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May 18, 2009 10:42 AM

The Friendly Toast!

So now that it's actually open, I feel like we need a new thread for reviews. I'll kick this one off- even during opening week, even with all of the staff in training, even with only 3/4 of the menu being served, even with a not-up-to-speed-yet kitchen, I can already tell that this is going to be one of my favorites and my go-to brunch spot.

The decor is kitschy but not stupid or tacky. They must've bought every vintage Formica table in New England, and they are gorgeous, but they also (wisely) bought new, comfy chairs. The homefries are, according to our server, not up to the Portsmouth location's standards yet as they are still waiting on some kitchen equipment, but they were delicious and very different (more on that later).

I wasn't expecting there to be a bar, but there is, and it's gorgeous. Looks like they got Anise's liquor license as they have cocktails in addition to beer/wine. Harpoon on tap. Very comfy (yes, a word I'll repeat often about this place) environment.

We started with a plate of Guinness-batter onion rings. I think they used both cornmeal and corn flakes- deliciously crunchy with a nice sweetness. Sauce provided was some sort of creamy caper concoction.

My compatriots got huevos rancheros (served on a huge piece of homemade bread, which I thought was odd but was told was very tasty) and smoked salmon benedict. I got the DGGC (damn good grilled cheese). In writing this I'm realizing how reliant I am on online menus, because I'm having a hard time remembering what was in it! I think there was mayo or some other creamy sauce, in addition to whole grain mustard, American, and cheddar. The best thing about it was the strawberry habanero sauce provided for dipping, which was the perfect complement. Homemade bread, lots of butter.

The homefries deserve their own review. They are not homefries, nor are they hash browns. They're thin (1/8") slices of whole potato, seem to have been par-boiled and then lightly fried with onions and what tasted like a pinch of cayenne. You can imagine that, if fried longer and cut a little thinner, they'd make great chips. As it is, they're really delicious breakfast potatoes but I'm not sure what to call them! There was both a sign and a talk from our server telling us not to be disappointed if they're not exactly like the Portsmouth location's potatoes just yet- the kitchen can't handle it now but they're hoping to be there by this weekend.

All told, I'm totally happy to add this to my usual lunch/brunch rotation and can't wait to see it develop after it's been open a while. A great addition to the neighborhood!

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  1. It's certainly great looking -- the bar is covered with Wacky Packages stickers -- and I had a good first breakfast there. I'm not certain, but judging from the drinks menu, I think they might have a beer/wine/cordial license only, not full liquor.

    9 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      You may be right- I can't recall seeing hard liquor on the drinks list.

      1. re: bobot

        I seem to recall seeing that the cocktail list was created (or is being created) by a bartender at the Tiki Bar in Portsmouth. Anyway, I hope this is true.

        1. re: ponyboy

          Has anyone gotten any more information about the drinks they serve? I'd love to know what kind of license they have, so we'll know what to expect!

          1. re: voodoocheese

            They were boxes of liquor on the bar area yesterday. I saw bottles of vodka for sure so I am assuming a full liquor license.

            1. re: Gabatta

              They definitely have a full license- I saw a complete bar set up, and people drinking mimosas and beers the other day.

              1. re: fmcoxe6188

                I've heard reports that despite having mimosas on their menu, when a friend of mine ordered one before noon they said they couldn't serve it until after 12 PM. What is the point of offering mimosas if you can't have one in the morning on a weekend?

                1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                  Because that is the law in MA. No booze before noon on Sundays.

                  1. re: Gabatta

                    You can't buy alcohol at a store before noon, but some restaurants/bars have licenses to serve it at 11am.

                    1. re: Gabatta

                      Yes, I have definitely been at restaurants that have alcohol licenses to serve before noon on Sundays.

      2. As someone who has not spent a lot of time in Kendall Square since passing out catalogs for Tech Hifi for $3/hour (a sweet deal, given that minimum wage was $1.65 at the time!) 30 years ago, can someone tell me where this is? Is it in that complex on the right as I come over the Longfellow Bridge and merge onto Broadway?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Blumie

          That's it: right at the junction of Broadway and Hampshire Streets, with Cardinal Medeiros on one side and the Kendall Square Cinema on Binney St behind it. Also home to the Blue Room, Cambridge Brewing Co., Flat Top Johnnie's, the execrable Tommy Doyle's, and Hungry Mother across the street. Emma's Pizza and Atasca are also nearby.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Thanks. I was a regular at Rachel's, but am embarrassed to say that I haven't made it to Hungry Mother yet. And I haven't been to the Blue Room since it first opened (what's that, about 20 years ago?). I guess I need to branch out!

        2. Can't wait to try it! Boston is a breakfast wasteland!!!

          1. How do their hours compare to the Portsmouth location? Are they open lateish for dinner?
            Can't wait to get there!

            1 Reply
            1. re: poptart

              I called this morning about this very question. They are open currently until 3pm (I asked about today and saturday) but they plan to be open until 10pm in the future- with breakfast alllll day. YES!

            2. hey i like the home fries at the one in cambridge better than the ones in portsmouth - i don't really want them to change! they are spicy and go really well with cayenne cheddar toast and a guy scramble.
              went for lunch with 4 coworkers around 1230, waited maybe 10 minutes, got a table, our food, and was back to the office by 130 - great timing! and the food was just as good as it is in portsmouth. it seems like things are really starting to fall into place at the friendly toast!
              now i will be in an unproductive food coma for the rest of the afternoon.

