First Look: Toasted brings comfort to Nicholson Drive with grilled cheeses and spiked drinks

A new Nicholson Drive eatery is gearing up to serve gooey grilled cheeses, boozy milkshakes and more comfort food dishes out of the spot formerly occupied by Bright Side Bar & Daiquiris.  

Toasted will open this Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28, with a brunch menu that has already been “stress tested” with customers featuring eggs Benedict and a breakfast sandwich served on thick Belgian waffles. The opening weekend menu will also include freshly made cocktails. 

The grilled cheese eatery began last year as a pop-up concept that regularly frequented the Government Street bar Pelican to Mars. At these pop-ups, chef Richard Markert served up cheesy sandwiches and other specials, drawing long lines while cooking using just a flattop and grill setup. 

Crab Rangoon Grilled Cheese

John Dupont, a co-owner of Bright Side Bar & Daiquiris, says it made sense for Markert to have his own restaurant, considering the popularity of his dishes. Dupont and his wife, Katie, along with Markert and his wife, Megan, worked together as owners and managing partners to get their new restaurant running. 

“We started right at the beginning of October, changing it over from the dive bar,” Dupont says. “We didn’t really have a vision for it, except we just didn’t want it to be a dive bar anymore. And, it ended up coming out like what people at the last event said was kind of a Parisian bistro vibe. And, it kind of feels comforting and homey.” 

The 1,800-square-foot space is outfitted with plush and retro booth seats in a dark emerald green color along with a few high-top tables in the middle of the restaurant floor. The booths are complemented by more pops of green courtesy both fake and real greenery. A bar counter and kitchen is situated toward the back of the eatery.

As the executive chef, Markert says the menu will be a small, curated selection of staples to satisfy hungry patrons or homesick college students. Customers can order the classic grilled cheese, fire-roasted tomato soup or the special grilled cheese of the month. They can sample sides like smoked mac and cheese and appetizers like the Pimento Cheese or the Chee Willikers—Toasted’s take on a Frito pie with New Orleans brand Elmer’s Chee-Wees, roast beef debris and pimento cheese. Toasted even plans to offer boiled crawfish during the season, just like it did during its pop-up days. 

Creamy, fire-roasted tomato and basil soup with grilled cheese croutons

The shop will also sell desserts from—and serve as a king cake pick-up for—local bakery Lundi Baking Co. 

“My philosophy (for the menu) is it’s easier to add than it is to subtract,” Richard says. “You’ll see your basic grilled cheese. You’ll see your pimento grilled cheese. But, you’re going to find a couple of things you won’t see anywhere else in the city, like our Crab Rangoon Grilled Cheese, the New Orleans Roast Beef Debris Grilled Cheese and the grilled cheese of the month.”

To wash it all down, Toasted will offer boozy milkshakes (the current flavor is blueberry cheesecake), fresh-made spiked iced teas and lemonades and a Fresh-squeezed Watermelon Margarita. Katie says she looks forward to playing with seasonal flavors to create more unique cocktails for the restaurant, like offering a Bananas Foster Boozy Milkshake for Carnival season.  

Bluberry cheesecake boozy milkshake

“I would start with the boozy milkshake,” Katie says when asked her menu recommendation. “Because who does that?” As for the rest of the managing partners, Dupont recommends the Brunch Sandwich. Megan and Markert agree you can’t go wrong with the basic grilled cheese if you’re not dining on a brunch day. Markert also suggests going for the Chee Willikers as a starter, because the dish samples two other items featured on the menu: the New Orleans Roast Beef Debris and the Pimento Cheese. 

“We just want people to walk in, feel welcomed and just feel really comfortable,” Katie says. “We’re elevating comfort with the food and the cocktails. We want you to feel like this is home and this is family. But, also at the same time, you’re not getting somebody’s grandma who doesn’t know how to cook for you. You get an elevated experience.”

Toasted will be open this weekend for brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and will reopen next Thursday through Sunday. Toasted will also be available to order through DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and even personal delivery. 

Keep up with menu information and hours by following the restaurant on Instagram or checking its website. Toasted is at 5201 Nicholson Drive, Suite F.