Tolly-Ho Restaurant first opened its doors in November of 1971 on Winslow Street at what used to be 108 W. Euclid Ave. In May of 1987, one of the founders – Bob Holopeter – relocated the restaurant to its well-known location at 395 S. Limestone. In the Spring of 2011, we moved to 606 S. Broadway and took over the old Hart’s Dry Cleaning building.
We happily rented the storefront on Limestone for many years and had been patiently waiting for the right opportunity to purchase a building of our own. We made what we considered substantial offers on properties in the past but found out we are just a little fish in a mighty big pond.
Finally, in 2010 the time was right and we purchased a new location for Tolly-Ho. We had been looking for a place of our own for years. We were like that young married couple that had been renting and saving and was excited about buying our own home. Never mind that we were 40 years old – we were (and still are) young at heart!
During our move, we put a lot of thought into redecorating and changing Tolly-Ho. As a restaurant, compare us to our menu. Over the years, we’ve added sandwiches, we’ve taken things off the menu. We’ve made new omelets and moved things around. But the core items that make Tolly-Ho what it is have never changed. When you walk into our current building, you’ll see the same counter and the same wood walls. You’ll see the familiar paddles but the new reversed layout of the building. But when you walk in it still FEELS like Tolly-Ho. You feel comfortable in a business suit, a prom gown, or all sweaty in your running shoes straight from the 5k. And the new location is a quick 3-minute walk from the old location and most importantly – we have 15 TIMES MORE PARKING!!!
Our menu is best known for things like the Tolly-Ho family of burgers that include the Tolly-Ho quarter-pounder, the Super-Ho, the Mega-Ho and the Big Tolly. We also have sandwiches, side items, drinks, desserts, milkshakes, and breakfasts served 24 hours a day.So what makes our menu interesting? Besides the old-fashioned and aged marquee, that is? Why it’s the 40 years of love that go inside.
Tolly-Ho was started by two guys that shared a love for burgers. The Bobs. Bob Tolley and Bob HO-llopeter. Bob Hollopeter is the Bob that’s loved and remembered as “Papa Ho”. He worked at the restaurant every week until he retired in his 60’s and sold the restaurant to a young 29 year-old upstart named Roy who somehow shared his old-fashioned values and ideals. Their common values included the idea that the owner of Tolly-Ho should be hands-on – working the restaurant every week so they could be in touch with the food, the customers, and the employees.
Tolly-Ho has been around so long because the owner is hands-on and involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. And the menu. He tries samples of all of the food that passes through. He tastes the sauces before we buy them. Who do you think picked that awesome BBQ? The man who loves to grill out at home! He makes sure we have REAL grilled chicken – not some processed thing. And he wants real cheese. Sometimes he travels to visit friends and family. You can thank his time spent in Jacksonville, Florida for the Tolly-Ho Limeade. That’s why we’ve had it for years! And because he has a friend in Pennsylvania – we have the best Philly around! He tries not to let the menu get too big. It still has to be simple enough that one cook can manage everything and that the grill doesn’t get overcrowded with lots of different items when the line is out the door. There’s a balance to everything. He’s a businessman, but he’s a SMALL businessman.
To understand Tolly-Ho, you need to understand that our passion is to provide for our customers “A tradition of quality food with quick and friendly service in a clean and unique atmosphere”. We do that by focusing on three main objectives: Quality, Service and Cleanliness. We buy quality products from the front to the back of the house. The owner tries every product we buy. Our servers have to pass a test before they are hired and our kitchen staff works in the back for over a year before they can cook by themselves.
Speaking of employees, we did a little math. Did you know that the average employee over the last 20 years has worked for Tolly-Ho for 3 years!?! In the restaurant business, that’s AMAZING!! And that includes the people that work for a month and leave or only work for us a few weeks. We get that like any restaurant – people who think it would be fun before they realize that this job is a JOB. Working at Tolly-Ho is hard work. But it can also be fun and once you’ve proven you’re sticking around, it’s more like being in a family than anything. We all help each other out.
As for cleanliness – let’s talk about Moma Ho. Most of you have seen her buzzing around the restaurant late at night. She talks to people and hangs around. Did you know that her #1 job is to make sure that the restaurant is running smoothly and that the customers are happy? While she does that, she does something she loves to do – get to know our customers. We love that and so do our customers. But did you know that she also has another job? She comes in during other times or when we’re slow and makes sure that the restaurant is clean. I’m talking about the extra cleaning the employees don’t have the time to get to, like dusting the stuff up on the walls and scrubbing things. We’re a 24-hour restaurant. We don’t get to do deep cleaning after we close because we don’t close. We’re so thankful to have her. So if you see her, give her a big (gentle) hug.
By the way – though the place does get messy, if you want to know how clean it really is, here’s the true test of a restaurant. Find out how many ex-employees eat there. At Tolly-Ho, a good portion of our regular customers are ex-employees. They know that not even the 1-second rule applies at Tolly-Ho! And as for the unique atmosphere – we credit that to our customers!
Tolly-Ho is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Almost.
We do occasionally close for holidays and special events. A “special event” would be an ice storm that shuts down the city. Wait! We didn’t have to close for that! Special events are generally when we decide to close for a few days for deep cleaning or maintenance. We usually try to schedule these around holidays or other times when business is typically slow. Those dates will be posted on the website and posted in advance in the restaurant. We usually close for Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day, but are open for New Years Eve and New Years Day. But since we’re a small business, we can change our mind, so check the site and look for signs.
If you want to know if we’re open on a holiday, you can call the restaurant. If we’re open, we’ll answer. If not, you’ll get a machine telling you we’re closed. If you get neither, we’re probably so busy that the regular line and the call waiting are tied up, so wait a few minutes and call back!
