Take one step into Major Tom’s Drop Zone restaurant in Hamburg and you’ll find yourself pointing at unusual military items.
“It’s a wow factor,” said Tom Kiera, who owns the restaurant with his two brothers. “It’s almost like a museum out there!”
You’ll find all kinds of aircraft memorabilia and World War II artifacts at Major Tom’s, 5842 Camp Road. Kiera’s favorite is a C-130 with a 12-foot wing span. Others are impressed by a 1,000-pound bomb from World War II or the Aim 4 Missile.
“People walk in and their heads turn,” Kiera said. The incredible collection is always a big hit with two specific groups: kids and veterans.
“Kids ask, 'Where is that from? Do the airplanes fly?’ And yes, they’re all flyable,” Kiera boasted. “Vets love to tell stories from the war.”
The menu also ties into the World War II theme. Looking to try a new craft beer? They’re on the “special ops” menu, while traditional beer is considered “standard issue.”
If you need to use the bathroom, head for the fallout shelter.
The military theme has been perfected over the past three years since the Kiera brothers bought the former Jacobi’s Italian restaurant that dated to 1973.
“It was a great location and the price was right,” Kiera said of the investment. “Jacobi’s was extremely successful, a foundation for Hamburg, it would be a big mistake for us to change that. The operation just needed fixing and tuning and we did that.”
It started with each brother taking on a specific role.
“I always thought as a child that working in a restaurant would be cool,” said Kiera, who used to cook for his parents. But now that’s his brother Jeremy’s job. Jeremy, the middle brother, handles the cooking as head chef, while Jordan, the youngest is an HVAC specialist. “If anything goes wrong, he’s on it,” said Kiera, who handles all of the business aspects like customer relations, insurance, payroll, and more. “It’s like a find oiled machine. It works out well.”
It was Jeremy who came up with the name for the restaurant, which had more to do with family than the David Bowie song "Space Oddity" with its lyrics about a character named Major Tom.
“Our father’s name is Tom. Both my brothers have middle names Tom, my name is Tom," Kiera explained.
The goal for the trio of brothers was to keep the Jacobi’s clientele and attract new customers so they decided to keep the Italian menu and add their own flair by specializing in homemade dishes complete with military appropriate names.
For instance, the platoon size lasagna is so big, it takes 30-35 minutes to bake. Team 6 penne pasta features a tomato base with five cheeses. “The flavor combination of the alfredo and red sauce and all the cheeses, it’s a whole different entity,” Kiera said. “You can’t get it anywhere else.” The full menu also features sandwiches like sniper in the grass featuring chicken, spinach and cheeses.
“I strive for quality,” he said. “We want customers to be 100 percent satisfied.”
Over the past three years, Kiera said he has learned that attention to detail and consistency are keys to success.
“If customers like it, they’ll come back and then they’ll keep coming back,” he said. “I’ve learned you have to be consistent and make the whole experience great.”
Sometimes that means turning away a big table or closing “tactical takeout” on a busy night to focus on the dining room.
Kiera sees how customers come for the food and more.
“Now the décor is bringing people in,” he said, adding that kids are big drivers for business. “We had a grandma and grandpa bring their grandkids in. They said their parents brought them and they’d been asking for weeks to come back.”
The restaurant also offers free meals to veterans and active military personnel five times a year. And kids eat free Monday to Thursday with the purchase of an adult entrée in the dining room, where there’s no shortage of entertainment.
“Parents love it. Kids are entertained looking around,” Kiera says.
Info: Major Tom’s Drop Zone, 5842 Camp Road, Hamburg; 649-6100
Monday 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday Noon to 9:30 p.m.
Sunday Noon to 8 p.m.