Smack in the middle of the heart of downtown Asbury Park, Toast exemplifies the small city, big personality vibe upon which the town has come to pride itself. The decor of this early dining establishment is somewhat kitschy, with mason jars for light fixtures, Christmas lights strung from the ceiling, and the occasional chicken shaped salt and pepper shaker. Even the staff tends toward decorative, some with their own individual flair, and many rocking the restaurant’s tagline, “Peace, Love, Pancakes” on printed tees. Not a bad outlook, if you ask me.
Open 7 days a week from 7:30- 3, Toast’s fair focuses on breakfast and lunch (“brunch, ” if you will). I have eaten at Toast twice now, and I have a feeling it may quickly become one of my go-to places. On my first visit, I decided to skip ahead to lunch and ordered the veggie burger topped with avocado. It was all I could ever ask for in a veggie burger. The bun was appropriately soft and flaky, and the patty itself was hearty, and, unlike many veggie burgers, did not leave me wishing I could swap the veggies for beef. One of my cohorts ordered the huevos rancheros and scarfed it down before I could steal a bite, but the crispy tortilla, eggs, beans, meats, and cheese looked tantalizing as the yolk of the over easy eggs cascaded over the layers of Mexican-fusion delight. I did manage to grab a few nibbles of the assorted breakfast breads another one of my accomplices ordered, and while I rarely question the assertions of Elaine Benes, the muffins at Toast are a delight from top to bottom.
On my second visit to Toast, I took the breakfast route and ordered the crab cake eggs benedict, and oh man, were they good. The poached eggs were cooked to perfection, and the crab crakes were light and meaty and not too heavy on the bread crumbs. As with many of the breakfast dishes, the crab cakes benedict come with a side of home fries. For me, home fries can be really hit or miss. I find at many establishments, the potatoes are cut too thick and don’t crispy up properly. Not so at Toast. Crispy, salty, and with a little kick of spice, these home fries had me wishing that all potato products could taste this way forever. The even-ness of the crisp and electric shocks to my taste-pleasure center could only mean one thing– they deep fry those little fuckers! While, for me, my dish was the clear winner, my boyfriend’s choice of corned beef hash and eggs over easy proved a perfect representation of an old classic.
From my two visits to Toast, it didn’t take too much deductive reasoning to draw this conclusion: the people over at Toast know how to cook. Their menu isn’t too off the wall, but it’s clear that more than their pancakes are made with love.
TOAST, 516 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park, NJ 07712, (732) 776-5900, M-F, 7:30am-3pm