Local pizzeria remains a Durham staple after 20 years of service

A photo of Glen Gordon, owner of Tomato Jake's Pizzeria, standing in the doorway of his restaurant in Durham, NC.

Glen Gordon, the owner of Tomato Jake's Pizzeria, standing in the doorway of his restaurant in Renaissance Village on April 29, 2024. Tomato Jake's has been a staple of the Durham community since 2005. Photo taken by Courtney Fisher.

At the Streets at Southpoint shopping mall in Durham, you’ll find plenty of recognizable chain restaurants. Taco Bell, Subway, Panera, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and plenty of other familiar culinary staples have found their place in Durham’s busiest shopping hub..

“But we’re not a chain restaurant,” said Glen Gordon, owner of Tomato Jake’s Pizzeria in southeast Durham. “We’re a local restaurant that’s been in the area for almost 20 years, and people are attracted to that.”

Tomato Jake’s is located in Renaissance Village, a small shopping center next to Southpoint. The restaurant opened their doors on December 13, 2005, and they celebrated their 18th anniversary last year with celebratory posts on their social media pages.

“It means a lot to me that the people of Durham have supported us for almost 20 years now,” said Gordon. “There’s definitely a lot of competition in the area, but I’ve tried very hard to make Tomato Jake’s stand out as a casual family restaurant that takes pride in making delicious food with fresh ingredients. And it seems to have worked.”

Tomato Jake’s isn’t just your typical pizzeria; their menu extends beyond pizza. They also serve salads, appetizers, wings, pasta, subs, and calzones.

“I want Tomato Jake’s to be a one-stop shop for someone in the mood for a good meal,” said Gordon. “Not only do we have affordable prices, but we offer large portions at those prices, which sets us apart from other restaurants.”

Gordon said that he and his staff worked hard to come up with the restaurant’s 14 “specialty” pizzas, which refer to any pizzas that are not cheese or pepperoni.

“Of our 14 specialty pizzas, about 60% of them are vegetarian with a classic Italian recipe,” said Gordon. “We have a margherita pizza, a roasted vegetables pizza, we make our own pizza sauce, and we did a lot of experimentation to come up with the core 14 specialty pizzas.”

Although Gordon’s hard work has brought the restaurant much of its success, he said his staff helps keep his restaurant running smoothly to feed the people of Durham.

“We have great employees and it’s a lot of fun,” said Gordon. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously in a very stressful business, and we have great customers that make our jobs super easy.”

Gordon attributes Tomato Jake’s success to its incredible customers and is incredibly appreciative of their business.

“We want our customers to have great, fresh food with made-from-scratch ingredients,” said Gordon. “It sounds like a cliché, but we wanted to check all the boxes so someone could have a casual dining experience at a reasonable price.”

Although Tomato Jake’s has been a Durham staple for nearly two decades, Gordon has worked hard to keep up with changes in the local food scene as Durham grows and new businesses continue to lay their roots in the area.

“Staying relevant is tough,” said Gordon. “We do our best to add new menu items and stay on top of social media trends so people know that we’re listening to them and doing our best to serve them in the best way possible.”

Gordon’s efforts seem to have been successful, especially with a recent feature of Tomato Jake’s on WRAL’s “Out & About” segment on April 3.

“I was thrilled when they called and said they wanted to feature us,” Gordon said. “A lot of people have come in over the last few weeks saying they saw us!”

Although Durham is quickly growing and changing, Gordon is committed to making sure that Tomato Jake’s remains a staple of the Durham pizza scene.

“I grew up in Boston, but there’s a reason I chose to open Tomato Jake’s in Durham instead,” said Gordon. “Durham is a thriving, growing city full of great people that have made this place feel like home. I have enjoyed the last 20 years of serving the Durham community and I look forward to the next 20 as well.”

Edited by Micah McLaughlin and Dezarae Churchill

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