Literally and figuratively, it seems to be the former.
Eat Sleep Eat Rating:
A slice of toasted bread and butter may sound like a gratuitously ironic choice of cuisine for a restaurant, but the dish – yes, we’re calling toast a “dish” now – has grown so in vogue among chefs that it’s reached official trend status, and maybe even cottage industry popularity. With origins in San Francisco, the idea of restaurants serving toast and nothing but toast are spreading across the country. Pun intended.
Take the brand new Toasted Coffee + Kitchen in Dallas, which opened near Greenville and Ross earlier at the beginning of November. I checked out out whether the toast was worth its avocado and himalayan sea salt a few weekends ago, just days after the grand opening. The space was open, airy and reminded me of places in Brooklyn, with about twelve times the space. The walk-up counter was industrial and inviting, with a lineup of clipboard menus and La Marzocco espresso machines dividing the servers from the slightly hipster, but mostly Southern-chic, clientele.
You know me – I couldn’t not get the Cocoa Nanners, a stack of sliced bananas, chopped chocolate and sunflower butter sauce arranged on top of a slice of “country bread.” My friend, also a blogger, ordered the Avo-Ca-Damn for us to try, made with sliced avocado and two different colors of sriracha sauce squirted across rye bread.
I happen to know something about toast. My dad actually sells bread toaster ovens to major restaurant chains. I’ve grown up listening to dinner table conversation and hours-long phone calls in the car about how toasters are enabled to emit a complex system of heated air with the ultimate goal of achieving rapidly, consistently and perfectly toasted and heated bread. I also know a lot about the secret world of toaster politics (surprisingly edgy) and smuggling toasters into Russia, which I will not get into here. Suffice it to say that I’m a uniquely qualified judge of toast, a fact that, ironically, did not present itself to me until I cut into my first chunk of Cocoa Nanners with my knife and fork.
The first bite, a bottom corner of crust, was dry and had zero toppings on it. There was one more identical bite before I finally dipped into the sweet bananas and hot melted chocolate bits. But while the closer I got to the middle, the sweeter and more satisfying the experience was, I couldn’t help but be very judgy of the actual toast this was all happening on.
Let’s start with the bread: It was sliced too thickly to begin with, making the taste of yeasty wheat the predominant flavor. It was not evenly toasted at all, being most browned and caramelized (the technical term) around the edges. But the edges, as I mentioned, were dry and devoid of any toppings or even a smear of sunflower butter. Speaking of toppings: the sunflower butter, in fact, was skimpily drizzled over the banana slices like caviar, not spread over the toast and allowed to melt. Did I mention the toast is in the $4 – $7 range? Ouch.
So the Cocoa Nanners was mostly a miss in my (text)book. Basically a warm piece of bread, although quite tasty in the middle – I just wish the entire slice had tasted as good as those few bites in the center. Unfortunately, the Avo-Ca-Damn was also rather underwhelming. A 200-page-book-thick slice – again – of rye bread had better flavor than the country bread. But the avocados were arranged in slices and spattered with ribbons of red and orange sriracha. It was 11:30 in the morning and neither of us was ready for the searing heat of pure liquid sriracha on toast. I normally have a very hardy palate when it comes to spicy foods – I order my Indian curry at a 3, so there. But this was unnecessary heat, the kind that overpowered the bread and the avocado so you were basically just squirting sriracha onto your tongue like whipped cream. If there was simply less sriracha, this might work, but my tongue is too fried to say at this point.
The one toast that actually did work particularly well was the Toast Ma Goats (who comes up with this stuff?), which (full disclaimer) the owner gave us to sample for free. It was covered in melted goat cheese, sliced poached pears, a drizzle of honey and sprinkling of chopped pecans. It was very good, mainly because the melted cheese was spread all the way to the four corners of the crust, and the whole thing was served at the perfect temperature. The balance of textures worked, between the crusty bread, chopped nuts and creamy cheese and fruit. It was good – so good that I wished even more sincerely that the others had lived up to the same level.
When you name your restaurant “Toasted” and serve a full menu of only toast, each slice had better be the best slice of toast people have ever tasted. On the whole, it was not. But I’ll be returning to Toasted Coffee + Kitchen, and here’s why: It’s hard to start a new restaurant. Before my dad sold toasters, he was a chef, so another thing I’ve heard time and time again is that it’s not easy to bring any restaurant concept to life (especially without the perfect toaster ). These things take time, and I hope that the folks at Toasted continue to experiment with their flavor combinations and techniques to perfect the art of toast, which is something that no other restaurant in Dallas has yet owned exclusively. I’ll also be back to try gluten-free and paleo toasts that will be featured soon, and the new open-faced sandwiches coming to the menu. It’s a nice place to bring a laptop and hunker down, and the wine and craft beer bar create an excellent late afternoon snack zone for studying or gathering with friends. People will certainly admire the cozy warehouse space, the friendly staff, and the simple yet creative attempts at a food that’s impossible not to love, no matter what: toast.
Toasted Coffee + Kitchen
5420 Ross Avenue, Suite 180,
Dallas, TX 75206
P.S. – Be sure to check out my featured brunch guest in this post, Molly of “Molly on the Move” blog fame at mollyonthemove.com!