Open 7:30 till 8 • Mon - Fri
Open 7:30 till 3 • Sat and Sun
NEW JERSEY MONTHLY
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.
NEW YORK TIMES
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.”.
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?
Q—How do you communicate a message to your staff that the customer is always #1?
Q—How do you teach employees to deal with difficult customers or clients?
Q—What do you do with employees who just don’t seem to get it?
NEW JERSEY MONTHLY
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.
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.
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.
|Toast Restaurant • 700 Bloomfield Avenue • Montclair, NJ • Essex County, New Jersey 07042
973.509.8099 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Private Parties • Catering
Breakfast, Lunch, and Brunch
omellettes • scrambles • sandwiches • wraps
Including a menu of vegetarian and vegan dishes for breakfast and lunch.