It seems like it wasn’t that long ago when Toast opened in Fallbrook to provide northwest Lincoln a gathering place.
But on Oct. 5, the restaurant celebrated its 10th birthday.
My, how time flies.
“It’s absolutely crazy that it’s been that long already,” co-owner Tony Young said. “We went through a number of expansions and format changes until we finally hit on something that appeals to the neighborhood and community.”
Has it ever.
Toast is owned by Tony and Wendy Young and Mike Martin, who make up Red Herring Concepts, which also operates LeadBelly in Lincoln’s Haymarket and Omaha’s Midtown Crossing.
Red Herring is big on community. Toast concluded its third Eat Drink Cure fundraiser in September. It partnered with LeadBelly, Blue Sushi Sake Grill, Gate 25 and Jack’s Bar & Grill to raise $60,000 for childhood cancer charities Sammy's Superheroes Foundation, Pediatric Cancer Action Network and Camp CoHoLo. Eat Drink Cure has raised nearly $100,000 in three years, Tony Young said.
Toast began as a fast-casual coffee shop, deli and bar primarily serving Fallbrook and the Highlands neighborhoods. It eventually morphed into a full service, comfort food restaurant drawing not only from Fallbrook and the Highlands, but from nearby towns such as Raymond, Malcolm, Ceresco and Wahoo.
“When we added burgers and fries that kind of became the tipping point,” Young said.
Today, Toast’s menu is a mix of gourmet sandwiches -- the pot roast sandwich is a must-try, as is, according to Young, the French dip -- and signature burgers, steaks, seafood and a nice selection of comfort food favorites such as meatloaf, stroganoff, macaroni and cheese and country fried chicken.
The comfort fare comes with Toast’s unique take. The country fried chicken, for instance, is topped with a brown ale Gouda sauce and the appetizers include green beans, breaded and fried, and served with ranch dressing.
The pot roast is all over Toast’s menu, and for good reason. It’s so flavorful, and thanks to the red wine gravy, extremely juicy. Toast uses the pot roast for an appetizer (pot roast poutine, $11.99), as a sandwich ($10.19) and entree ($13.49).
I loved my pot roast sandwich. It was so juicy it totally soaked my bun. I told Young it was like eating a French dip but without the dipping.
I mentioned Toast’s novel takes on comfort food. The same goes for its burgers. My wife thoroughly enjoyed the Dublin Pub Melt ($9.89), a different take on a patty melt. The burger included Guinness-braised onions, Gouda cheese and Dijon mustard on grilled black Russian bread.
We started our meal with cheddar ranch muffins ($6.49). The bite-sized muffins were served with pecan-smoked bacon jam. The combination of which made the jam, well, pretty salty. We liked the muffins alone.
Toast deserves kudos for its side selections that accompany entrees, burgers and sandwiches. In addition to the standards (fries, seasonal veggies, cottage cheese), side items included a roasted red pepper hummus with tortilla chips, a Parmesan artichoke dip with tortilla chips, a vinegar-based Georgia-style coleslaw and garlic green beans. Grade: A-
Toast offers four distinct seating areas. The main one, just opposite the bar, is the most popular with low- and high-top tables, plus chairs at the bar. You’ll find a couple of TVs here usually tuned to a sporting event.
There are two other dining rooms as well as shaded seating outdoors. The dining room to the left as you enter is TV-free, while the large one just past the bar is great for large groups. The big one also has booth seating.
Rustic comes to mind to describe the look, especially with all the wood. Historic also is a good adjective. Some of the restaurant’s baseboard, window and door trim is reclaimed wood from Lincoln’s Whittier Junior High School, while some of the cabinetry behind the bar is from Omaha’s Burlington Station.
Of course, with it high ceiling and hard surfaces, it can get noisy, especially when it’s crowded. Grade: B+
My wife really wanted a second glass of wine, so when our server didn’t return after delivering our food, my wife finally headed to the bar to get herself one (I know I should have gone, but she was up and on her way before I knew it).
That was unfortunate because our service up to that point had been stellar. Our server was friendly and quick with suggestions from the bar and menu, and the turnaround times on our appetizer and entrees were extremely quick.
Our server became busy with other tables in her section because she also forgot about the box my wife requested for her sandwich, which another server eventually brought to us. The point here is the follow-through is as important as stepping up to the plate. Grade: B-
Toast offers several vegetarian and gluten-free options, with each item designated with a “v” or a “g.” Toast also uses a plus sign to note ingredients with gluten in dishes that, at first glance, may appear to be gluten-free.
Vegetarian dishes include a “grown-up” grilled cheese ($8.49) with smoked Gouda, Swiss and cheddar cheeses on Vienna wheat berry toast, a toasted macaroni and cheese ($10.49), a cranberry almond salad ($9.49) and housemade veggie burgers substituted for no additional charge in the signature burger lineup. Gluten-free buns are available for $1 extra.
Gluten-free dishes include the popular 8-ounce salmon filet ($17.99), ribeye ($19.99) and flat-iron ($15.99) steaks and red pepper grilled shrimp ($14.99). Grade: A
Jeff Korbelik is winery manager at James Arthur Vineyards, former Journal Star features editor and author of “Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska.”