The Toast of the Town (of Portsmouth, NH, that is...) -- See Illustrations at bottom!

Special Note: I've added a photograph of the other Friendly Toast -- the one at One Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA -- to this post. I visited the Cambridge Toast for the first time on January 14th and thoroughly enjoyed the place. SEE PHOTO BELOW ON THIS POST.

  • Take the Red Line from Park Street Station to the Kendall/MIT stop.
  • Find the Kendall Hotel, which is brightly lit and visible from the Kendall/MIT stop.
  • Take a left out of the Hotel -- Main Street.
  • Take a right on Ames Street -- the first intersection.
  • Walk one block and take a left on Braodway Street.
  • Continue on Broadway, walking over the railroad tracks.
  • Bear Right on Hampshire Street.
  • When you begin to See Emma's Pizza on the left, you'll know you're very near the little shopping plaza on your right. It's a part of One Kendall Square, a large complex of buildings. I'd describe it as a courtyard in the center of a horse shoe-shaped group of businesses.
  • Walk straight to the rear of the courtyard, then start looking on your right. The Toast is tucked into the right side of the group of buildings (see photograph below).

 Ahh, the Toast... I savor the Cheyenne Cheddar toast more than any other on the culinary planet, but more importantly, I savor my times at the Friendly Toast itself. I've frequented this marvelously off-beat, up-beat restaurant ever since its fortuitous appearance on Broadway Street in Dover, New  Hampshire -- in what, the 80's? Can it be? Back then, the Toast was a tiny, pleasantly ramshackle button of a building, hardly bigger than a loaf of bread, with a tiny handful of oddly mis-matched tables, a charmingly claustrophobic bathroom and only two wait-people to handle what was in the beginning only a polite trickle of regulars and a few stumble-across diners.

One of those two wait-people was the most fun as I remember it: slightly eccentric and heavily theatrical in spite of her contention that she was not at all a theatre person. Each time I visited the toast, I looked forward to what flamboyantly colorful dress she would be wearing that day. I can assure you that she never disappointed me in the matter of her artful costuming. I suspect that more than one male diner fell in love with her but knew better than to say so. And she always greeted her visitors with a warm welcome, a smile and some good, articulate, meaningful conversation -- the very things I expect from my hosts in a competently run, welcoming restaurant. And when she was done taking my order, she went straight to the kitchen and whipped up the best damn breakfast I could have hoped to find on my plate.

That woman? Melissa Jaspers -- the formidably talented but self-effacing founder of the Toast, possessor of a a Doctorate degree (in I don't know what), a finely tuned entrepreneurial spirit, extraordinary business savvy, a supreme gift for creative cooking and a business that has, because of its all-around excellence and the pride it has in what it does so well, survived what I see as a sometimes meddlesome, paternalistic municipal encroachment on its ways of doing business to become a must-do destination for people living in and visting Portsmouth from throughout New England, across the country and -- yes -- around the world. The Friendly Toast is without question the very best friend a Chamber of Commerce could ever hope to have.

Why have I been so deeply, inextricably in love with the Toast? Well, besides the fabulously imaginative, always delicious foods and beverages listed ever so creatively on what is surely the most imaginative menu I have ever seen, I've many reasons to celebrate this establishment. Let me count the ways...

The MUSIC: Mount Washington, OKQ and the WAVE it ain't, and that, for this musician and lover of a wildly eclectic array of musical genres, is a blessing. Sure, there are some moments of vintage rock or folk music among the songs being broadcast over the sound system -- I recently heard Johnny Cash's booming baritone voice, belting out I Walk the Line --  but much of what I hear when I'm dining at the Toast is delightfully unpredictable, even unidentifiable -- sometimes raucus, sometimes tender and contemplative, but always interesting and refreshingly out of the realm of the ordinary in a musical universe that is more and more controlled by the almightly dollar and the mind-numbing repetitiveness of unimaginative radio programmers.

The DECOR: If you like watching The Pickers on TV -- if you've harbored an uncontrollable desire to sort through other people's junk, looking for treasure, then the Toast is your destination! I can only describe what Melissa and Robert have put on the walls as a joyfully unpretentious, quietly exhilarating visual three-ring circus, here for you to enjoy for only the price of a cup of tea or a full-blown meal -- breakfast, lunch and dinner, available any time. There are literally hundreds of items crawling across the walls, lurking in the corners or suspended playfully from the cranberry colored, industrial style ceiling. I'll mention just three of my favorites here. [You will want to come down and find your favorites in the visual cacophany of this artful playground of a decor.] (1) The toddler, escaping inexplicably but fearlessly into the upper atmosphere of the restaurant in his endearingly goofy red-and-white helicoptor; (2) The Chinchilla Ranch sign near the snow-white deer prancing gayly above the dining room; and (3) the seven-foot high, brick-red sea horse, plying the aerial waters to some unknown port beyond the confines of the Toast.

The WAIT PEOPLE: One of the finest qualities of the Friendly Toast -- a quality I cherish -- is the constant friendliness of the wait people! This means a great deal to many of us when we're out dining. These people -- Kristin, Guy and Jackie among them -- young and spirited, ingratiatingly unconventional in appearance and fully engaged in the adventure of living -- no phony corporate uniforms and soldierly deportment here, thank God! -- make me feel like a card-carrying member of the Friendly Toast family. They connect meaningfully and genuinely with their customers in a way that is increasingly rare anywhere in America. The employees at the Toast are understandably proud of  their welcoming ways. Their way of relating to visitors did not come from a manual -- it comes from their heart. And it is their youthful warmth and life-affirming openness when serving their customers that help break down false barriers between the generations and bring people of every age, from every walk of life, together to share a good meal, good conversation and a moment or two off the ever-traveling train of workplace obligations and  rigid deadlines. One is NEVER hustled out of the Toast in the name of efficiency and profit.

So here, then, is my heartfelt toast to the Toast: May you continue to do what you do so well, both here and in your new facility at One Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA, where Bostonites and Cambridge Dwellers must think they've gone to Heaven to have gotten the Friendly Toast to set up camp in their fair city. We, the people are profoundly fortunate to have you in our midst.

                                                                             Ross Bachelder -- 1 13 2011

The Schlitz Ball at the Toast ... A touch of Times Square
for Beer Lovers everywhere...

The Fawn and the UFO: Even the ALIENS
Love Dining at the Toast!

Deer on the Loose! She knows just where
The action is in Portsmouth...

Ah, Sweet Music at the ever so musical Toast!


The Toast's  veteran food-slinger Jackie -- always
a pleasure to have her waiting on your table...

Always an adventure, dropping into the Toast!
Just ask this High-Flyin' Toddler Boy!

The OTHER Friendly Toast -- at
One Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA!

1 comment:

  1. I can't place the last time Amy and I were there—hopefully we can go again soon!