Cafe hits the mark with comfort food, college-friendly prices
RESTAURANT REVIEW: The Friendly Toast
I arrived at the Friendly Toast late one Friday evening after wandering around the streets of Cambridge for what seemed an interminably long time to my growling stomach. While the restaurant took a while to find, it was hard to miss. An enormous sign on the front of the building proclaims the diner’s name in colorful, funky letters and lights strung around the front patio lent cheer to the night. The Cambridge location is the second outpost of a Portsmouth, New Hampshire favorite and the Boston area should be grateful for the expansion.
The cute front sign does a good job of suggesting the inside of the restaurant, which boasted bright green walls almost completely covered with vintage posters and advertisements. We entered to a crowded bar and a decorated whiteboard announcing the day’s specials, and then the hostess guided us to the back of the main dining room, where our party of ten sat at three tables pushed together: one blue, one yellow, and one red. The eclectic background music fit the atmosphere perfectly—cluttered, crazy, fun and almost unreal.
Our table started with a selection of fries as appetizers. The humbly titled Cheesy Fries ($9.25) oozed voluptuously with melted blue cheese and provolone. They came with a strawberry-habanero dipping sauce that packed a serious punch while providing a sweet foil to the salty richness of the fries. The Orleans Fries ($8.25), which are sweet potato fries glazed with Tabasco, brown sugar and served with sour cream for dipping, were at once sweet, sour, salty, spicy and dangerously addictive. The two plates were big enough to satisfy ten people as appetizers, but the fries were so good they vanished in an instant.
The restaurant’s fame comes from its breakfast food, which covers at least half the menu and is served all day long. The options range from sweet to savory: from traditional to the truly bizarre. The Drunkard’s French Toast ($7.00 for one piece, $9.50 for two) features thick slices of the Friendly Toast’s excellent homemade bread drowned in a creamy, boozy Grand Marnier sauce. The ethereal Caribbean Waffle ($8.50), a fluffy Belgian creation made from a “homemade mix,” was studded with pecans and crowned with strawberries and caramelized bananas. Not to miss are the enormous, fluffy pancakes, which you can fill with ingredients ranging from blueberries to toffee crumbles to Raisinettes (prices vary depending on the number of pancakes and the ingredients you choose). It would be hard to go wrong with any of the scrambles, but the Flying Fish ($10.50), filled with smoked salmon and cheddar and redolent of dill, was excellent. Scrambles all come with homefries—salty, golden-brown and wholesome—and slices of homemade toast doused with a healthy serving of butter.
The menu also includes an assortment of sandwiches, burritos, and other savory selections for those who prefer to only eat breakfast in the morning. Options range from Grilled Cheese ($7.50), a Chorizo Burrito ($10.50) to a Vegan Valhalla wrap with tofu and mushrooms ($11.50). The burgers, made with hefty patties of fresh Hereford beef, are juicy, well-prepared and come with a choice of sides, ranging from pretzels to onion rings (some sides cost extra, such as the sweet potato fries, which will set you back $1.50, but they’re absolutely worth the cost). The Bleu Burger got an emphatic rating of “four out of five stars” from the companion of mine who ordered it.
The Friendly Toast serves an assortment of drinks, and offers an impressive cocktail menu. While we weren’t able to sample anything, those above the age of 21 would do well to check out the bar. They deserve points for serving “The Kraken,” a dark and decadent brand of spiced rum. Non-alcoholic drinks include the standard lineup of sodas and hot drinks, as well as smoothies and frappes. The hot chocolate ($2.75) was warm and sweet but nothing extraordinary. You do, however, have the option of adding your choice of flavored syrup or liqueur to any hot beverage.
Service ran on the slow side, but that’s to be expected wherever you go with a party of ten, and the servers, though harried, were always friendly. The dining room was full at 8:30 on a Friday night, and since the Friendly Toast proudly stays open until one o’clock in the morning on weekends, I would imagine to expect crowds all night.
I enthusiastically recommend the Friendly Toast for a celebration, a night out, or just as a place to go if you’re looking for a funky place to shake up your dining routine. The diet-conscious might look elsewhere, but with its moderate prices, generous portions, fun atmosphere, and delicious, unpretentious food, the Friendly Toast is definitely a restaurant worth visiting.
The Friendly Toast
One Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
Monday 8am – 10pm
Tuesday-Thursday 8am – midnight
Friday-Saturday 8am – 1am
Sunday 8am – 9pm
To get there on the T, take the Red Line to Kendall Square and walk to Broadway Street before turning onto Hampshire.
– Devyn Powell