A Culinary Home Run

Photography by Patrick Wilkes
Chef Matt Tommey

When Chef Matt Toomey—”The Toominator,” as many Major League baseball players call him—arrived in the Eastern Sierra from San Diego, a unique restaurant concept was born: serving gourmet food out of a gas station convenience store. Toomey’s culinary talent and his innovative idea led to the creation of Whoa Nellie Deli in the Mobil gas station in Lee Vining. There, Toomey served up countless plates of fish tacos, grilled pork chops with apricot and wild berry glaze, and other culinary delights.

In 2012, Toomey left Whoa Nellie Deli and opened his own restaurant, Toomey’s, in The Village at Mammoth. Fans can still find their old favorites on the menu at Toomey’s new place, including lobster taquitos, wild buffalo meatloaf, BBQ baby back ribs and carrot cake. In his new digs, Toomey also introduced diners to casual Americana fare such as coconut mascarpone pancakes, filet mignon and seafood jambalaya, all served in an unpretentious atmosphere.

“I like the idea you can walk in and you don’t have to be dressed up,” Toomey says. “You can wear a baseball hat at the table and still have a really nice filet mignon.”

The new location was the perfect opportunity to combine Toomey’s love of cooking with his passion for baseball. Decorating the restaurant’s walls are baseballs and photos of players signed by Major League stars who have befriended Toomey over the years. These stars stop into the restaurant when they’re in town. While dining there, you might bump into former players such as Mike Sweeney (Kansas City Royals), Trevor Hoffman (Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers), David Wells (New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays) and Bret Saberhagen (Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies).

Toomey’s latest venture? Selling his seasoning. He roasts the black pepper in the mixture to bring out the peppercorn’s natural oil. The seasoning also includes pink peppercorn to infuse a sweeter component.

“I get more excited when people come up and go, ‘oh my gosh, my kids, they eat their broccoli now,’” he says. “‘We put Toomey’s seasoning on and they eat vegetables.’”

To find a list of stores that carry Toomey’s seasoning or to check out the restaurant’s menu, visit toomeysmammoth.com.

Craving comfort food to warm you up on a cold winter’s night? Matt Toomey of Toomey’s restaurant in Mammoth Lakes, California, recommends sitting down to a family dinner of wild buffalo meatloaf. It’s relatively quick to prepare, plus you’ll have leftovers to use on days when holiday shopping leaves little time to cook. “You can just cook it and reheat it very easily,” says Toomey. “Most kinds of meats, you can’t cook them and cook them again. They lose their texture, flavor and integrity. If you cook salmon and try to reheat it, it tastes different, but something like a meatloaf or casserole, you heat it up again and it almost tastes better. I just wouldn’t recommend freezing it.”

Toomey's Wild Buffalo Meatloaf

Toomey’s Wild Buffalo Meatloaf

5 lbs ground buffalo
2 tablespoons roasted garlic
4 eggs
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sweet barbecue sauce such as Sweet Baby Ray’s plus 1/2 cup for brushing loaf
8 ounces ground sausage (optional)

Combine the first six ingredients plus the cup of barbecue sauce in mixer or bowl. Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. For extra flavor and fat you can add 8 ounces of ground sausage.

Spray roasting pan with pan guard. Form the meat mixture into a shape similar to a bread loaf. Compress the loaf by pressing and slapping it to make sure it’s completely compacted and doesn’t fall apart. Or use a loaf pan instead of a roasting pan.

For a flavorful crust, brush 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce on the outside of the loaf before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Cut into portion sizes that suit you. Chef Toomey suggests finishing the meatloaf slices on a hot clean grill and serving with mashed potatoes and vegetables of your choice.