The Mess ScramBowl, made with yellow curry, comes together beautifully.

It’s a big risk, to name your restaurant after something most people don’t want to eat.

But owner Phil Duhon isn’t most people. The longtime proprietor of Oscar’s Oyster Bar has often displayed a somewhat contrarian nature as he adapted his business over the past couple of decades. The ill-fated 2019 rebrand of Oscar’s to Phil’s Midtown Grill, then the revival of Oscar’s in this former Brewer’s Republic location in mid-2021. This incarnation failed within a year, making way for this daytime venture (with the partnership including the well-entrenched-Downtown Guadagnoli family).

Burnt Toast wades into the breakfast and lunch fray with some new ideas — like an extensive non-alcoholic mocktail selection joining regular booze options— some old standards and a fabulous location with covered rooftop seating, if you’re lucky enough to snag it. I walk into the cheerful, brightly colored restaurant on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m., and I’m told to sit anywhere. There are high tables, low tables, seating at the bar, a front patio and said shaded rooftop. I opt for a table inside to soak up the vibe of the place.

The atmosphere turns out to be very laid back, with sort of a “morning after a late party” feel. Service is friendly if not particularly speedy. The staff operates under the impression that standing behind the bar means the customers can’t hear them as they complain about the bar setups and their co-workers. We order coffee — which is adequate — and I’m disappointed to learn there are no hot tea options. I order iced tea, instead, but it tastes like yesterday’s batch.

Thankfully, the tide turns with a Bienvenidos Burrito that combines all the breakfast essentials in a very satisfying manner. The piquant blend of scrambled eggs, home fries, cheese, peppers, onions and chorizo, wrapped in a flour tortilla, comes split and laid over a pool of peppery, tomato-flecked green chile. A drizzle of crema over the top, a little lactic love, counteracts the moderate heat. (Note: I asked if the green chile was vegetarian, and the answer was “there’s no meat in it.” Make of that what you will.)

Next to catch my eye are the Scram-Bowls, all served over a bed of home fries. One named The Mess doesn’t sound appetizing, but the flavor proves amazing. If you think you don’t need yellow curry in your breakfast, you are in for a delightful surprise. The scrambled eggs and sausage (in this case, easily substituted vegan sausage) are combined with yellow curry, sautéed onions and peppers (including poblanos) and shredded cheddar. The dish carries a mild kick, but the sliced avocado on top mellows everything out. (Side note: In addition to the aforementioned vegetarian/vegan items, there are gluten-free choices available, and organic, free-range eggs.)

I’m a sucker for a “flight” of anything, so naturally I order the French Toast Flight. The toppings are pretty tasty, although the bread element hadn’t been soaked in the egg long enough, resulting in a fairly dry base with none of the custardy luxury one expects from French toast. Strawberry Fields comes with a nice schmear of cream cheese, fresh strawberry preserves, and a couple of freshly sliced strawberries. The Elvis has a schmear of peanut butter, topped with toasted pecans, bits of crunchy, crumbled bacon, and a single banana slice per piece. A good dish, but more banana would have made it better. The apple cinnamon carries a few slices of sautéed caramel apples, but again the topping seemed scanty.

Wanting to retest the waters, I return at 11 a.m. on a weekday. What a difference. The place is hopping, service is super-fast, attentive and friendly, the atmosphere so energized it feels like a completely different place. My Smothered Burger comes on a French-toasted slice of brioche bread, far superior to the weekend French toast. The burger hits the notes of a good Pueblo Slopper, with spicy, meatless green chile, melted cheddar and crispy tortilla strips. Good as the burger was, the Sidewinder Fries steal the show; some of the best fries I’ve ever had. Spiral-cut, they’re perfectly crispy outside and all pillowy potato goodness on the inside.


Strawberry Fields shares this plate with The Elvis.

Coming off that high note, I’m not sure what to say about the Breakfast Poutine. There’s nothing about it that inherently says “breakfast,” nor is it even vaguely a poutine. It’s home fries topped with sautéed poblanos, green chile and a sprinkle of shredded cheese on the top. No cheese curds. No chunks, pearls or balls of cheese. Just a little sprinkle on top. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious as a side item, but it is definitely not poutine of any sort.

Please note: Between the times I ate at Burnt Toast and the time this review was printed, the menu has been updated. Small tweaks appear to have been made to the French toast selections, and the burger is no longer listed as served on French-toasted bread. If you really need to know before you go, check Burnt Toast’s website for the most updated version of their menu.

Will the small changes add up to bigger success? They’ll certainly be better off if the early weekend crew executes service at the level of the weekday lunch crew I witnessed. And if the menu changes can bring the more lackluster dishes toward the quality of the best I experienced here. Burnt Toast will either work as an irreverent name for what could be Duhon’s next long legacy Downtown, or it’ll go down as an interpretation of a concept out of time, place, or both.