OPEN 7:30 – 3 / 7 DAYS A WEEK
When Toast first opened the doors of their Montclair, NJ location in May of 2007, owner Amy Russo Harrigan’s mantra was simple. “Peace, Love, Pancakes.” While Toast has since expanded with the opening of their new location in Downtown Asbury Park, the restaurant’s foundation remains the same. Toast’s mantra isn’t simply a cute catch phrase that looks good on t-shirts. Those three words are the (not-so-secret) ingredients that help make every dining experience at Toast stand out.
Toast’s vibrant, affable staff members greet every customer with a smile. Even Amy herself can often be found weaving between tables and laughing with customers at both the Montclair and Asbury Park locations. With bright, rustic, and ever so slightly kitschy decor covering the walls and tables, Toast provides a peaceful, B&B-like environment. This welcoming atmosphere plus Toast’s perceptive staff make both the Asbury Park and Montclair locations perfect for family outings, business meetings, and private events, alike.
Inviting atmosphere aside, the dining experience at Toast would be nothing if not for their expansive, unique culinary options. Toast’s menu boasts choices for breakfast, lunch, and that magical time in between, known as brunch. The fare ranges from Huevos Rancheros and Grilled Cinnamon Buns to their fresh Lobster Roll and Brookdale Cheese Steak, and while much of their menu consists of old standbys, every dish comes standard with a bit of extra love and care. Substitute a side of french fries for sweet potato fries, or switch out the Canadian bacon on your eggs benedict for crab cakes. These seemingly simple touches, along with all natural and fresh ingredients, help make Toast a cut above the rest.
Toast’s mantra, of course, would not be complete without the promise of pancakes. These much-loved pancakes are made using Amy’s tried and true family recipe. Plus, with fruit, chocolate chip, and even red velvet varieties, Toast’s pancakes have always been a crowd favorite. However, if pancakes aren’t your thing, Toast offers choices for widely varying palates. They even provide a generous breakfast/brunch/lunch menu specifically geared toward vegan and vegetarian diners.
Whether you’re looking to start your day off right, or you’re in dire need of a mid-day pick-me-up, Toast’s expansive menu, warm atmosphere, and ever attentive staff make both the Asbury Park and Montclair locations ideal dining destinations.
Toast isn’t simply a place to dine out with family and friends, we also offer catering for private parties and events. A year after Toast Montclair opened their doors and was flooded with positive feedback, Amy saw a wonderful opportunity to expand into the world of catering. While staying true to our roots, Toast Catering offers a new way to experience Toast’s comforting yet unique style of cuisine. From intimate at-home dinner parties, to bridal showers, family reunions, or fundraising galas serving hundreds of guests, Toast Catering will meet the needs of any occasion.
With Toast’s event planning expertise, you no longer have to fret about every stressful detail of primping and planning for your event. Private parties can be held at either of our two locations or in an off-premise location of your choosing. Toast Catering offers a plethora of menu options, so we can allow you to choose the catering menu that will best fit your event’s specific needs. These menus boast a variety of options for all palates, but if you would like to incorporate more vegetarian or vegan choices in your menu, or if you have any special requests, please feel free to let us know, and we will do our best to meet them.
Best of Jersey 2010: Food and Drink | March 15, 2010
Breakfast at Toast in Montclair is a major social event. In the two-story chalet, people are always running into people they know. And there’s much to discuss, especially the irresistible food. Amid the several kinds of omelettes, waffles, and French toast, there is basically just one kind of pancakes—buttermilk—but they are so good they more than hold their own.
Show Customers They Matter |
Amy Russo Harrigan is the owner of Toast Restaurant on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. Toast serves breakfast, brunch and lunch and although a new eatery in Montclair, has already gained the reputation as a place that’s comfortable, friendly with great customer service. This is not by accident. Amy has raised the bar for how her employees approach their job and communicate with their most important constituents—customers. Everyone talks about customer service, but they live it at Toast and most of that effort revolves around exceptional communication skills.
Q—With all the challenges businesses face, what is the most important message to communicate to customers and clients?
