Beta Toast

Posted by Cameron on 09.11.06 3:57 PM

toast pass (c)2006 AECThe food took forever to come out. It wasn’t good when it arrived. The servers were tripping over each other. There was a waiting list as long as your arm at 9:15 on a Sunday morning.

But hang up the sarcasm phone for a second and listen: we’re really, really pulling for Toast Eatery, a contemporary diner recently opened in Baja Noe Valley.

Ever since we finally threw up our hands over Al’s Cafe Good Food on Mission street, we’ve been longing for a good breakfast place that didn’t require a visit to the peninsula. Anita had been hearing about Toast’s debut so we planned an early (for us) attack on the corner of Church and Day streets.

We were completely unsuccessful in beating the crowds that inevitably surround any halfway-viable brunch joint in Noe Valley. The interior isn’t large, but Toast boasts a number of sidewalk tables. A little flexibility bought a significantly shortened wait for seating: we scored two stools at the bar, a choice that paid dividends later in the meal. The interior is invitingly painted and tiled, and sports cute light fixtures and accoutrements. It’s a clean, well-lighted place for grinds.

The menu at Toast could be taken from any one of a million diners across the nation: scrambles, omelets, pancakes, french toast, eggs benedict, corned beef hash, and chicken fried steak. Lunch/dinner options include soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches, with plenty of traditional favorites: french dip, club sandwich, cheese steak, hot pastrami, and chili.

We chatted with one of the proprietors who was running herd on the front of the house and handling the counter traffic. I asked if they had real maple syrup, and he said that they were planning on adding it for an extra charge, but they hadn’t yet. Major points. I encouraged him to follow through. In my book, real maple syrup is one of the simple things that a breakfast joint can do to rise above the crowd. I’m happy to pay the extra buck, and I won’t order pancakes without it.

The servers were obviously still getting their act together, but everyone was hustling and mostly friendly. Anita ordered chicken fried steak and some orange juice, while I went for eggs benedict and coffee.

Half an hour later we’d finished the Sunday paper, I was on my third cup of coffee (not bad tasting, nice big cups), and we were hungry. When the food finally appeared, it became clear that the kitchen is still getting its act together, too. The hollandaise was a strange dark brown color, watery, grainy, and inedibly salty—as if it was made from a mix and someone used a cup of powder instead of a tablespoon. Anita’s food was no better: Sysco battered steak patty cooked with zero love and covered in gravy from a mix. Our hashbrowns were just barely cooked. Finally, in a barely believable bit of irony, the english muffins on both our plates were completely…wait for it…unToasted.


I complained (nicely) about the benedict and our seating choice paid off. The man in charge got instant feedback, and I was quickly supplied with a replacement (bagel with lox and cream cheese). Anita struggled through her plate, as there wasn’t anything returnably wrong with it. The scrambled eggs weren’t bad, at least.

We’ll almost certainly return, for two reasons. First, we badly need this kind of place nearby. With the exception of Joe’s Cable Car, it’s impossible to get a non-ethnic meal in our neck of the woods for less than $70 (for two) that doesn’t suck five different kinds of ass…and even then you’re taking your chances. Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack doesn’t count because you have to be on the ice to score and if you don’t take credit cards, you get to stay in the penalty box. Plus you can end up waiting for an hour for a table if you don’t whack someone first.

The second reason that we’ll return is that I think the folks at Toast have their heads on straight and they’re very obviously still sorting out their kitchen. The response to my complaint was fast, professional, and there was genuine interest in what went wrong. Plus, there were lots of positive little we’re-paying-attention details: organic, Fair Trade coffee served from thermal carafes instead of left cooking on burners; a small, low-end, but intelligent wine selection; very cool silverware; and, of course, real maple syrup on the way.

No guarantees (witness the continued incompetence and eventual fall of Chez Maman Bernal), but consider this review a bug report and give Toast a try after they’ve had a chance to pump through a few release candidates.

breakfast, Noe Valley, restaurants



Comment by Chockylit

My husband and I went around 2.30pm on Sunday. I ordered a tuna melt and chocolate milk. I used to order this meal at Hungry Joe’s – a childhood favorite – but Joe’s wouldn’t sell me chocolate milk. One time I actually purchased syrup at the liquor store and made my own chocolate milk.

Anyway, while it did take a while for the food to come out, we didn’t have to wait for a table, and the tuna melt was about 10 times better than at Hungry Joe’s. The chocolate milk was great. Whatever they are using is definitely not Hershey’s and is really rich.

Last time we went to Al’s Cafe Good Food our whole breakfest tasted like fish. Needless to say, we are pulling for Toast, too. Let’s hope they figure it out!

Posted on 09.11.06 at 5:36PM

Comment by Anita

Oooh! I know the answer: They use Ghirardelli chocolate syrup… I saw it sitting on the counter. :D

Thanks for stopping by, Chockylit. (We love your cupcake site!!)

Posted on 09.11.06 at 7:50PM

Comment by Rocky

Uhm Cam,how many kinds of ass there? Just for my own personal edification.

Posted on 09.12.06 at 4:32PM

Comment by Cameron

Do not concentrate on the ass, or you will miss all that heavenly glory.

Posted on 09.12.06 at 5:50PM

Comment by Rocky

Thanks Yoda.

Posted on 09.13.06 at 1:18PM

Comment by Sean

Wow — you’re more generous than we would be, I’m sure. (Especially Paul.) I think I’ll wait for your follow-up review before venturing there. However, you are so right … we need a place like this, bad.

Posted on 09.15.06 at 8:24AM

Comment by KathyR

I was just talking to Anita and she encouraged me to comment. I wonder just how many breakfasts Toast has had to comp, because they had to comp our breakfast after Dreadlock Man couldn’t figure out what our orders were even after we pointed them out to him on the menu. After he brought us the wrong food and we waited another 30 minutes (with a squirmy baby!), the waiter told us that since he had written our orders down wrong, we of course had to get in line behind all the other orders that had come in after ours. WTF?

I know I should be a better person and give them the benefit of the doubt, but they are bastards and they’ve had their chance. I don’t care if their place is remodeled and cute. Everything was of the lowest possible quality and stunk of cut corners.

Posted on 09.19.06 at 10:35AM

Comment by Anita

I gotta say, I can’t really disagree with anything Kathy says about shortcuts and food quality — it did seem like a Sysco love-fest in there. They seemed good-hearted, though… although the dreadlocked waiter was pissing off his fellow employees left, right, and center while we were there.

I’m inclined to think they just bit off more than they can chew, and that with gentle prods in the right direction, they could be a contender. I *so* wanted to love the place… their menu is simply perfect for me.

But yeah, I’m not expecting much.

Posted on 09.19.06 at 10:51AM

Comment by Cameron

A quick update for anyone digging through our archives. We’ve been back to Toast and, unfortunately, the kitchen has not improved even a little bit.

Posted on 05.13.07 at 1:17PM

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