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Friendly Toast Revisited

I know many of you are asking whether we need another thread about the Friendly Toast. The answer is yes, we do. Like other places before it (All Star Sandwich Bar comes to mind), the Toast opened to unrealistically high expections. Not only did the Toast fail to meet those lofty expectations, but it also experienced service and other blunders that were well reported on this board.

But now that it's been open for several months, I think it's time to wipe the slate clean. It's been open long enough that it should have resolved those early kinks. Has it? Should those with early bad experiences give it another chance? Should those who stayed away because of what they read give it a shot?

I had only been to the Friendly Toast twice before, both times with a group of six (three adults and three kids) at 6pm on Sunday evenings. Both times it -- both the food and the service -- was good, not great.

This (Sunday) morning, my daughter and I decided to wander over at around 9am. This was to be the first time I would try it for a weekend breakfast. This time it was better than good; perhaps not great, but it certainly was a satisfactory experience, worthy of a return visit.

We arrived at around 9:20am, late enough that the dining room was nearly full, but early enough that we were seated without a wait. (By the time we left nearly an hour later, there was a wait, and I could see a waiting list that had quite a few names on it of people who already had been seated -- it appeared that they were moving through the waitlist fairly quickly.)

My daughter and I decided we would share a couple of pancakes and one egg dish -- we opted for a simple cheddar and red onion omelet. The pancakes were delicious -- some of the best pancakes I recall having in the Boston area -- a real highlight. The omelet was good, but not extraordinary. As some may recall from one of my threads a couple of years ago, I find that most restaurants overcook omelets, and the Toast was no exception. The potatoes also were good, but I didn't see why people rave about them. The coffee was hot (unlike an earlier visit, when I was served ice cold coffee), but not particularly good -- not bad, but not good.

Importantly, the service was very good. In addition to being promptly seated, our order was taken promptly and our food arrived promptly (not fast, but not slow -- I think perhaps 20 minutes after we had ordered). As I mentioned, it appeared that they were moving people through the waitlist pretty quickly, which they only could do if they were serving tables quickly. We were in and out in less than an hour.

This was not the best breakfast I've ever had, but in a city with a terrible shortage of quality breakfast spots, hopefully this one positive experience is indicative of what we can expect from the Friendly Toast.

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The Friendly Toast
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

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  1. I guess I'm in the contrarian, mostly-been-enjoying the Friendly Toast Cambridge camp here. I didn't have high expectations, which I think helped, but neither did I experience the liturgy of issues commonly enumerated here: terrible service, bad food, long waits. Haven't been back recently, but even early on I liked it, felt well-treated, liked the breakfasts.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    1. My two cents. After hearing raves from a couple of people, Auntie Yabai and I went to the Friendly Toast for a late "breakfast" (4:00 PM or so). I thought it was pretty decent, worthy of a repeat. Their French Toast was quite nice. Service was friendly and efficient, and I got a kick out of the decor. OJ was not fresh-squeezed, which tells you the limits of this place.

      Auntie Yabai and her friend went by themselves at a later date, and the friend decided to order the falafel, which apparently was atrocious. On the other hand, who in their right mind orders falafel at a uber-goyish restaurant? Leave falafel to the experts at Rami's and other places.

      1. Our experience a few weeks ago was similar. Good food, decent service, fun menu. Not amazing, but worth another visit.

        1. I've always had good food and service for breakfast. But, I'm there right when they open. I like how they have tofu scrambles and I do really enjoy their toast.

          I think their coffee is a disgrace. Weak and flavorless. To add insult to injury, the coffee is served in those ridiculous plastic cups.

          1 Reply
          1. re: beetlebug

            Ugh, agree on the coffee. What's up with that? Watery diner coffee, barely drinkable. You'd think they could upgrade just a bit. We went there for the 2nd time this past Sunday. I thought the service was ok, we had some sorta crunchy-surfer dude guy who was fine I suppose. The food was the same, fine, good I guess --sort of tough to screw up an egg sandwich but we got pancakes too which were good. After two visits I wouldn't make it destination spot but it works when you've got a 2 year old in tow (if you go early enough.)

          2. We tried again a few weeks again as friends picked the location. Same sh*t, different day. Mediocre food served in off putting Cheesecake Factory portions, food took forever to come out, table was dirty, the crappiest coffee in town and poor service (2 out of 4 orders were in correct or had items missing). Once again, some of the famous toast came when the meals were already more than half eaten.

            Has high hopes for this place, but it is a bust IMO.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Gabatta

              Re: the gargantuan portion sizes. One of the staff informed me that I could order most items as a half portion. Just about the perfect size for breakfast. There seems to be discrepancies on the pricing, but I would rather have a smaller portion for about 2/3 the menu price.

              1. re: beetlebug

                Thanks for posting, that is good to know if we ever go back. A half order of the huevos rancheros would be just about right for most people i assume.

