eliza sohn

The fact that the local/organic scene is here to stay is evidenced less, perhaps, by the presence of culinary heavyweights like Wildwood or Paley's Place, than by smaller restaurants cropping up like adorable little toadstools in the shadow of larger, similarly minded establishments. Toast is a great example: Here's an under-the-radar little neighborhood joint, crammed next to a convenience store off SE 52nd and Holgate, with a thoughtful but affordable menu featuring "mostly local, mostly organic" food.

Don't get me wrong; Toast is no L'Astra, no tiny diamond in the rough. It is, however, a surprisingly decent little spot, absolutely brimming with sincerity, from the friendly host and servers to the framed photographs of toasters decorating the mint-green walls.

Toast is open for dinner four nights a week (Wednesday-Saturday), and open for brunch Wednesday-Sunday. The one-page dinner menu features items like hanger steak and potatoes ($15), braised chicken and tomato ragu ($12), and a half-pound burger ($9)—served on toast, of course.

Most everything I tried was solid—nothing mind blowing, but about right for the price and portion size. A summer vegetable soup was a bit of a disappointment; a bland white bisque that would've been better billed as creamed corn. My entrée, though, was filling and nicely balanced: pork loin over creamy polenta, accented with a topping of crispy, salty bacon. I also found myself eyeing the steak that the woman at the table next to me was eating, which looked as though it was cooked just as she had ordered it: a perfect medium rare.

The fact that I know how the woman next to me ordered her steak speaks to one problem with the space: It's tiny, and extremely cramped; there are maybe eight tables, and the servers hardly have room to maneuver between them. It's also worth noting that the dinner menu is borderline hostile to vegetarians. The token veggie/vegan dish is called the "Good Monk," a name whose ascetic connotations are reflected in the simple tofu and farro bowl. Few of the vegetarians I know get too excited about cubed tofu, veggies, and grain at this point. While no chef is obligated to cater to vegetarians, if you're gonna make the effort, you might as well put in a little more, well, effort.

The beer and wine menu is in keeping with the "mostly local" theme, featuring Pacific Northwest labels (with the exception of Pabst-owned Rainier, the cheap beer on deck here). There are some interesting options for the non-boozer as well, like black currant lemonade, Dry Soda, and a few house-made concoctions. And as for the eponymous toast, it's made in house and served with homemade jam—try Toast's English muffin.

I'd fully planned on trying Toast's brunch, but a fall cold swept in at the last minute, obliterating my sense of both taste and smell and turning me into whiney, phlegmy mess. It's unfortunate, too—the brunch menu is more interesting than the dinner menu, and I suspect brunch is where this place really shines. (I was going to eat the hell out of the "Golden Pig": three eggs scrambled with pork belly, basil, and shallots.) Toast is a sweet little spot, sure to become a neighborhood favorite, and certainly worth visiting should you find yourself curious to see how the Woodstock 'hood does local.