12 French toasts to add to your breakfast rotation
Savory or sweet, French toast provides a decadent base for any topping, stuffing or syrup you can stick your fork through.
Making French toast used to be a common way to save stale bread by rehydrating it with eggs and milk, but this brunch staple has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Savory or sweet, French toast provides a decadent base for any topping, stuffing or syrup you can stick your fork through. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the local food scene has ample options to pick from. These 12 stops each serve up their own rendition of French toast, with the only common denominators being the three basic ingredients that started it all.
Ancora has slayed the brunch game for more than 20 years, elevating classic breakfast favorites into new menu items, such as a bahama mama egg sandwich with mango habanero jam and a cold brew smoothie. While Ancora may have perfected avocado toast, the churro-fied French toast sticks are the true star. Reminiscent of a certain fast food restaurant’s version, these upgraded French toast dippers are coated in cinnamon sugar, with strawberry cream and maple syrup included for dunking. Handheld and ready for action, this brunch option is fun food for folks of any age. 107 King St., 255-0285; 3318 University Ave., 233-5287; 611 N. Sherman Ave., 888-2233; ancoracafes.com
Bassett Street Brunch Club
While Bassett Street Brunch Club is known for doughnuts, don’t sleep on the savory French toast option. Sourdough is dredged in Parmesan-herb deliciousness and finished with bacon, onions, arugula, an egg and a heavy helping of hollandaise sauce. If you can’t shake your breakfast sweet tooth, try the coconut cream pie French toast version using battered challah bread that’s topped with coconut whipped cream, coconut flakes and fresh berries. 444 Johnson St., 467-5051, brunchclubmadison.com
Come Back In
Brunch at Come Back In has become famous for its hefty portions, and the French toast doesn’t deviate from this pattern in the slightest. Five (yes, five) slices of French bread are hit with the in-house egg wash and kept simple with whipped butter and confectioners’ sugar. Want something a little more extravagant? Opt for the stuffed French toast, with four extra-thick slices of toast stuffed with cream cheese, pecans and brown sugar , then dipped in egg batter. For the final flourish, Come Back In tops the large stack with an apricot glaze and whipped butter. 508 E. Wilson St., 258-8619, comebackintavern.com
Instead of traveling to the Big Easy, let the good times roll at Everyday Kitchen. The New Orleans-style French toast here is made with French bread and saturated in a decadent Grand Marnier liqueur custard. After being cooked, the toast slices are drenched in a warm and gooey maple syrup that complements the crunchy green apple-pecan praline. You’ll wish that every day could start with pralines. 2801 Marshall Court, 470-5500, everydaykitchen.com/madison-wi
Weekend brunch at Everly on Monroe Street makes work and worries seemingly disappear. There are plenty of sweet and savory dishes to choose from alongside fun cocktails that are acceptable at any time of the day. When it comes to figuring out what to pair with a mimosa or blueberry matcha latte, the bread pudding French toast is not to be overlooked. Sourdough and custard are happily married with a kick of cinnamon. Then the dish reaches its true form after a final flourish of crème fraîche and espresso honey. 2701 Monroe St., 416-5242, everlymadison.com
The Heights Kitchen
Just off Regent Street is The Heights Kitchen, which slings an upgraded version of traditional French toast. The brioche base soaks overnight, then goes into the oven for its first crispy bake. The loaf of feel-good brunch bread is sliced and baked yet again, then showered with strawberry dust. This sweet treat is stacked high and finished off with locally produced Patterson Sugar Bush maple syrup and fluffy whipped cream. 11 N. Allen St., 405-5500, theheightsstore.com
Sam-I-Am may have lucked out with green eggs and ham, but nobody said green French toast was off the table — especially when it’s this good. La Kitchenette takes a turn down savory street with its spinach onion batter. After frying the toast and slathering it with lime mayonnaise, roasted pine nuts, spinach and chili, it’s topped with a sunny side up egg. Meat-eaters can kick it up a notch by adding prosciutto or smoked salmon to the mix. 805 Williamson St., 283-4266, lakitchenettemadison.com
You may think the owners of the McFarland pub Squirrel’s Nest are a bit nutty for this creation, but their RumChata French toast is a signature breakfast order for a reason. Texas toast goes for a swim in the egg wash, then it’s grilled to perfection and topped with a RumChata glaze. Go the extra mile (and relive your childhood fantasy) by adding Cap’n Crunch or Cinnamon Toast Crunch for a crispy cereal addition. 2655 U.S. Highway 51, McFarland, 838-0293, bit.ly/2Y11jGR
Challah French Toast
A traditional staple of Jewish cuisine, this bread acts as a base for many local French toast creations.
Nitty Gritty isn’t known just for burgers and birthdays — its breakfast menu is equally as noteworthy. Nitty Gritty has two styles of challah-bread French toast. Both start with a thick, vanilla almond challah, with the classic including powdered sugar, maple syrup and whipped butter, and the strawberry rendition featuring fresh strawberries and puree. 223 N. Frances St., 251-2521; 1021 N. Gammon Road, 833-6489; 315 E. Linnerud Drive, 837-4999; thegritty.com
Monona Bakery & Eatery
Fruit makes French toast healthy, right? If so, the challah bread version from Monona Bakery & Eatery is a breakfast of champions. Strawberries and blueberries perch atop a crème anglaise, and caramelized bananas sit off to the side. 4544 Monona Drive, 283-9987, mononabakeryeatery.com
Rolling Pin Bakeshop
Simple is supreme when it comes to Rolling Pin Bakeshop creations, so on your next cafe run, try out the shop’s French toast. After being dipped in an egg wash that includes cinnamon and custard, the toast is then browned and broiled ahead of the optional seasonal fresh fruit added as a cherry on top (maybe literally). 2935 S. Fish Hatchery Road, 270-9611, rollingpinbakeshop.com
Stalzy’s Deli & Bakery
Who says delis can’t join the French toast fun? In addition to a few very on-brand breakfast options like brisket hash or bialy and smoked salmon, Stalzy’s has a French toast to brag about, too. Giant slabs of challah are dusted with sugar and topped with local maple syrup. 2701 Atwood Ave., 249-7806, stalzysdeli.com
Sam Jones, a former intern, is a contributor to Madison Magazine.
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