I’m not usually a big fan of sandwiches, but some places make them so well that they are a pleasure to eat. Toast, a little sandwich restaurant in downtown Durham, is one of these places. Toast opened up about three years ago and calls itself a Pannioteca (Italian sandwich shop).
Toast uses a farm to fork concept and buys ingredients that are in season and are local and pares these ingredients with meats and cheeses that they buy from Italy. The restaurant features four main types of sandwiches: the paninis, which are hot grilled and pressed sandwiches; tramezzinis, which are cold sandwiches served on a white pullman bread; bruschetta, which is grilled bread that is topped with ingredients and the crostinis, which are small pieces of toast, topped with ingredients.
My friend and financial adviser, Kent, and I visited recently. We arrived just in time to get one of the last available seats in this small but very popular restaurant. I grabbed the table while Kent stood in line and ordered for us. The dining room is very long and narrow. People queue up in line and order at the counter, then get a number and a waiter or waitress brings the food out to you. During the warmer months, there is outdoor seating, which gives people a chance to sit, but there are not all that many tables inside the establishment.
While we waited for our sandwiches and soup to arrive, we tried to carry on a conversation, but it was quite noisy and we had to almost shout to be heard. I was starting to wish it was warmer outside so we could sit in a less noisy area.
However, the noise and the crowd annoyance was really worth it because these sandwiches are so great! I had the bruschetta with merguez sausage (a spicy lamb sausage), chick peas and roasted tomatoes. I also had a bowl of the cauliflower soup, which was one of the specials of the day. The soup was rich and creamy. It was topped with a little bit of olive oil and pine nuts. It felt good going down as I have the beginnings of a sore throat. The bruschetta was wonderful, but I found it hard to eat. The chick peas kept rolling off of the bread when I tried to cut into it. The pieces of bread were too big to pick up by hand and the chick peas would have really been all over the place if I tried to do that. I cut small pieces as carefully as I could, but the bread, having been toasted, was hard to cut without putting some oomph into it, so the chick peas continued to fall off the bread and all over the plate. The merguez was rich and spicy and reminded me of trips to France, where my husband and I first ate this type of sausage. Although the chick peas kept traveling around my plate, they were cooked perfectly and were not too mealy.
Kent had the tramezzini with cured salmon, watercress, pickled red onion and lemon aioli. He also had the side green salad, of mixed greens with some fresh Parmesan cheese It was a perfect combination. In fact, it was what I almost chose to have myself!
Toast is open from Monday – Friday from 11 am – 8 pm and on Saturday from 11 am – 3 pm. It is located at 345 West Main Street in downtown Durham.