              10 Replies
              1. re: yellowlobster

                So are they serving their homefries in Cambridge now? When I stopped by today, they had a paper sign up on their door reading that because their basement kitchen wasn't working yet they had to have some other company help with their homefries (or something to that effect). I ordered something homefries-less just because I wasn't sure what I'd get.

                Got two delicious, huge blueberry pancakes though that I couldn't even finish, and I never leave pancakes unfinished.

                1. re: kobuta

                  they aren't serving the portsmouth homefries yet - but the ones that they are serving until then are really good!

                  1. re: yellowlobster

                    Sorry - for a Friendly Toast newbie, what's the difference? Are they meant to be different, or is the Cambridge version an attempt at duplicating the Portsmouth version?

                    1. re: kobuta

                      Can't speak to the NH version, but the early "replacement" version in Cambridge consists of very thinly-sliced whole potatoes loaded with thin-sliced onions. They have the texture of gently pan-sauteed potatoes, lightly browned, a bit oily, but with no discernible crust as you might get on a griddle. Delicious, though.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        The ones we had yesterday were plenty crusty. In the Portsmouth location, they never had an issue with asking for them well done, didn't ask for this in Cambridge yesterday.

                        Eggs for the salmon benedict were quite over poached, but they will get there.

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          Three of us had breakfast this Sat (5-23) at 9am. There was no wait. Everything was quite good, and even though I have eaten a couple of times at the original Toast we still haven't figured out how to order only as much food as we can eat. Their portions are HUGE and I hate wasting food. I'm goin' to have to keep going back till I/we get this down. Much of what we have ordered really doesn't reheat well (like the egg -in-a-hole) so it ends up getting wasted.

                          1. re: brigittesm

                            Man! I was there a few hours later and there was a 45 minute wait... I couldn't stay because I was relying on a one hour parking meter. argh. I'll come back soon and try again- maybe earlier this time!

                          2. re: Gabatta

                            No one was more excited for the opening of the Toast than me, but I am sorry to say that they are not remotely ready for prime time.

                            My wife wanted breakfast for dinner, so we stopped by on Thursday evening. While they were open, the menu was extremely limited with no (0) breakfast items available and a limited selection from the dinner menu. At least they told us before we were seated so we left and went elsewhere. Unfortunately we had parked in the garage and had to wait in a 20 minute line as a movie had just let out.

                            We rode out bikes over there today for another shot. Plenty of bike parking at One Kendall, much preferable to driving to this location. Arriving about 11:45a, we gave our name to the host who turned around, looked at the empty tables probably 30% of the tables were open) and told it us it would be 15 minutes. I explained to my wife that they were probably trying to take it easy on the kitchen as they were still working some kinks out. Exactly 15 minutes later we were seated. We did not know, however, how much cushion the kitchen really needed. We ordered immediately, and our food took over 45 min to come out, which is totally unacceptable even if they are recently opened. During this time, the waitress was no where to be seen to refill coffees, and we were informed that they were out of Coke and Diet Coke (a bit odd). When we saw tables to both sides of us getting "not much longer" type apologies we figured what we were in for. While waiting for our food a busser dropped the bus bucket onto the bench between me and another woman two tables away. The bucket with dirty and stinky dishes sat there for 15 minutes until the other woman asked for it to be moved after taking a picture of the whole scene with her phone because she was amused/disgusted.

                            When the food finally came, my wife's order was sans toast (which as we know is their signature item). It eventually trailed the eggs by about 10 minutes and was the wrong type of toast and not dry as requested. Her scramble was good enough, as were my eggs in a basket. However the waffle we ordered to split was an entirely other story, they are using frozen fruit as was previously noted. However when we got the waffle the fruit was literally frozen solid on top and the waffle cold underneath. When I gently pointed this out we were offered a replacement which we politely declined as we didn't want to wait another hour.

                            The topper came when our bill had bloody marys and mimosas on it which we had not ordered. Strangely the same thing had happened to the table next to us. We felt fortunate that only took us another 15 minutes to get that fixed.

                            I love the Portsmouth Toast, but 2 hours for a sub par experience at the Cambridge location won't remotely cut it. I am going to try and give it a rest for a bit until I hear consistently better things. Bottom line is they opened with what appears to be vitrually no training, the kitchen is way slow and inconsistent, and the servers (while being friendly) are not seasoned enough to handle the situation and instead are running around harried. Lots and lots of work to do to get this place humming.

                            Too bad...

                            1. re: Gabatta

                              I feel obliged to note for perspective that I've been there four times since it opened, and had no bad experiences at all. No waits, no delays, no issues. Three weekend breakfasts (8, 9 & 10), one weekday lunch (11:45). A couple times I've had waiters have to go back in the kitchen to ask questions, but that's the most disorganization I've seen.

                              1. re: Gabatta

                                Wow, that sounds awful.

                                We had a completely different experience there for dinner last night. We were a party of six, and each of us had some weird substitution or request, and the server accomodated every single one and they all came out together and all as ordered She was stellar. She also had good recommendations, and was totally familiar with the menu.

                                It did take longer than customary to get everything out. I won't go into specifics about the food, but it was all good.