Tom’s Place continues to thrill

2012-01-15T07:00:00Z Tom’s Place continues to thrillBY ADAM TESTA, The Southern The Southern
January 15, 2012 7:00 am  • 

DE SOTO - No one had faith in Lasse and Maryjane Sorensen's plans - not even their lawyer.

Living in California, the couple decided to explore options for moving to Southern Illinois. Maryjane had been raised in the region, while her husband's roots were in Denmark. Tired of the hustle and bustle of the West Coast, they desired a more relaxed life in a peaceful environment.

Lasse had built an international reputation for himself as a culinary master; so naturally, they aimed to continue the restaurant business in the region. Eyeing real estate listings, Lasse found a building north of De Soto with a rich history known as Tom's Place.

Maryjane was the first of countless people to tell Lasse that opening a high-class restaurant in Southern Illinois wasn't a viable option. He listened, while keeping the idea alive in his mind, for five years, until they reconsidered and purchased the building.

From that moment on, people insisted they were crazy and destined to fail.

"He (their lawyer) told us, ‘I don't want anything to do with this because you'll never make it,'" Lasse said. "It's all about working hard and focusing on your goals. I never had a doubt we'd make it."

Fifteen years later, Tom's Place remains in a class almost of its own in Southern Illinois. The restaurant is one of 3,000 worldwide to have earned a Wine Spectator Award and was awarded a five-star Award of Excellence from the North American Restaurant Association.

Much has changed since the Sorensens took over. They've upgraded the infrastructure, added an extensive list of fine wines and meals to the menu and put their own special touch on the place. But there are still countless remnants, including photographs and old menus, of the 80-year history of Tom's Place.

Many people in Southern Illinois recognize the restaurant as a top-notch fine dining experience, but Lasse said he still has people that say they've never heard of it. He also sees travelers passing through town who stop in and, based on the name and appearance of the building, assume they'll be able to find fried chicken waiting inside.

Rather, the menu will often feature items like guinea fowl, Boston lobsters, oysters from the Pacific Northwest and fish from both coasts. Now, Lasse admits he's scaled back some of his more exotic dishes and increased his portion sizes to cater to the more "meat-and-potato" diners of Southern Illinois. But in 15 years, he's managed to turn some of that culinary mentality around.

"The people who have come here for years trust me," Lasse said, explaining he knows many of his customers well enough to make suggestions to them to expand their horizons. "I've converted a lot of people."

This year, the Sorensens have many special plans for celebrating 15 years in the business, including special events geared at introducing new customers to Tom's Place by offering a lower price point. A calendar of events for the year will soon be released on the restaurant's website.

Among the highlights are a prime rib night, the annual Easter breakfast buffet, weekly wine dinners, a morel mushroom feast and an evening of Spanish cuisine.

But as they settle into their positions as the second-longest of Tom's Place's eight owners, the Sorensens are just pleased to look back at the success they've enjoyed and the friends they've met.

"It's almost against all odds that we're sitting here," Lasse said. "It's amazing that it worked."



Copyright 2015 The Southern. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Marion mobile home park owners to pay $75,000 in federal discrimination settlement

MARION — The owners and operators of a Marion mobile home park have agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit, the U.S.…

2 hours ago Related (0)

Murphysboro bridge could be done by Thanksgiving

MURPHYSBORO — Six lines of brick-red beams stretch across the gully that is the Big Muddy River and embankment in Murphysboro.

4 hours ago Related (0)
Debate over Confederate flag rises in Harrisburg

Debate over Confederate flag rises in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG – As it has elsewhere in the country, the debate over a student’s right to display the Confederate flag at school versus district p… Developing

11 hours ago Photos


Related (20)
Local reactions: Pope extends forgiveness in coming year to women who have had abortions

Local reactions: Pope extends forgiveness in coming year to women who have had abortions

CARBONDALE — Pope Francis' announcement that women who have had abortions can be offered forgiveness means that Catholic leaders are to be mor…

13 hours ago Related (0)
Police in Illinois hunt for 3 suspects after officer killed

Police in Illinois hunt for 3 suspects after officer killed

FOX LAKE, Ill. — Police with helicopters, dogs and armed with rifles were conducting a massive manhunt in northern Illinois on Tuesday after a…

14 hours ago Photos



Christopher man killed in Franklin County crash

A 34-year-old Christopher man was killed when the motorcycle he was riding on Illinois 14 hit the front of a Dodge Journey trying to pass anot…

15 hours ago(1)

Teen charged with armed robbery of Moto Mart

A 16-year-old was charged Monday with the armed robbery of the Moto Mart in Murphysboro, according to a news release from the Murphysboro Poli…

15 hours ago Related (0)
Premature death rate high in Southern Illinois

Premature death rate high in Southern Illinois

Where you live may determine how long you live. People are dying younger in several Southern Illinois counties as compared to their northern c…

15 hours ago Related (0)
On the agenda: Carbondale council to discuss happy hour law in Carbondale

On the agenda: Carbondale council to discuss happy hour law in Carbondale

CARBONDALE — Happy hour has returned to Illinois thanks to a new law that's been on the books for more than a month.

16 hours ago Related (0)

Soil and water offices could fall victim to budget fight

SPRINGFIELD — The summer-long budget standoff between Democrats and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner could soon mean the closure of a key agricult…

16 hours ago Related (0)