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Toast Paninoteca (Durham)

Hi folks. I read here frequently, but have never posted before. I just had nice dinner at the new Italian sandwich place in downtown Durham and don't see any other posts about it here so I thought I'd break my silence and repost a review I've written up for my website.

So, I went to Toast with 3 friends at about 6:30 tonight (it's only open till 7) and it was about 3/4ths full on an ugly rainy night. The prices are quite reasonable $5-6 for the sandwiches and another $2 for soup or a salad. I'm really hoping that the prices stay where they are since it fills a void for dinner in the area. For me, Piedmont has a monopoly on nice $20+ dinners, and Rue Cler, the Mexican places and the Federal can fill the $10-$20 range nicely, but there were really no good, relatively quick meals for less than 10 bucks in downtown Durham until Toast came along.

So, I guess I'm burying the lede a bit, but as my previous gushing indicates, the food was very good. I had a panini with italian sausage, rapini, roasted garlic and asiago, along with a bowl of chick pea, sausage and fennel soup. The panini was great, hot and crisp on the outside with nice melty cheese in the middle. I was a little skeptical about rapini in a sandwich, but it worked perfectly adding a little crunch, and the garlic added flavor but didn't overwhelm the rest of the ingredients at all. The soup was clearly freshly made and quite tasty. We also split a bruschetta ($5), which consisted of a single large piece of thinly sliced, very crispy bread topped with shrimp, greens and a wonderfully sweet vinegar reduction. Quite different from the standard Italian restaurant appetizer, but easily one of the best bruschettas I've every had. Not only did I like everything I tasted, there were also 4 or 5 other things on the relatively small menu that looked good enough to go back for.

The service was good too. The cashier/server was very friendly, and relatively prompt even though they were busy and she was the only person other than the chef in the building. (Hopefully they have a third staff member at lunch). The only snafu was that they forgot to put cheese on my friend's sandwich. He somehow didn't notice until he'd eaten about half of it, but once he went up and told the server, she had a fresh, very cheesy, sandwich in front of him within minutes.

So, I'm pretty happy with Toast. My only real complaint is that they close at 7 which is a tad earlier than we usually eat, but hopefully that will change if they keep doing well at night. The food is good and very reasonably priced. The service was friendly, and best of all, it's a block from my apartment. It's perfect for an quick, informal, inexpensive, tasty dinner. If they expand the hours a bit and keep the prices low, I will most definitely keep going back.

I'm dorky and love to rate stuff, so I officially give Toast an 8.5 out of 10 (whatever that means).

Here's thier website: http://toast-fivepoints.com/

I tried to create a "place" as well, but it doesn't seem to want to attach ...

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  1. I'd heard this place was open. Will check it out soon. If I see "paninis" on the menu, I will be angry.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BryanZ

      No need to worry, BryanZ. They actually have an "egg, fontina, chive panino" on the breakfast menu, so I think they've got it down.

      I did forget one negative in my review above. My girlfriend's salad was ... sparse. I didn't taste it, so maybe it was deliciously sparse, but it didn't look like much, just a few leaves of lettuce in light dressing, really. It was only 2 bucks, so you can't complain too much, but I would definitely recommend getting the soup instead.

      At any rate, I'll be looking forward to hearing what you (and others) think. I really was pleasantly surprised.

      345 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701

      1. re: unlidded

        I will say the menu, as of a few days ago when I checked the site, seemed interesting, in the this-could-be-good-if-it's-good-but-most-likely-will-disappoint snese. I sometimes get frustrated by restaurants that don't "cook" anything. It seems to be the case here. Then again, this is just a sandwich shop. But it seems like it's trying harder. I've confused myself.

        1. re: BryanZ

          dude, its a sandwich shop...just go have a sandwich. :)

    2. I'm happy with it and hope they can expand that lovely breakfast menu to saturday mornings! :)

      1. Stopped by Toast today for brunch. All in all, a solid experience, but Sandwhich this isn't.

        The space is a bit strange, but I liked the high ceilings. The hallway-like space in the back, not so much. The main problem this place has right now is that it's understaffed. I counted six tables that went uncleared for the majority of my visit. That's out of maybe 15 or so total tables. They need one full-time cashier, one food runner, and one busser during rush times.

