In a good, good place
Töast offers up cozy eats and community in Fergus Falls, Minn.
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
You know that wonderful moment of warmth when you take the first bite of your favorite dish, made with love and care?
Norwegians have a brilliant phrase for this feeling: “å være midt i smørøyet.” It directly translates to English as “to be in the middle of the butter eye,” or the pat of butter melting in a bowl of warm grøt (porridge). It means to be in a good place, where good things are happening.
This is the slogan for Töast, a Scandinavian-inspired bistro in Fergus Falls, Minn., that opened in June. Töast already has a reputation for delicious breakfast and lunch and building community in their co-op space.
I recently spoke by phone with Töast co-owners Tessa and Ben Schierer to learn more about their restaurant.
Christy Olsen Field: Tell me a bit about Töast. What inspired you to open a Scandinavian restaurant in Fergus Falls?
Ben Schierer: We own and operate Union Pizza in Fergus Falls, which opened in 2015. We realized that it’s more than a restaurant: Union Pizza is a place for people to gather in the community. So when the café space next door opened up, we had an opportunity to try something
Tessa: I thought I had a genius idea with toast, but I learned that it’s a trendy idea right now. I just love the concept of toast: It’s a humble food that can be simple and nourishing, yet you can also make it fancy and extravagant.
Ben: During the shutdown, the café next to our restaurant closed and the space became available. We have a lot of Scandinavian heritage in our community, so we thought it would be a fun concept to take some traditional foods and present them in a new, modern way.
Tessa: This is a community space. People bring in their family recipes or cookbooks to share, or a plate or a lefse turner that they love and put them on the wall. It’s a space for people to be included.
Ben: The brains and talent of Töast is all Tessa!
COF: What’s it been like to open a restaurant in the time of COVID?
Ben: We never had to officially close our first restaurant, Union Pizza. If there is any food that translates to takeout, it’s pizza. We had to pivot our business plan, but we were able to keep the doors open and actually come out stronger than we were before.
Tessa: When the world shut down last year, people really missed being together. With Töast, we focused on bringing people together and have a relaxed space for people to spend time together. The community support has been incredible.
COF: One thing I read about Töast is that it’s a co-op model. Can you explain what that means?
Ben: The co-op is a Scandinavian concept that is common in Minnesota, where people share resources and support each other. That ties into the Scandinavian theme of Töast. Community was something that we gained by growing up here, and it’s why we moved back to Fergus Falls to raise our family. It’s really rewarding and we focus on that here at Töast.
At Töast, we have two kitchens: One in the front that we use for Töast, and a newly remodeled kitchen in the back. Fergus Falls has so many food entrepreneurs, and we saw the opportunity to support them by having this commercial kitchen space to use. We currently have four food entrepreneurs who use the space, from catering to desserts and take-and-bake meals, and we sell some of their items at Töast. Töast is open for breakfast and lunch, and then a few times a week, there is an event in the space.
COF: Can you tell me a bit about your menu at Töast?
Tessa: We have a simple breakfast and lunch menu that changes with some basic items and rotating specials, such as biff à la Lindström (Swedish dish of a beef patty with beets), and frikadeller toast with meatballs. We have a smørrebrød plate with different toppings so people can build and customize their own toast. We also have some salads, sandwiches, coffee, and other beverages.
COF: For your toast, do you make your own bread in-house?
Benn: We make our own rugbrød (rye bread), pastries, and desserts. We also source some breads from Falls Baking Company.
COF: Can you tell me about your catchphrase, “å være midt i smørøyet?”
Tessa: It means to be in a good place, in the middle of the porridge. For the first few weeks, people didn’t know what it meant. But then so many people told us that when they came to Töast, they were in a good place. It’s a beautiful space that people gravitate toward.
COF: Anything else you want our readers to know?
Tessa: We know that we are maybe not the most authentic Scandinavian restaurant. I love learning about food from different cultures and different recipes, and this is a fun way to explore my own Scandinavian heritage. I am really excited to learn new things.
Ben: Tessa makes really, really good food.
Töast is open Tuesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 116 N. Union Avenue, Fergus Falls, Minn. To learn more, follow them on Facebook and Instagram: @toast116.
All photos courtesy of Töast
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.