This restaurant charged a customer extra for asking a 'stupid question'

Tom's Diner in Colorado is a local favorite that's getting national attention for a hilarious reason.
Customers at one Denver diner get a side of humor with their meal.
Customers at one Denver diner get a side of humor with their meal.Courtesy of Hunter Landry
/ Source: TODAY

At Tom's Diner in Denver humor is one of the most popular items on the menu.

The 24-hour restaurant has been a local favorite for about 20 years but, until recently, few people outside the Mile-High City knew about the chain's side-splitting side offering.

About a week ago, a Reddit user posted a photo of a Tom's Diner receipt. Listed alongside an order of chicken tenders and mashed potatoes was a separate charge of 38 cents for "1 Stupid Question."

The post sparked a frenzy of inquiries on social media. Was the receipt a fake? Was this restaurant even real? And what, exactly, qualifies as a stupid question?

Long story short, the receipt is in fact real. And plenty of diners have been charged this miscellaneous fee over the years because "Stupid Question" is listed on the diner's side menu.

Customers at Tom's Diner can also get conventional sides like French fries or biscuits.Courtesy of Hunter Landry

Of course, the popular restaurant doesn't hand out the cheeky menu item in a malicious manner. It's all in good fun, according to general manager Hunter Landry.

"It's meant to be playful. It's good to keep things light in today's world," he told TODAY Food.

Landry, the nephew of Tom Messina (the "Tom" behind Tom's Diner), said that his uncle added the funny side option to the Denver diner's menu around 20 years ago (it opened in 1999) as a way to infuse a bit of fun into the work day. Staff are actually instructed never to charge people who actually ask an arguably stupid question — they're more so encouraged to add a charge on for lively tables.

"When we have a good fun table that engages with us or when they ask about the charge, it's always fun to add it on," Landry said.

The menu has sparked some comedic customers to ask intentionally stupid questions over the years in order to qualify for the charge. "Are there any dues for the turkey club sandwich?" is one. "Does the ice have any water in it?" is another of Landry's favorites.

The fee for asking a silly question has fluctuated over the years, but the reaction to it has almost always been met with laughter. "It was 48 cents at one point, but we didn't want to gauge people," Landry joked.

The diner has a great sense of humor. Case in point? This cheeky sign on the wall of the restaurant.Courtesy of Hunter Landry

Luckily, customers at Tom's Diner usually get a kick out of the experience. "The majority of people really get where we're coming from and understand it's meant to be playful. Over the years, maybe a few people have been perturbed but the response is generally positive," Landry said.

Two years ago, the diner infused even more humor into its menu and added some "Healthy Options." Alongside choices like cottage cheese and soup, customers can order the following for free: a "Skip Your Next Meal," or a "Walk Home." They're both listed as priceless.

Landry said the chain is considering adding more items like "'Don't Take Yourself So Seriously," and "Love Each Other."

Both Landry and Messina were surprised that the Reddit post — and their menu — has gone viral recently.

Landry got a good laugh out of it for another reason, saying, "The Reddit receipt that went viral is an older one. The price of chicken fingers at Tom's Diner is different now."

This isn't the first time Tom's Diner has been the talk of the town in recent months. In December, the diner's building, which was built in 1967, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was welcome news for customers, who had been fighting to save it from being torn down after a housing developer revealed plans to build new apartments on the site last spring.

GBX Group will be taking over the property and helping Messina rebrand and renovate Tom's Diner. Landry told TODAY that he and his uncle are excited about what the future holds and want to continue making people laugh.

"It's all about not taking yourself too seriously. We're not here for a long time, so let's enjoy ourselves and try to make the most of this life," he said.