by Nancy Stiles
Toast is one of the simplest dishes. It's one step away from a plain slice of bread, but somehow it's the perfect vehicle for so many delicious things: melt-in-your-mouth butter, peach compote, avocado, Nutella. Chef Colleen Clawson is taking it up a notch with her upcoming cafe Milque Toast Bar at 2212 South Jefferson Avenue. Yep -- as in gourmet toast.
"I live in McKinley Heights in between Lafayette Square and Benton Park, and our neighborhood is kind of under redevelopment right now. There's a lot of really neat stuff happening like Peat [Wollaeger]'s studio and South Jefferson Mid Century Modern [furniture]," Clawson tells us. "I went, 'Hey, let's sell a milk and toast bar, because you can't get coffee or a snack in our neighborhood.' There's nowhere to walk to -- we have to go a different neighborhood to find something."
Clawson and her partners also decided that they didn't want to try to compete with places that are already hitting it out of the park in south city, like Sump Coffee or Park Avenue Coffee. Milque Toast is completely different and new.
"[The menu is] literally toast -- all different kinds of breads, gluten-free stuff, artisanal jams and jellies, flavored butters," Clawson says. "The lunch menu is going to be like this nostalgic thing that hopefully resonates with people's childhood, like cinnamon toast, Nutella toast, toast fried in butter and dipped in powdered sugar, plus a lot of savory options."
Milque Toast will also make its own flavored milk along with nut milk and grain milk. Clawson says its goal is to keep everything sourced from within 50 miles of St. Louis and use things from the local community as much as possible.
"The closest thing is seriously McDonald's! Instead, you can come get something wholesome and nutritious and that gives right back to your community," she says. "It's really super simple and not too fussy but still unique."
The name, which Clawson also says is the overriding concept of Milque Toast Bar, comes from a quote by famous food writer M.F.K. Fisher. She described a milquetoast a "warm, mild, soothing thing, full of innocent strength," which seemed perfect to Clawson.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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