$4 toast is a tired local reference at this point, but to the rest of the country, it's still shorthand for Everything Wrong With San Francisco. The newest shot at S.F.'s toast culture is a food review in Seattle's The Stranger in which restaurant critic Bethany Jean Clement works out her feelings about fancy toast, first ordering a slice that costs $3 at a cafe and feeling embarrassed, then finding herself enjoying the $4-$6 slices at another restaurant and feeling vaguely embarrassed about that too. Scattered throughout are obligatory derisive references to S.F. rent, nouveau riche, etc. etc.
Clement's first interaction, at a place called Toast Ballard, elicited the kinds of feelings that many of us felt the first time we ordered toast that cost more than half of a loaf of bread:
I felt terrible asking him for toast. I felt like his response might be--ought to be--"Are you fucking kidding me? Go home and make your own goddamn toast." He didn't even blink, and since I was already being that kind of person, I ordered a glass of their bougiest wine, a Chateau de Campuget rosé ($8, peachy colored, really good).
Then she kind of turns around at Tallulah, the new Capitol Hill spot from hip bar/restaurant empire-builder Linda Dershang, where the nice toppings and atmosphere make her "lose perspective on the whole toast thing a little." She leaves more accepting, but still determined to order something more complicated, like a pecan sticky bun or coffee cake, instead of toast the next time.
So, what have we learned? Toast continues to be a divisive subject. Many people think that paying more than $1.25 at a diner for it is ridiculous, but the toast that Josey Baker makes at The Mill resembles diner toast in the same way that the burger at Daniel Patterson's new Alta CA resembles a Whopper -- they're just different animals, both flavor-wise and cost-of-ingredients-wise. (Among other things, Baker mills his own flour to make his bread -- it could be precious, but as I covered in a feature last November, it's actually pretty cool.)
And I maintain that $4 for a thick, nourishing slice of excellent bread, crispy-crackly outside, almost custardy inside, topped with lovely things like fresh butter or fruit puree or nut butter, is not insane. But then again, I still pay rent in San Francisco.
(Note: The Stranger is my much-beloved hometown newspaper and I've eaten/drunk wine/gossiped with Clement more than once, not that it really has anything to do with the price of eggs here, but it seemed worth mentioning.)
[via The Stranger]