Traditional egg-centric breakfast fare and the salsa-and-chilies dishes of the Southwest are both strong influences in the current restaurant world. And the well-named Toast has a menu that spotlights both of them, as it has from the beginning in 2002 when there was just one Toast in Ferndale.
The Birmingham outpost was added in October 2008, and while it has its own personality, it reflects the casual and upbeat character of the original. I like the attitude of proprietor Regan Bloom, who allows the staff to express themselves: note the changing array of hats worn by one server and the nose ring on another.
And while there have certainly been menu updates over the years — one is in progress, as a matter of fact — the theme remains the same. Regan lived in the Southwest for a number of years, so dishes such as huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, chorizo-stuffed dates — and omelets with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, jalapenos and salsa —come naturally to her. This is a restaurant that is unafraid to serve spicy dishes, rather than the innocuous ones labeled that way in some places.
Of course any restaurant named Toast is going to give breakfast its due and more. The breakfast menu continues through lunch, with a smaller menu in the evening. But even then, there are breakfast-y choices, with a house burger topped with egg and bacon and chicken and waffles as well, along with such dishes as steak frites, mushroom ravioli and the notable fish tacos, served in multiples of three and made with monkfish, tomatillo relish, salsa and lots of fresh cilantro.
Bread choices vary from sourdough to multigrain, English muffins and even naan, which shows up in a sharable appetizer that includes cheese sauce, hummus and pesto.
The setting includes vintage toasters, colorful artwork, bright red banquettes along one wall, and closely packed uncovered tables. It is much noisier early in the day than in the evening, the reverse of the usual situation.
The physical bar, if not its products, seems almost like an afterthought, tucked into the back of the space and not particularly attractive as a dining spot. It does, however, deliver interesting drinks, including bloody marys that are among the spiciest in town, and a number of variations on the mimosa theme, both of which are geared to the breakfast/lunch crowd.
The wine list is surprisingly tiny — just about a dozen choices — but it is very well chosen, with none of the usual suspects.
Toast is good-natured and unpretentious.
203 Pierce Street, Birmingham
Call: (248) 258-6278
Hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.; 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Tues.; 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Wed.-Fri.; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Breakfast dishes $9-$16, lunch sandwiches and salads $9-$11; Dinner appetizers $9-$14, soups and salads $3.50-$10, main dishes $12-$25.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: High
Parking: Nearby deck or street
Wheelchair access: No barriers.
What the ratings mean
★ — routine
★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding