If you have not noticed driving by on Interstate 5 what they call the “culinary corridor” on Avenida Encinas, a new, all-day brunch spot has replaced the Peruvian restaurant Pisco. It’s an addition that takes the morning meal to a whole new level of foodie fun and is probably better suited to the location. Toast Gastrobrunch specializes in clever breakfast and lunch fare coupled with crafty brunch appropriate cocktails that will definitely appeal to folks who like a little buzz with their brunch.
Toast Gastrobrunch is the latest venture from San Diego restaurant icon and Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza founder Sami Ladeki. Running the kitchen at Toast is executive chef/partner Alfred “Alfie” Szeprethy, expanding on his duties as executive corporate chef of Sammy’s. His daytime menu, offered from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., features a variety of toasts topped with combos that range from smoked salmon and capers to strawberry and goat cheese and pork belly and mushroom. Breakfast classics run from sweet pancakes and French toast to savory egg dishes including eggs Benedict, prime steak and eggs, and their signature eggs in purgatory, a sourdough bread bowl filled with poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce, mushrooms, bacon, feta, scallions, and mint. Lunch options include salads and sandwiches such as the Monte Cristo and a smoked brisket melt.
The restaurant retained its full bar which adds to its appeal for those who take their brunching seriously. In addition to the standards like mimosas, Bloody Marys, and bellinis, there are spiked coffee drinks, champagne cocktails, micheladas, and more. The cocktails are under the menu headings of “Get Toasted” and “Morning Wood.” A clever, if somewhat confusing, play on words that I’m sure will make for some interesting brunch conversations.
My recent visits did not allow for cocktailing but we did sample some fabulous food. The Chilaquiles with salsa verde, corn tortilla, beef barbacoa, two up eggs, chipotle cream and cilantro were fabulous. I’ve been seeing this dish more frequently lately and it’s one of my favorites for a brunch dining scenario. Typically corn tortillas are cut in quarters and lightly fried, forming the foundation of the dish. The salsa is poured over the tortillas and simmered until they start to soften. Chicken or in this case a delicious beef barbacoa is added to the mix. Barbacoa refers to the process of slow cooking via steam or fire that produces a very tender, rich and flavorful end result that is perfect for this dish.
My dining companion kept the beef theme going by ordering up the Smoked Brisket Melt on sourdough with jack, cheddar and fries. This is a very hearty sandwich full of flavor smoky goodness. The fries were somewhat addictive as well. There is a nice selection of “sandos” as they call them including a Lobster Club that sounds amazing.
The salads look very appealing and I will be back to try the Breakfast Salad with arugula, spinach, frisee, warm bacon dressing, quinoa, scallions and the clincher for me, poached eggs.
Given the name, there is a big selection of toasts with a wide variety of toppings. The Avocado is the go-to toast for folks these days but the Smoked Salmon, Soppressata, Caprese, and Strawberry all look amazing.
And what would a brunch menu be without a strong representation of Eggs Benedict and given that this is not your typical brunch joint, there are some fun variations on that theme. The Short Rib Benny, Southern Fried Benny, Duck Duck Benny, and the traditional Good ol’ Benny are all available.
Innovative takes on pancakes and French Toast along with a Breakfast Burrito, scrambles, hash and a Prime New York Steak & Eggs ensure that there is something for everyone at Toast.
On the sweeter side of things, we tried the Coconut Pistachio Kanafee with shredded phyllo, ricotta and jack filling, orange blossom syrup, toasted brioche all topped with pistachios and were blown away by this concoction that was new to me. I had to research kanafee and discovered it is a Lebanese pastry typically filled with cheese for a melty, salty-sweet pastry.
Toast elevates brunch to chef-driven level that I’ve not experienced but found to be delightful. I can’t wait to go back on a weekend and really indulge.
Toast is located at 5970 Avenida Encinas. https://toastgastrobrunch.com/
Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.