A—Whether you are in corporate America or in the restaurant business, the key is to let your customers know you care about them. It is because of them that you have the opportunity to make a living doing something that you enjoy. According to Amy Russo Harrigan, the philosophy at Toast is to communicate to each and every person who walks through the door that they matter. “Customers don’t just sit down and get cookie cutter service. Our servers approach families with kids differently than they would professionals having a business lunch. Everyone needs to matter in different ways. Everyone has different needs and I train my staff to assess customers before they get to the table and communicate accordingly.”
Q—How do you communicate a message to your staff that the customer is always #1?
A—Most organizations have a mission statement or some other core values they stand by. Everything you do, including who you hire and what the décor is in your establishment communicates about and supports that mission. At Toast, Amy starts this process when interviewing prospective employees. “Toast’s mission is to create a cool, relaxed environment where people matter most. Therefore, when I am interviewing, I read between the lines to see if someone can support that mission. The people I hire need to know that customer service is the only variable in the restaurant that we can control.”
Q—How do you teach employees to deal with difficult customers or clients?
A—Regardless of why a customer or client is being difficult, you need to let them know that you are here to help them. It may be as simple as saying with a smile; “I am so sorry you feel that way. Is there something I can do to help?” Empathize with the customer or client and let them know you understand his frustration. Amy’s approach is that whatever a customer may be requesting, whether it is an “omelet with 20 substitutions or a change of table or waiter,” she tries to accommodate the request. Says Amy; “1,000 percent of it comes down to attitude. You can have a great time at work on any given day. You just need to make the best of it and roll with whatever comes your way.”
Q—What do you do with employees who just don’t seem to get it?
A—Every manager, CEO or team leader has been faced with the employee that regardless of how much coaching and mentoring is provided to him, just doesn’t “get it.” At Toast, Amy tries to surround one person who doesn’t get it with people who do, in hopes that the person who doesn’t get it steps up or takes himself out of the game. Sometimes, no matter how much you communicate verbally how you want employees to act, there is no substitute for modeling good behavior of colleagues, which can communicate a very powerful message.
On the Side: Toast in Montclair Offers Peace, Love and Pancakes | December 18, 2009
Amy Russo Harrigan came up with a clever little name for her restaurant, a tribute to the morning meal, so it should not be surprising that Toast also has become one of the few — if not only — BYO breakfast restaurants in the state.
Guests frequently bring in champagne to make their weekend mimosas and dine on homemade waffles with maple mascarpone and walnuts.
The theme here is peace, love and pancakes (you can buy a T-shirt with that mantra); and Harrigan, who promotes a kumbaya attitude among her staff, turned this two-story home into a warm and cozy restaurant to fill what she saw as a gaping hole in the restaurant world.
Why, she had wondered, is it so hard to get an honest, wholesome, good breakfast in your own hometown? Why must you go on vacation, to a ski lodge or a beach resort, to get a homemade hollandaise sauce, an omelet made of real eggs, fluffy pancakes?
Harrigan’s dad owned a trucking company and the Broadway Diner in Bayonne, so she grew up on big breakfasts.
“I’m a diner whore,” says Harrigan.
For Toast, she stole her father’s pancake recipe — the secret is all-real ingredients — and then hired chef Gary Ryan, formerly of Park & Orchard in East Rutherford.
“We have a real chef,” says Harrigan. “We don’t just have a line cook.” Ryan, too, uses all-real ingredients — farm-fresh eggs, buttermilk, butter, vanilla. So although the menu is filled with familiar favorites — eggs, pancakes, waffles, muffins, oatmeal, granola — the taste at Toast is clean, authentic, honest. Plus the latte is great.
The restaurant bustles on weekends, but it’s a leisurely sort of bustle, and Toast has become a novel option for birthday parties, book clubs, low-key baby showers.
“People sit and have breakfast for two hours,” says Harrigan.
Restaurant Reviews: Toast | January 28, 2008
Amy Russo Harrigan knows her pancakes. She grew up in a Rutherford family that owns the Broadway diners in Bayonne, Summit, and Red Bank. After earning a marketing degree from Fairleigh Dickinson in 1994, she took up skiing. As much as she liked the Vermont slopes, she liked Vermonters’ big country breakfasts even more.
