The Friendly Toast (Cambridge, MA)

After I left Natick, I had another meeting at MIT. This time it was a morning meeting, and this time the Gods of Boston traffic were smiling on me, so I got there with surprisingly little in the way of traffic delays. As a result, I had a chance to grab breakfast, and walking around near the MIT/Kendall Square station, I happened across The Friendly Toast.

The Friendly Toast is a breakfast diner, with locations in Portsmouth, NH (their original location) and Cambridge, MA (Kendall Square, just north of MIT and Draper Labs). I’ve happened across the Portsmouth location several times while visiting there, and it has remained on my chronic “I should try that place out” hit list… but the reality of life is that by the time I usually have made the drive to Portsmouth, breakfast has given way to lunch. At least this time I managed to arrive at a breakfast joint during breakfast hours. The overall theme for The Friendly Toast is your typicals 50’s retro decor, and a menu featuring slightly updated diner classics. And, true to their name, most of the menu items feature toast, one of several on-site baked breads that are served up as thickly-sliced and perfectly toasted slabs of bread.

Looking over the menu, several items attracted my attention. Alas, my limited stomach space from the previous evening’s sushi bender, and the fact that it was indeed the early morning, caused me to pass on both the Mojito Milkshake and the M+M Pancakes, although I’ll probably try these if I visit on another occasion. I ended up deciding that if I place is known for good toast, I should get the toast, and ordered up some eggs-in-a-hole. That classic old-school culinary creation of many names (I’ve heard it called egg in a hole, egg in a boat, toad in a hole, egg in the middle…) in which a hole is cut or stamped from a piece of bread, an egg poured into it, and the whole assembly cooked up at once, hopefully with the result of having an over-easy egg nicely embedded in your fried toast.

This turned out to be a good call, since this was a very nicely done version. The very thick slabs of toast were perfectly toasted, nicely flavored in a perfect example of the Maillard Reaction. The egg in each slice was perfectly cooked, with the middle near the yolk just barely cooked, while the outer layers remained soft. Most importantly, the thick slabs of bread balanced the overall dish in favor of the toast (usually, I find this dish overwhelmed by the egg). I’d definitely be interested in having this again.

However, the homefries were strictly B-list material. Like many places, they seem to have parboiled the potatoes and run them through a slicer, and then finished them on the griddle. And like most places that do their home fries like this, the result was pretty much the usual: little discs of potato that are undercooked on one end, and overcooked on the other. You can certainly make homefries like this (the wonderful homefries at Tumble Inn Diner in Claremont, for example, are made this way, but still nicely criped), but frequent turning is the key. Nothing unpleasant, but that, and the plastic coffee mug, take a few points away from an otherwise outstanding breakfast.

Still, the toast was good enough that I’d like to go back. And the Mojito Milkshake on the menu is also sounding like it is worth trying as well.

The Friendly Toast

Cambridge, MA and Portsmouth, NH.

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