When we’re driving east–and hungry–our respect for Louisville keeps on growing. Leaving St. Louis on I-64, it's a fine place to stop for lunch. The city may be a culinary sleeper, at least for a midday stop. The city was made memorable by the Hot Brown, reportedly a native. We’ve written about Lynn's Paradise Cafe, always a charmer, and on our most recent journey, we found another winner in Toast on Market, a marvelous place in a neighborhood east of downtown and south of the interstate.
In a great old building that's been a movie theater, a grocery store and a thrift store, Toast serves breakfast and lunch every day except Monday until 3 p.m. A Warning: By the time you're this far east, it's the Eastern time zone. Their 3 is our 2, so if you haven't set your watches ahead, you may get caught, as we almost did, opening the front door at 2:50 p.m.to an almost empty room. But Southern hospitality saved the day, and a generous staff welcomed us happily and provided service so smooth we did not feel rushed.
The building’s facade includes a giant stained glass window whose origins are shrouded in mystery, and large iron gates. Toast's interior is industrial modern, and there's some outdoor seating as well. And while that's all quite striking, it's the menu that caused us to gasp.
Breakfast? Fried eggs, slices of tenderloin and some tomato chutney? A shrimp creole omelet? Three choices on the French toast? And then there are the pancakes. Golly gee, those pancakes.
Not surprisingly, it was hard to decide, so we got one each of three different kinds, and skipped the basic buttermilk–which are also available topped with sliced pot roast and gravy, by the way.
Gingerbread arrives with a dab of cherry compote and some whipped cream, all that's necessary for this properly spiced goodie.
The lemon souffle is lightly but distinctively lemony, very fluffy under its blueberry sauce.
And the bread pudding pancake may have been the winner, but just barely. All three were tender, but the bread pudding ‘cake was incredible, topped with a rum raisin sauce and a little dribble of custard flavored with Irish cream liqueur. Good bacon, too.
Lunch items present the same odds of agonizing choices. Four kinds of grilled cheese, all of which come with a bowl of roasted tomato soup. A meatloaf sandwich with grilled onions and aioli. Two kinds of club sandwich, and a couple of vegetarian options beyond the salads. And two very regional options appear under "Soups & Spreads," pimento cheese and benedictine, an old Louisville dish that's basically a cream cheese and chopped cucumber mixture, usually used on crackers or tea sandwiches.
The Eggplant Aficionado had to go with a sandwich that began with olive bread and went on to roasted eggplant and peppers, some red onion and feta topped with a sprinkle of balsamic vinaigrette, very tasty. The only misstep in the entire lunch was the hash brown casserole, which seemed more like roasted potatoes to us, and pretty mundane ones at that.
You know you're in the South when the request for iced tea is met with a hopeful "Sweet tea?" from servers. That's the story here, although unsweetened also is available. Charming place. We'll be back. And if you want directions you can find them here.
Toast On Market
736 E. Market St., Louisville, KY
Breakfast & Lunch Tues.-Sun. Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Good
Smoking: No (No smoking in Louisville restaurants, period.)