        On the food front, I had the chicken liver crostini, shrimp bruschetta, spicy tuna panino, and pork/white bean soup. Chicken liver was a bit dry and had too much balsamic. It can't hold a candle to what's at Piedmont, but chicken liver is still rare enough a commodity around here that I'd seek these crostini out again for a quick snack. Shrimp bruschetta was weakest point of the meal. I feel like they should use a different bread for the bruschetta. The sandwich bread they're using now isn't crusty enough for this application. I like the veg on this but wasn't very impressed with the quality of the shrimp. The sandwich and soup were the best bits. The tuna wasn't particularly spicy, but again it was the accompaniments that made the sandwich enjoyable. Like the subtle interplay between the fennel and the olive--then again, I do a dish with fennel and olives so maybe I'm biased. The soup was very tasty; it just lacked for bit of acid.

        For the sake of clarity, it's not as if they don't serve breakfast items on Saturday, they just don't open until 11 am. Fine for me because I'm not up before then anyway. Also, the website claims that they serve antipasto-type items in the evenings. Not quite yet, however. Beer/wine license is in the works. Should be sooner rather than later.

        1. Went there with two colleagues. We all got different panini and soup and all three of us were completely satisfied. I would say, however, that the sandwiches at Parker & Otis are just as good, same price, and there is a wider variety of sides than just soup or salad. Sometimes we get enamoured with the new kid on the block and tend to forget that some of the older standbys (honestly, P&O isn't much different from the Fowler's that it took over-- except for all the candy) are just as good. Foster's also comes to mind.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bbqme

            Good point about not ignoring the established standards. I think I prefer Toast to P&O, but my favorite sandwich in the area remains the turkey club at Fosters.

          2. you can bring in your own bottle of wine! huzzah!

            1. Had a follow up meal at Toast today. Really enjoyed it actually. My sandwich, the rappini with sausage, was really quite delicious and firmly pressed. Too often pressed sandwiches are hardly even toasted, but this one was very nice. Added the soup, white bean or something. Served too hot, but other than that no complaints. Also tried the mushroom crostini. Unabashedly earthy with mushrooms and blue cheese. I was a fan.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BryanZ

                We have been to Toast a number of times because it is excellent. Between us we have had at least one of all of the sandwiches--panini, tramezzini, bruschetta, and crostini--on the menu and have enjoyed all of them. We have also frequently had soup, always so good that we have occasionally purchased two take-out bowls.

                1. re: karrlink

                  There soups really are fantastic. I recently had their tomato and bread soup with a drizzle of what looked like basil oil. Oh my gosh! If I didn't know it was bread I would have thought it was parmasan cheese.

              2. So if someone wants to open a similar style restaurant, what should they do then? They're hundreds of miles away from the other restaurants, their menus contain the same types of items (crostini, panini, bruschetta), but the items themselves have differences. Are these other two restaurants the only ones allowed to serve this food in the US? I'm not sure I understand the complaints that if a new style restaurant opens somewhere in the US that it can't open anywhere else? They aren't opening right next door to the other restaurants or anything, and I really enjoyed Toast on the trip I went there, since it's the only place like it in the area, and I'm not about to make a trip up to NYC to eat something similar.

                1. This place was a major disappointment. We ordered 4 items and only one (crostini with pesto, mozz. and tomato) was even good. The panini with spicy tuna, olivada, fennel, and lemon was just awful; the tuna was old and funky and had far too little lemon to cut the oil of the tuna. The egg salad tramezzini was boring and undistiguished. The shrimp bruschetta used rather old shrimp; the radicchio might have been a nice foil to the pancetta had it not been wilted.

                  Oh--and the cherry cola (from a bottle--I forget the brand) was a dead-on ringer for Robitussin.

                  I adore Sandwhich but was looking for another great place for sandwiches. Toast isn't it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jeffreys

                    I've had the exact opposite experience: Toast has always been top-notch when I've gone (I have the spicy tuna a few times a month, including today!) The times I've been to Sandwhich I left underwhelmed, particularly considering the price. I have to agree with bbqme: the soups at Toast range from pretty good to outstanding.