                1. re: Gabatta

                  One of the things that may have improved the experience for me this past weekend was ordering more simply: we ordered two pancakes with sliced bananas on the side, and an omelet. It still was too much food for two, but more reasonably portioned than their specialty breakfasts (which, on my prior two visits, I did not enjoy as much as my simpler choices on this visit).

            2. I just saw this article about the financial struggle the Friendly Toast is going through: http://tech.mit.edu/V129/N52/friendly...

              7 Replies
              1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                More evidence this space is cursed? Economic down turn aside, this place is also very popular during lunch hours, so business during the work week should be brisk. Maybe this place should consider curbing hours - I don't think there's a crowd here for dinner or after hours.

                1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                  "...owner Melissa Jasper said, and they wasted over $50,000 training staff they didn’t need..."

                  Really?? My experiences have indicated that they spent next to no money or time training staff. Unfortunately I think poor management is hurting the Toast more than poor circumstance.

                  1. re: Gabatta

                    I was surprised by that comment as well. I've had decent food at the Cambridge location, but the service has been the model of stunning incompetence beyond all expectation.

                    Note that I'm there in the evenings; the mornings sound a bit better, service-wise. I'm at the Portsmouth location more frequently and at all hours and it doesn't suffer like this.

                    When I first saw this I was afraid the Cambridge venture would fail and take down the Portsmouth location with it. I hope I'm wrong, but the situation doesn't sound great. (I'm also surprised by the owners paying what seemed to be an optional $80k for upgrades instead of moving out of the current Portsmouth spot, since they've moved a couple of times before and are still going strong, but I don't know the business at all, and maybe the cost of moving would be far higher.)

                    1. re: Gabatta

                      Ding ding ding. We have a winner. I've been twice and won't be giving them a third chance. Both times I've been seated right away and thought that was a sign of good things to come, but both times we waited 15 minutes before flagging a waitress to take our drink order. The food took an eternity as well, both times we had to ask what was taking so long (25 mins for pancakes?); one of those times the kitchen apparently had forgotten our order. But as the OP said, the pancakes were delicious. At the end, both times, we had to flag the waitress for the check.

                      If you asked me to make a list of types of people who make good waiters, hipsters wouldn't make the list. Aren't they apathetic contrarians by nature?

                      1. re: Gabatta

                        I am not surprised. I hae always found the Portsmouth location to have mediocre to barely good food, lousy service, and the place always had an unclean appearence with food on empty tables, and a kitchen whose appearence made mine in college appear appetizing. This is more of the same, with a somewhat more experienced crowd.

                        It is too bad because Portsmouth proper does not have a good breakfast place. The Golden Egg is too far away to walk.

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          Gabatta, I agree.

                          I think the "waste" in this instance is that, from all observable operations, the training was like water off a duck's back.

                          I can get on board with the atmosphere, I think the food is decent, and the location is convenient (for me) -- but the service is just atrocious, and the general hipper-than-thou attitude of the staff makes me feel vomity every time I go there.

                        2. re: CreativeFoodie42

                          <fter an A/C unit installation by the landlord, city inspectors discovered the establishment’s electrical work was wired illegally. Then, a plumbing inspector found multiple code violations, which Jasper claims was the responsibility of the original builders of the space more than three decades ago.>

                          It's a shame that they didn't discover the electrical and plumbing problems prior to renting the space in NH.I wonder why the landlord isn't responsible for any of it?

                          I would have thought that w/the theatre in Kendall that they would get some of the pre/post film crowds. But I guess with CBC, BR, and Hungry Mother there is some stiff competition.

                          -----
                          Hungry Mother
                          Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                        3. I went for brunch last Sunday and thought the french toast was good but not great. Agree with beetlebug about the coffee, definitely. I need a good strong cup!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: purple bot

                            I'm with the OP - there aren't enough good breakfast places and, if I go "off hours" here, I find it pleasant, with reasonable service, and good food. It isn't the Town Diner to me or Spot in Watertown which I love, but which is too tiny to go to with a group. It's a good addition to a sparse breakfast scene. Of course, i remain faithful and addicted to Victor's where the food is mediocre, the coffee bland, and the waitresses of the heart of gold variety! go figure.

                            -----
                            Town Diner
                            627 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

                          2. I've been twice for lunch, satisfied once and disappointed once.

                            The first time we shared a steak sandwich - sliced roast beef, onions, mushrooms and cheese on a Kaiser bun. It's was fine, lunch truck acceptable even, but for $11, I was shocked - how can a simple, greasy, perfectly fine sandwich be that much money?

                            The second time, we shared an avocado burger with homefries and a side of sweet potato fries. The great: sweet potato fries. The bad: homefries should not be burnt. The ok: a pre-formed greasy patty with tasteless avocado on a boring bun.

                            Agree with beetlebug that the coffee is weak.