We cook everything you order AFTER you order it. Your burger doesn’t go on the grill until we get the ticket for it. That means fresh, hot, juicy burgers, and fresh fries every time.
No corporate rip-offs here. When you order fries, you’re getting FRIES!!! If you get bacon on your burger, you’re going to taste it in every bite.
Our burgers have never been frozen and they are ground locally and brought in daily. Our Tolly-Ho burgers are quarter-pound patties. That’s pretty well known. But unlike most fast food places, our small burger is 1/8 of a pound. That means that our double cheeseburger is a quarter-pound burger as well.
If we have an item in the restaurant, we can probably make it. You want a cheeseburger omelet? Sure! You want a Mega Ho with Cheese, Fresh Grilled Mushrooms, Hot Crispy Bacon and a Fried Egg? Not a Problem!
We offer some distinct foods that are unique to the area or to Tolly-Ho. We sell Kentucky Silk Pie which we can best described as eating a light fluffy chocolate ice cream pie on a sweet shortbread crust. Our words, of course. We also sell Ale-8 and Diet Ale-8. We have some serious Ale-8 junkies out there. They love their Winchester Swamp Water. (No offense Ale-8. That’s a term of endearment.) We also make the occasional round of homemade desserts. We have made puddings and pies and such in the past. We currently sell homemade brownies. They are oh-so-yummy served warm with ice cream and chocolate or caramel on top.
And one of the things that Tolly-Ho is most well-known for is our Cheddar Tots. We’ve seen other businesses try to duplicate these but they just aren’t the same. We’ve had them since 2001 and they’re one of our biggest sellers. So keep coming in for those tots – for the unknowing – they’re like tator tots with cheddar cheese in the middle. And we’ll keep making them like you like them. Oh, and for something different – try them with chili on top!
Tolly-Ho’s plate average goes from $2 – $15. You can eat on a tight budget if you like. Our breakfasts are inexpensive, tasty and satisfying. Our small cheeseburgers make a quick, inexpensive snack. You can also have the ultimate Triple-Decker Mega-Ho burger with the cheeses of your choice and everything we can think to put on it – fresh mushrooms, crisp and fresh bacon, an egg, or jalapenos. You can grab any delicious side item and top it off with a tasty milkshake with goodies like Caramel Oreo. We can satisfy any budget or hedonistic desire. Or, if you’re a purist, just like 40 years ago you can still get the simple Tolly-Ho with Cheese, Fries and a Coke.
There’s no corporate office to call if there’s a problem. If something’s not running smoothly enough or we decide to make a menu change, the owner just changes it. He’s in touch with the daily operation of the restaurant, and has a feel for the crowd. He works the busiest shift and feels the same stresses as his employees. When something doesn’t run efficiently, he knows it and works to take care of his employees.
Tolly-Ho doesn’t have any corporate structure to support. There are no offices to pay for. There is no advertising. We pay the mortgage, utilities, food, supplies, employees and general maintenance and overhead. That’s how we are able to buy such quality products and still sell them at reasonable prices.
We get really, really busy at night. This begs the question – why not expand? Be like the fast food joints and put in multiple registers. Make the kitchen bigger and put in automatic fryers. We could really make a lot of money. Or so we’re told.
That’s just not what we’re about. The owner is all about coming in and cooking his busy shift with the small crew he knows and loves. He works hard and he goes home to his family. That’s all he wants. Tolly-Ho is about coming in at night and waiting in line to order. Standing around with your friends when it’s crazy and elbow to elbow at the counter for your food. Catching a table just as it’s cleared and laughing about something that happened at the place you just left with your friends as you eat that juicy burger, awesome cheese fries, and fantastic shake you just couldn’t get anywhere else. The experience wouldn’t be the same if Tolly-Ho were like the fast food joints. Nobody would remember their late-night trips to Tolly-Ho fondly.
You might think that when we get busy, we precook our burgers like the fast food joints or something. NO WE DON'T! We still wait until we get those orders in the kitchen before we load everything. We have a system. Once we get those tickets, they get called out and everything gets loaded. Your food is cooked to order every time you come in, whether we’re slow or we have a line out the door.
One fun little thing that makes your Tolly-Ho waiting time a little more enjoyable is the JukeBox and the selection of pinball machines and video games scattered around the restaurant. You can get into a game of old-fashioned Galaga or Donkey Kong, which always brings back memories for what we call the “Old Hos”. The younger crowd likes them too. We also have Mega-Touch machines and newer games. Come check out the latest selections while we’re cooking your hot breakfast or your juicy Ho-burger.
You can satisfy your French Toast craving at dinnertime or still catch breakfast at noon when you oversleep on Saturday. You can also have an Omelet and a Tolly-Ho burger together if you like. That’s the beauty of Tolly-Ho’s breakfast anytime. Oh – and when you order breakfast, you get coffee for 75 cents.
We know we’re loved – we couldn’t be in business for 40 years otherwise – but sometimes we’re really reminded of that. For those of you that vocally support Tolly-Ho on Facebook, on the Radio, and on other forms of media – Thanks!!
We rock it old-school. We still write your order on (gasp!) a piece of paper. Your food is cooked by short-order cooks, not computerized fryers and teenagers with one day of training. Those things have their place, but not in Tolly-Ho. We still ask your name just like we did 40 years ago and yell for you to come get your food.
Your food is cooked to order, but our employees hustle to get your hot, fresh food out to you as quick as we can. Thanks for your patience…
People don’t just come to Tolly-Ho for the food. For decades, students have come to see us during all hours of the day and night to study or just walk for a minute and grab a bite or a fresh cup of coffee. Groups of people of all walks of life meet here for various reasons on a regular and not so regular basis. (Quick shout-out to the old Thursday Night Crowd from the ’90’s)