Toast is Russo Harrigan’s way of having her pancakes and eating them, too. In the eating department, she’s getting plenty of help from customers hankering for a change from Raymond’s, Bluestone Coffee, and Cozy End. Toast’s fluffy flapjacks are made with “a lot of butter, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and nothing artificial,” she says. The bittersweet chips in the chocolate-chip pancakes make them not just for kids.
Russo Harrigan, who lives in Bloomfield with her husband and three children, found a congenial spot across from ever-bustling Whole Foods. Although she has never run a restaurant, she learned to cook “at my Italian nana’s apron strings.” But she is not winging it. She installed a capable chef—Vermont-trained Nick Karosen.
Karosen’s Belgian waffles are brown and crisp outside, light inside. The delicious French toast is made from the excellent challah of Gina’s Panificio on Walnut Street. For a treat, try Karosen’s stuffed French toast, oozing sweet cream cheese and topped with fruit preserves. It brought to mind old-fashioned dairy blintzes.
Toast’s deft omelets flaunt fillings such as Nova-style lox (from Perona Farms in Andover) and Vermont goat cheese. Egg entreés come with terrific hand-chopped Yukon Gold potatoes, parboiled, deep-fried for crispness, and finished on the griddle with minced onion and spices. Sandwiches come with sweet-potato shoestring fries that are nearly as good as the breakfast spuds.
Simple, sumptuous lobster roll ($15.95)is served on a toasted hot dog bun. It’s all lobster meat, bound with a little mayo and lemon juice. The crabcake sandwich is small but savory with scallions. A Cuban pressed sandwich on crusty Italian bread from Nicolo’s on Baldwin Street was filled with sliced slow-roasted pork, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. The ingredients, though top notch, were skimpy in quantity. A turkey wrap, on the other hand, bulged with turkey breast, BLT, Havarti, and avocado—a winning combination. Cobb salad, served with either chicken or lobster, comes with a creamy vinaigrette or a commendable Caesar dressing in which you could actually taste anchovies.
When Russo Harrigan was a girl (and just a Russo), her father owned Rocco’s, a Bayonne pub. She used to roller skate around Rocco’s and do her homework at the bar. That home-away-from-home image fits Toast, too. Just don’t get any ideas about roller skating.
Lift Your Coffee Cup | August 19, 2007
Because Montclair sometimes seems more like a sixth borough of New York City than a town — it’s been called the Upper West Side West — newcomers to Toast might be forgiven for thinking they’ve entered New Jersey’s version of a hip breakfast spot in, say, Brooklyn.
But they would be mistaken.
Toast, a deliberately rustic-looking 3,000-square-foot breakfast and lunch place opened in May by Amy Russo Harrigan of Bloomfield and her neighbor-partner, Juan Valdez, could not have a more solid New Jersey pedigree.
“I was kind of raised in the New Jersey diner business,” said Ms. Russo Harrigan, a 36-year-old mother of three who swivels through Toast’s rows of two- and four-tops with one hand clutching the toddler on her hip and the other a coffeepot. Her father, Bob Russo, has owned the Broadway Diner trifecta of greasy spoons whose marquees, in Bayonne, Red Bank and Summit, boast of “the world’s best pancakes,” since she was a child.
She’s well aware of the culinary sophistication her typical customer brings to the table, though. In Montclair, “they know their food,” she said. “They’re not just stopping off the highway for a cup of coffee.”
Ms. Russo Harrigan and Nick Karosen, the chef, have studded Toast’s menu with urbane offerings like smoked salmon Benedict ($9.95) and a lavishly presented chopped Mexican salad with jicama and honey-lime cilantro vinaigrette ($8.95).
But ultimately the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or the pancake — buttermilk, plain or embellished in various ways — far from the griddle. “We’ve had this pancake recipe in my family for 30 years,” Ms. Russo Harrigan said, “and now it’s here.”