Written by gianna hudson
“When you meet Tom, you’re going to call him Tom Brown. He’s just a double-name guy.” That’s what Ashley Brown, co-owner and wife of Tom Brown, told me when I sat down to interview her about their new location opening at the start of July. Mississippi native Ashley shared the history behind Tom Brown’s, from uprooting their lives in Meridian, Mississippi to planting new seeds in Madison, Alabama. The Browns have flourished under the banner of hard work, gratitude, and food that’s good for the soul. Their enticing menu takes guests on an invigorating journey that showcases Tom’s ability to effortlessly compose culinary creations with fresh ingredients in an inviting atmosphere.
In 2018, the Brown Family began to search for a place where their culinary vision could be brought to life. After extensive research Tom, who worked in real estate and flipped properties for 25 years, realized Huntsville was on the verge of becoming a major metropolitan area, one that would welcome the dream establishment the Browns envisioned. After a visit to Huntsville exceeded all of their expectations, the couple began looking for a place to build their restaurant. Through long-distance communication, in September of 2019, a vacant building in Madison, Alabama gained a new tenant.
The family moved to Alabama and hit the ground running. They quickly began working to renovate their dream restaurant. It’s clear that Ashley and Tom have incredible work ethics. Learning from the growing pains of previous businesses, they were able to cultivate experience and determination into a highly successful operation in Tom Brown’s Restaurant. Ashley and Tom gutted the Madison location and reconstructed the beautiful eatery that exists now. After holding strong through Covid related shutdowns, Tom Brown’s was finally able to open on June 1, 2020.
No one could have anticipated the hardships the pandemic brought, but in that time Ashley and Tom were able to find gratitude and spent those days with a singular mantra, manuals, policies, and rest. “God was preparing us for something bigger than we could ever even imagine,” Ashley says. Opening in the midst of a global pandemic is no easy feat, this includes finding workers. With a limited hiring pool, Ashley and Tom set out to transform around 30 college students and 5 to 6 seasoned servers into the well-oiled machine that has become Tom Brown’s standard. With expert precision and a training manual of his own invention, Tom began his boot camp and together, he and Ashley put together an unbeatable team of staff.
The Madison restaurant is home to a modern take on Southern Gothic, a nod to Ashley’s design aesthetic. The sultry interior is complemented by decadent steak and seafood dishes. Velvet tufted seats line walls filled with happy customers. From their opening, Tom Brown’s has been packed, but their service and standard of quality have never wavered.
When the doors opened in June 2020, success was immediate and consistent. A short six months later Tom and Ashely were approached with an offer to open a second location at Hays Farm in south Huntsville. Thus, the dream of Tom Brown’s Huntsville was born.
On February 28, 2023, Tom and Ashley personally took over the renovations. Tom dusted off his contractor hat and began coordinating and finishing their new location. Ashley transformed a gray shell with dirt floors into a stunningly vibrant and vibey atmosphere.
Creating a unique space, Tom and Ashley infused eclectic maximalist style into the heart of the new location. The lavish bar area has a dark and sultry feel with black walls, gold antiqued mirror backsplash, and chandelier-style pendant lights. Lighting is definitely a focal point of the Huntsville location. Ordained with dozens of chandeliers, the dining rooms as well as the bar space feels moody, perfectly creating an out of this world experience.
Upon entering the new Huntsville location you might wonder, what’s with the giraffes? Ashley explains, “The idea for the giraffes was birthed from our customers’ positive interactions with our crystal Christmas tree.” The tree is a tradition at Tom Brown’s Restaurant’s Madison location. The bedazzled tree has taken on a life of its own, becoming an interactive experience for patrons to enjoy. For the new location in Huntsville, Ashley wanted to find a permanent structure that would capture customer attention and embody the Tom Brown’s Restaurant brand in the same positive way.
The Huntsville location has adopted an animal theme, complete with symbolic wild animal heads adorning the walls, a cheeky monkey lamp, tiny bronze mice running across lighting, and an easter egg in the form of a miniature frog, a nod to TB’s menu, which features frog legs. The dining rooms feature two unique gallery walls, one fitted with a gorgeous display of mirrors and the other a variety of art and sculptures in floating white frames. Familiar TVs will grace the bars and one of the outside patios playing everyone’s favorite music videos (and sports games), cultivating a relaxing and welcoming feel. The dining area invites a more upscale and intimate experience, offering patrons the option to watch the game with family and friends or share a meal with their loved ones without distraction.
“Our Madison location was about renovation and working with the space we were given,” explains Ashley. “The Huntsville location is unique in that we were given a blank canvas for our vision.” This makes the stunning interior all the more impressive.
While the new location may offer a different experience, the same delicious food featured at the Madison location will also be offered at the new Tom Brown’s in South Huntsville. Tom Brown’s menu combines fresh and local ingredients to create simply delicious dishes. As the engineer behind the recipes, Tom’s philosophy is to cook with love. Tom Brown’s scratch kitchen operates with little kitchen hierarchy, in the traditional sense, because Tom’s recipes are so black and white.
Upholding tradition, Tom will float in different positions on the kitchen line as well as on the floor checking on guests. While Ashley will serve as Food Expeditor (the person who reads out orders and adds finishing touches to dishes) in the kitchen for the first six months to a year at the new location. Tom and Ashley both strongly support working in the trenches alongside their employees. The couple insists on a high standard of service and shares in the work and training, meticulously thrumming over every detail a guest sees and experiences upon entering their restaurant.
Fresh seafood is flown in 2 to 3 times a week from different locations as well as from local fishing vendors. If you’re a fan of fish, I recommend the Barramundi, a flaky white fish served with couscous and a rich garlic sauce. You might encounter some bones in your fish, it’s just that fresh. The oysters are also incredibly plump and delicious, their light flavor and springy texture make for the perfect appetizer.
Tom Brown’s steaks are Certified Angus Beef, wet aged 21 days and hand-cut daily. TB steaks are then seasoned and chargrilled to your specifications and topped with TB Herb Butter. You simply aren’t going to find a better steak. Ribeye, filet, and bison all come highly recommended served with a baked potato topped with French onion dip. Taking meat and potatoes to a whole ‘nother level.
Looking to indulge in some pre-dinner cocktails? The Lavender Lemon Drop martini embodies the girls’ night out, sweet and sour all stirred into one cold glass. If tall, dark, and handsome is more your speed, get the Tom Tom’s old fashion, and make sure to ask for it smoked.
Even the kid’s menu complements Tom’s dry sense of humor and his deep understanding of their clientele, no matter the age. Tiny diners can enjoy menu options humorously named “I don’t care,” “I don’t know,” and “Just pick something.”
Ashley claims her official title from the staff is “Tom’s Wife” but Ashley maintains that “Behind every man is a woman with a vision”. The husband and wife team creates a dynamic duo. Tom’s business sense and delicious recipes alongside Ashley’s design choices have created a one of a kind brand.
This assertion certainly shines true at the new Huntsville location where ‘premium casual’ vibes are served with a side of relentless work ethic, unbelievable designs, and truly excellent food. Tom and Ashley’s vision has brought Tom Brown’s second location to life and will serve to infuse new life into the Huntsville dining scene.
If you’ve been questioning whether you should indulge in a Tom Brown’s Restaurant meal, the answer is an emphatic, ‘Yes!” It’s a beacon of excellence and has captivated the palates and hearts of locals and visitors alike. So kick back, relax, and enjoy being treated to 5-star service in a premium steak and seafood restaurant.