The Friendly Toast comes to Cambridge
A good formula begets a good formula. Melissa and Robert Jasper’s original Friendly Toast, located in Portsmouth, N.H., now has an outpost in Kendall Square, Cambridge. Outfitted like a diner, the retro decor in the 150-seat spot is decorated with wall-to-wall kitsch from your grandmother’s attic and old advertisements from the days when they knew how to make them: Sunbeam bread, Esso, Schlitz beer, Dr. Scholl’s, and best of all, a series of lighted panels that go on and off, with a woman showing the advantages of Magic-Cling bras.
Customers wait an average of one hour on weekends for breakfasts that include everything you can imagine eating with eggs: black beans, spicy mashed potatoes and chorizo, smoked salmon. Or get them wrapped in a burrito; coated with hollandaise; accompanied by roasted corn salsa or feta and kalamata olives. Ole Miss ($10), scrambled eggs with cayenne-cheddar toast, sausage, and mashed sweet potatoes, is well seasoned and ample.
You can order the early-morning specialties all day . . . which is where we may have gone wrong. The rest of the menu is sandwiches, burritos, burgers, and a few salads. Orleans fries ($8.25), long sweet-potato spears topped with melted brown sugar and Tabasco, are almost too sweet to eat. We make it through the top layer and the ones underneath are less cloying. The sour cream is essential.
We’re expecting an old-fashioned cheese-y spinach dip when we spot it on the menu ($8.25), but this is a loose puddle of green without flavor. Tortilla corn chips are greasy.
Vegetable stir-fry over brown rice ($9.95) is sorry looking. Someone who orders chorizo burrito ($10) eats a few bites, then opens the packet to scoop out the filling.
Mediterranean salad ($3.75, $6.50, $8.75) is big and good with lots of spinach mixed into lettuce, roasted peppers, feta, and olives. A 9-ounce burger on a kaiser roll ($9-$11) is a juicy round with plenty of flavor. Fries ($1 extra) are very hot, long, and quite crisp. Beans and rice, made with chorizo ($9.95 and $11.75), is a hearty, spicy dish that comes with bread (it’s a carb fest); take your pick of their satisfying homemade loaves: cayenne-cheddar, whole wheat, cinnamon-raisin, oatmeal, anadama.
A “redneck’’ sandwich of roast beef ($9.50, above) offers barbecue sauce or horseradish mayonnaise. Get both. This is a great little meaty bun.
The Friendly Toast waitstaff is genuinely friendly and the whole experience is fun. Enough to wait an hour? Yes for breakfast fare. Not always for the rest.