                            Basically, I'm not impressed by food. If I wanted a greasy burger, I'd at least go to Charlie's where they give you two of them for half the price.

                            1. Yeah, we had to check this place out because of the crazy debate on it here -- any place that evokes such strong feelings... So we went at 8am on a Sunday, with 4 adults and 4 kids. As far as I'm concerned, this is a great plus of the place -- it can seat a group this big. Our regular is the Deluxe, but it's hard to get a group that big in there without a big wait. Obviously, because we hit the FT on opening, we had no wait at all. We also had a cute and super-nice waitress, who dealt quickly and cheerfully with our various child-related crises (spilled milk, dropped utensils). I agree with the beefs about the coffee and I would say that the food wasn't up to the Deluxe standard, but it was good and the menu was fun. The kids LOVED the decor. All in all, it was a nice option for a big group. I don't get the hate and I don't get the disdain. Also, given the postings, I expected the place to be much scruffier and dirty than it was.

                              1. After a handful of visits, I've decided that FT at 10 p.m. is far preferable to FT at brunch o'clock.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: djd

                                  Went for lunch with a coworker a few months back and enjoyed it very much. Went for brunch this past Sunday with my wife, got there at 10, told "30 to 45 minutes". At 10:30 I checked the list, saw 20 names ahead of me, asked and heard "30 to 45 more minutes", so we left, as we had an appointment in Brookline at noon we couldn't be late for.

                                  I'll try to take her there for brunch again, probably earlier, but that was annoying.

                                  1. re: L2k

                                    My experience has been that if you go around 9 on the weekends, there's no line. However, we went last weekend and got not-very-good service. They took forever to bring our food, and the waitress stopped by and explained that the kitchen had screwed up our order more than once. When my food finally arrived, it was the wrong dish. The food was fine, but we were irritated by that point. They did take 50% off the check, which made up for most of the cost of the parking ticket that we got (we were about 2 minutes too late getting back to our car) outside the restaurant.

                                2. We went this past Sunday around 5:15. Was not impressed. There were small service issues, which, coming from different people, indicated to me a general sloppiness. The hostess initially brought us to a table that was too small for four adults and two children but dashed off before she noticed (she told us to take a bigger table--unwiped off--when we asked). The waiter had to be asked once if they had crayons for the kids and then reminded after he said he'd bring them. He also never refilled water glasses or checked up on us. And the food, as in this post, seemed an afterthought: limp lettuce salad, tasteless fish burritos. And each entree seemingly about $3-4 too much for what it was. We won't be back.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: javelina

                                    I'm done with FT.
                                    Went there with my family this Saturday and was underwhelmed.
                                    My wife had a good spinach omlette but to wait 40 minutes?????...NOT!
                                    I'll be going back to the Deluxe Town Diner fin Watertown.

                                    -----
                                    Deluxe Town Diner
                                    627 Mt Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

                                  2. We go to the FT in Portsmouth at least once a year, since it's tradition to stay up there for Valentine's day and it's tradition to eat breakfast at the Friendly Toast. Yeah, the service leaves something to be desired - but what do you expect with a bunch of hipsters and punk rock kids on the staff? I usually always get the New Hampshire's Finest scramble with asparagus, goat cheese, etc - and it's delicious! But this is the NH location (and I don't even know if the Cambridge location would have this option renamed on their menu?) It's unfortunate to hear that they're having so much trouble at their new location. I won't be trying the FT Cambridge. If I'm in the Cambridge area I'd rather drive 6 or 7 minutes out of my way to the Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakery in Somerville to get food that's (probably) at least 10X better for half the price.

                                    -----
                                    The Friendly Toast
                                    121 Congress St, Portsmouth, NH 03801

                                    Neighborhood Restaurant
                                    25 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

                                    The Friendly Toast
                                    1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: cgandolfo

                                      They do have the NH's Finest Scramble in Kendall Square (it is one of my favorite dishes). i went there yesterday for lunch and the service is slow but the food is good enough to keep me coming back (especially with its proximity to the movie theater).

                                      1. re: cgandolfo

                                        I don't think punk rock kids as a class make for bad servers: I can think of many at various establishments in Boston who are/have been great waiters, bartenders, etc. Safer to speak of the service culture at individual establishments. The Friendly Toast, by many accounts, has some issues there. I've been luckier in my experiences of the Cambridge location, but I tend to avoid it on weekends.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          I'm originally from Portsmouth so I've been to the FT a lot. When I lived there 10 years ago I would go fairly frequently and the service was never stellar but it was never bad either.

                                          The past couple of times I went the service was so bad, it was nearly comical (if it had been in a movie or something). Yes, the food is good. But I no longer think it's worth it to suffer such poor service. The FT has survived on a reputation that's way past it's heyday IMO. I haven't even bothered with the Cambridge location and probably won't be back to the Portsmouth one either.