After all, an eatery dedicated to toast sounds like a “Portlandia” sketch gone horribly wrong, the ultimate hipster elevation of comfort food to ridiculously absurdist heights. You’ve taken burgers, barbecue, chicken and waffles, tacos, coffee, and even breakfast cereals from us, can’t you please just leave us toast?
That this whole artisanal toast trend started in San Francisco didn’t help matters (unless you’re talking about avocado toast which has an Australian pedigree).
It also doesn’t help that when you walk into Toasted, you find yourself in a large, airy, comfy space, a blend of rustic and industrial that feels like what one who has never lunched in Silicon Valley imagines the Google cafeteria to look like: lots of young people with laptops, solitary and in groups, no doubt either hatching the next great app or discussing the merits of the new alt-J album or the last season of “Atlanta.”
But, faster than you can say “Have you read ‘Infinite Jest’ yet?” the desire to deride evaporates after being greeted by the friendly staff — in fast-casual style, you order at the register and they bring you your food — and, more important, tasting what they serve. (Proof of friendliness: You can bring dogs into the covered patio.)
Of course, you’ve got to try the toast, and there are 13 styles to choose from on the menu. Just don’t let the cutesy names scare you away (the “It’s My Jam” features the house bread with butter, raspberry jam with a side of either peanut butter or sunflower sauce). I opted for the Don’t Get Salty ($6.25), a Texas toast-style wedge of bread slathered generously with avocado (of course!), sea salt and pepper.
For anyone who has been avoiding bread, especially white bread, the last few years, don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to shout, “Oh, sweet gluten, how I’ve missed you.” The bread is soft and pillowy, while the salt adds dimension to the avocado. This is a far cry from the half-charred block that pops up out of your toaster that you hastily choke down on the way to work.
The Toast My Goats ($7.25) was arguably better: sweet goat cheese with pear slices, honey drizzle and pecans on thick country bread. Even though the goat cheese is described as “sweet,” it has enough tang to both set off and complement the even sweeter ingredients, although the stickiness honey and the thickness of the bread can make this a knife-and-fork affair.
Granted, a few bucks might seem a lot for toast but, depending on which toppings come with your order — be it smoked salmon or brie slices — it’s really more like an open-faced sandwich rather than just a slice of toast.
But even if you don’t want toast, Toasted has quite a bit to offer, particularly in the sandwich department.
The Plucking Good (grilled chicken, chipotle mayo, provolone, lettuce, tomato, $11) is especially noteworthy. You get a nice, thick slab of chicken, piled high with the toppings. Not far behind it is the open-face Aloha (pulled pork, pineapple guajillo barbecue sauce, pineapple pico de gallo, coleslaw, avocado).
Toasted also has salads, soups and two dinner items: the Chick Me Out (roasted half-chicken, lemon sauce, Brussels sprouts, carrots, onions) and Pico de Salmon (8-ounce salmon, guajillo marinade, seasonal vegetables, mango pico de gallo), both $14.
These don’t come with bread and are listed on the menu under the heading “healthy,” indicating that perhaps even the folks who run Toasted know the delicious villainy of their bread obsession.
The salmon is well-seasoned and well-prepared, but just not as memorable as the items that involve one or more slices of bread.
Finishing off the meal with a brownie ($7), topped with ice cream and chocolate sprinkles, is a good way to return, however briefly, to the comforting world of baked goods.
Beyond the toast, the best part of Toasted is that it has the air of a coffeehouse in that you can sit for awhile — reading the 1,000-page “Infinite Jest” perhaps — and no one will hassle you. In fact, they serve a sprawling variety of coffees (including the Aussie favorite, the flat white, $3.75), both hot and iced, as well as kombucha on draft ($4-$5).
The recorded music — lots of vintage R&B like Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” — is loud enough to be appreciated but not overbearing or obtrusive.
If your insulin levels aren’t yet soaring quite high enough, you can crawl next door to Milk & Cream for ice-cream buns or Pints & Quarts, for hot dogs, burgers and shakes. All are in the same shopping center.
Once sated, and the desire to mock gone, you can roll home and pray to the paleo gods for deliverance.