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.