On a recent day at Famous Toastery in Northeast Richland, Chef Joe Cardinale and his crew made and served 16 full meatloaves – a particularly large amount considering the eatery is only open until 3 p.m. daily.
“I can’t tell you what’s in it, but it’s made from scratch every day from 100 percent black angus beef and served with Parmesan garlic mashed potatoes, brown gravy made from scratch, and roasted vegetables,” Cardinale said. “It’s the perfect comfort-food dish.”
Meatloaf isn’t the only popular item on the menu of Famous Toastery, which was opened by Columbia’s Kim Kenney in January. The restaurant also sells a lot of corned beef, used in the restaurant’s corned beef hash and Reuben sandwiches.
“Our corned beef hash definitely is one of our most popular dishes,” Cardinale said. “We just get whole briskets in, add the pickling spice, a little chicken stock, lots of fresh garlic and a little bit of honey for sweetness, and we’ll steam it in the oven. We’ll cool it off, and we’ll trim the top half of the meat off by hand for our corned beef hash with a little steak seasoning and shredded potatoes. And then the bottom part, we slice on the deli slicer and we use that for our Reubens. It’s good stuff.”
Pancakes are also a top seller, made fresh every morning as are the toppings and fillings – blueberry jam, and shredded coconut among them.
“Everything we serve is made in-house every morning,” Kenney said. “The guys are in the kitchen at 5 a.m., before we open at 7, making grits (from Columbia’s Adluh Stone Ground Grits), sausage gravy, all of our salad dressings, all of the mix-ins, cutting potatoes for the hash browns. Even our fruit is all cut fresh every morning – and it makes a big difference in how it tastes.”
Two things Famous Toastery doesn’t have are a large freezer (theirs is smaller than a home refrigerator) or fryers.
“We don’t serve items like chicken strips and fries, and the items that other restaurants might typically fry, we bake,” Kenney said.
Unlike most breakfast-to-lunch diners, any item can be ordered off the menu any time during the restaurant’s 7 a.m.-3 p.m. operating hours. Another pleasant oddity is the “every server is your server” concept.
“It works really well. It benefits the customer most,” Kenney said. “You don’t have to try to find your server – you just grab someone in a black shirt and tell them what you need. It fosters teamwork among the staff, too.”
How did Famous Toastery get its start?
The North Carolina-based Famous Toastery opened shop in Huntersville in 2005 and franchised in 2013. The eatery now has 11 locations in North Carolina and, in addition to the Northeast Richland location, South Carolina franchises in Tega Cay and Myrtle Beach, one in Jacksonville, Florida, and one in Auburn, Virginia. The franchise has a dozen more restaurants scheduled to roll out in the Carolinas and Philadelphia over the next year.
Kenney worked in accounting in downtown Columbia for 21 years before signing on as a Famous Toastery franchise owner.
“I had always thought I would like to own my own restaurant, and when I looked into Famous Toastery, I knew it was right for me,” Kenney said.
The Sparkleberry Lane location just came about at the right time.
“We just felt like it was the perfect location. Folks in the Northeast can’t often get downtown for a meal, especially breakfast or lunch,” Kenney said. “In less than two months here, we already feel like part of the neighborhood. The Northeast has been very welcoming to us. We’ve been told we fill a void.”
Who eats here?
Because of its proximity to schools, neighborhoods, businesses and retirement communities, Famous Toastery draws a mix of customers, from professionals on lunch break to busloads of retirees looking for a homemade breakfast like they used to have in the good ol’ days.
What does the place look like?
You’d never know from the interior or exterior that Famous Toastery’s home was previously McAlister’s Deli. A modern look with updated masonry and farmhouse-style lights show on the restaurant’s exterior, while the warm, wood-floored interior displays the eatery’s trademark shades of steel blues and rust oranges. While the interior can seat 96, a spacious side patio can seat an additional 32.
With franchise rights across the Midlands, Kenney is opening her second Columbia-area Famous Toastery in the former Atlanta Bread Co. location in the 1300 block of Main Street downtown.
“We are just about done with our drawings, and the plans are going to be submitted to the city. Demo should start in two months, and we hope to be open by the end of the summer,” Kenney said.
Kenney also has plans for a Lexington location within the next year or two.
WHERE: 119 Sparkleberry Lane, Northeast Richland
WHEN: Open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
COST: Egg specials, omelets, burgers and sandwiches all average around $11.
INFO: (803) 602-5555, www.famoustoastery.com, www.facebook.com/famoustoasterycolumbia