New to the West 7th development, Sweet Tomatoes has a few things going for it. In an area dominated by high end and high prices, it's a less expensive option. It's also a healthier alternative to another new and nearby cheap chain, In-N-Out Burger.
Like the disappearing Souper Salad stores, Sweet Tomatoes is a self-serve, all-you-can-eat buffet offering several variations of three items: soup, salad and bread. Some items are mainstays, while others are rotated every two weeks. Prices vary by day and time, and range from $8.59 for lunch to $10.29 for dinner. In addition, there's a breakfast buffet from 9 to 11 a.m. Sundays, with eggs, bacon and cereal. (You can take as many passes through each buffet except for one: the area that features "premium" salad toppers like chicken, beef, and other proteins. Diners are permitted one pass-through on that buffet.)
While the words "buffet chain restaurant" seldom conjure a pretty picture, if you accept it for what it is, Sweet Tomatoes is difficult to dislike. Part of a national chain that has three other locations in North Texas (Arlington, Addison and Irving), Sweet Tomatoes is clean, spacious and comfortable, with a nice view of West 7th. The food -- which the restaurant insists is made daily, in its own kitchen -- is not gourmet, but on a recent visit, it was intermittently enjoyable.
Outrageous orange salad, for instance, was instantly likable, with its mix of romaine and spinach, red grapes, cashews, and ribbons of red bell peppers, all tossed in an orange-infused dressing whose sweetness was tempered by a touch of Dijon mustard. Caesar salad was made with crisp romaine leaves, lemon juice and, instead of the usual Parmesan, grated Asiago, a nice twist; the croutons were hopelessly mushy. You can also build your own salad, choosing from more than a dozen ingredients.
According to the restaurant, its bread is made from scratch every morning and baked throughout the day. Of the two focaccia breads offered, garlic Asiago was the better choice. Sliced into triangles like a pizza, it had a thin, crisp crust and was topped with Asiago, olive oil and garlic; it was simple and good. Quattro Formaggi focaccia had a thicker, moister crust but was coated in a bland marinara sauce.
Other breads included blueberry muffins, buttermilk cornbread and slices of sourdough.
For a soup, we avoided the tomato chipotle bisque, which had formed a skin on its surface, and instead chose the turkey chili, made with ground turkey and a trio of beans (kidney, pinto and black). The turkey was formed but tender, like tiny meatballs, and worked well with the firm beans.
Sides included mac and cheese, whole sweet or regular baked potatoes and diced sweet potatoes, the latter of which had so much maple glaze, it would qualify as a dessert.
Actual dessert consisted of a chocolate/vanilla swirl from a Dreyer's frozen yogurt machine. It was then that we were happy it was all-you-can-eat.