Venue Review: Toast
The Charlotte Observer
100 Huntersville-Concord Road, Huntersville; 704-875-7840.
Tuck yourself into a chair outside and nibble crunchy bacon and a perfect pancake at Huntersville's Toast, and you're getting the place at its best: comfortable, charming, neighborly. We do need some better coffee, but other than that, breakfast is well done.
And daily breakfast is nothing to sneeze at. We've got precious few around, and fewer still with this kind of character: Varnished, grooved pine paneling wraps hardwood-floored rooms in this quirky little house, and you've got to weave your way in and around tables and the bar.
The menu starts with eggs any style, with choices of hash browns or grits, and toast or English muffin (30 cents more to sub a bagel or biscuit). But scroll down, because the omelets are exceptional, the flapjacks classic and the French toast comes thick-cut or stuffed. A Greek omelet pairs spinach with feta, while chorizo accompanies cheddar and portobellos appear with Monterrey jack.
Eggs are treated with the respect they deserve, and that very thought causes me to hum the ancient “incredible, edible egg” jingle. (You're welcome!) Plates arrive extremely quickly and servers bring your coffee practically before you can pronounce its second syllable – just as servers should, but so rarely do.
Also winning: You can order a multitude of sides, and included in this list are single items for the lighter eater – one flapjack, one piece of stuffed French toast. Marvelous.
During the week, you can have breakfast anytime. Lunch offers burgers and dogs, salads and sandwiches, including melts and wraps. Among the most popular are chicken-bacon wrap and mac and cheese. For the weekends, there's a separate brunch menu, which adds eggs Benedict and Florentine. The Web site lists each day's specials, a great idea.
Less than great was dinner, unfortunately, in which some mussels arrived icy amid their warm brethren, and a piece of snapper was overcooked into tedium. The hash that came with the snapper, however, excelled: bits of crabmeat, crisp cubes of potato and just the right amount of seasoning, with a bouquet of grilled asparagus on the side. Serve those alone and it's a winning dish.
A thick, pretty pork chop also proved tough, though its interior remained pink. Its sides, too, vastly outshone the main: goat-cheese grit cakes, over braised cabbage that was delightful.
Warm, sweet bread before the meal made for a homey beginning, served with honey butter. I'd opt for more of this next time and skip the desserts: good banana pudding made less so by mostly uncooked meringue and a chocolate concotion described as a combination of brownies, chocolate pudding and cake. Rather than layers, this was a very sweet, very soft entity that I'm sure has rabid fans.
Owner Brian Burchill came to Charlotte about five years ago after years in the Manhattan restaurant rat race. He opened in Huntersville four years ago, bringing chef Julio Heres from New York, then added the Davidson site a year ago, and says he considers both staffs extended family. (Quirk of note: He originally coveted the Davidson spot he's in now, but it wasn't available at the time.)
Burchill focused on fresh-food breakfasts and brunch, a niche he found wide open. It remains Toast's strong suit.