s a $15.00 steak special on Thursday nights. And the chili rellenos will definitely be a special in the near future, maybe a Friday night. Taco salads and enchiladas are specials almost every night.

JL: What’s your most popular dish here right now?

TP: Fish tacos, the nachos and the hot salsa. I’m starting to make bigger batches, but it’s homemade chips
and salsa so it’s good. Everybody likes that. Yeah, fish tacos and nachos for sure.   

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