121 Nantasket Ave., Hull
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Charge cards: MasterCard and Visa only
The sign on a wall at Toast says it all: “If you are in a hurry, you’re in the wrong place.’’
But the line out the door on a recent chilly morning is equally telling. The food is worth the wait, especially for breakfast aficionados.
Toast, which sits across from Nantasket Beach in Hull, opens at 7 a.m., and serves breakfast until it closes at 2 p.m. You can get eggs any way, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, and a vast array of omelets. The maple syrup is real, the coffee is strong, and the food arrives piping hot.
We arrived at 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday and the place - which seats 50 - was packed with families, older couples, high school girls, and 20-somethings, all obviously enjoying their meals.
The hostess told us the wait would be 20 minutes, and asked us to stay in the vestibule, but brought us a space heater that she stoked up to high.
With warmth at our feet and the view of the beach and bay, the time went quickly. It was easy to forget that Toast sits on the ground floor of a less-than-lovely condominium high-rise, next to a nail salon and an acupuncturist’s office.
By 11 a.m., we were seated in the cozy dining room, enjoying hot mugs of coffee and cocoa while we perused the extensive menu, which is augmented by specials on a chalkboard.
Toast is comfortable, with yellow walls, grey-flecked formica tables and wooden kitchen chairs, as well as counter seating with bar stools. The walls that aren’t windows facing the ocean are covered with posters, tchotchkes, old kitchen tools, and a framed picture of Cohen’s, the deli that co-owner Audrey Cassevoy’s family ran on A Street until the late 1960s. Her husband, Steve, is Toast’s other owner and chef.
We settled on two of the house specialties: “burnt toast’’ ($7.25), crème brulee-battered French toast with caramelized sugar; and salmon Benedict ($11), cold, smoked Atlantic salmon on toasted English muffins with poached eggs, capers, red onion and hollandaise sauce.
We waited about 15 minutes more for the dishes to get to the table, but the food was hot and obviously fresh from the stove.
The French toast was spectacular - four triangles of bread that were soft and creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The chef dips the bread in the eggy crème brulee mixture and sprinkles it with sugar while on the grill before applying a propane torch to produce the caramelized exterior.
The salmon variation of classic eggs Benedict was a hit. The smoked fish contrasted nicely with the hot eggs, muffin and hollandaise, and the capers and onions added flavor and texture. The dish comes with a heaping mound of hash browns, the potatoes grated and salty with a nice crust.
On a return visit on a weekday at noon, Toast was less crowded, and more people were eating from the recently expanded lunch menu (which isn’t available on Sundays). The special of the day, shepherd’s pie, was already gone by the time we ordered, but plenty of choices remained.
We tried two versions of the three-egg omelets, which are accompanied by toast and hash browns. The Mediterranean ($8) has fresh spinach, plum tomatoes, and feta cheese, while the Caprese ($8) has fresh mozzarella and plum tomatoes. Both were delicious, oozing with flavor and with perfect texture from being cooked in a pan and then finished in the oven.
An order of eggs Benedict ($8.50) also comes with toast and hash browns; the eggs were cooked perfectly, although the hollandaise was a little bland and the English muffins soggy.
The “audball’’ ($7.75) is a turkey burger with jerk spices served on a toasted wheat roll and accompanied by a choice of curly fries, cole slaw, or potato salad. The fries were addictive and the sandwich flavorful and moist, although not as spicy as anticipated.
The menu also has more modest options, including one egg, toast and hash browns for $4, and a short stack of pancakes for $4.
Toast opened in December 2005. Cassevoy, who lives in Hull and has 30 years of experience as a chef in places like the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills and McCormick & Schmick’s in Boston, said he opened the restaurant because he just couldn’t find a good place to eat breakfast on his day off.
Toast is a good place to eat breakfast, any day.