Toasts are kind of a big deal these days, if you haven’t heard. Perhaps it’s their visual appeal compared with traditional sandwiches — those colorful and vivid ingredients exposed to light. Or maybe it’s that toasts have half the carbohydrate load of their fully breaded counterparts. For whatever reason, toasts have become the trendy way to dress up menus in place of sandwiches that look comparatively unsophisticated — even brutish.
But while most restaurants and cafés jump on the toast bandwagon to keep up with the times, the folks at The Wild Detectives are embracing the open-faced creations out of sheer necessity. The Oak Cliff book store/coffee shop/wine bar/cultural salon is hampered by a kitchen with less floor space than a Volkswagen bus.
In the year and a half since opening, owners Paco Vique and Javier Garcia del Moral have wrestled with a way to provide food for their customers. The pre-made sandwiches they first offered worked fine, but they weren’t exactly fashionable. Collaborating with Misti Norris from nearby Small Brewery produced sandwiches that were more interesting, but they were still bulky and cumbersome. A menu featuring sandwiches forced a customer who wrestled with early evening hunger pangs to eat at Wild Detectives and call it a night, or hold out until they could hit up a restaurant nearby.
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Vique and Garcia del Moral embraced toasts because they’d seen them work so well at bars back at home in Spain. If a customer gets hungry at a bar in Madrid, they don’t order a burger and fries with a side of nachos; they order a simply adorned piece of bread referred to as tostas, whose diminutive size allows them to continue to graze throughout the night. Maybe they pound their way through a massive paella with friends, or maybe they continue on a tosta crawl (there are restaurants that specialize in the dish, exclusively) but the choice is open.
And it just so happens that tostas don’t require much kitchen equipment. Tuna salads with mayo and miso, smashed avocado, anchovies, roasted red peppers and other tosta toppings can all be prepared in the morning and kept at the ready. When a customer gets hungry, a barista only needs to throw a slice of pain au levain in the new commercial super-toaster behind the counter, artfully arrange some ingredients on the resultant palate of golden-brown and tostas are served.
The new menu just went into effect and features tostas with prosciutto, tuna, turkey, salmon and more. Paired with a glass of wine from the list of Spanish bottles, they make a perfect interlude from your regular eating program. They’re also quite beautiful.