Served, Toad Style

How vegan cuisine was able to bring a smile to a self-deprecating carnivore’s face.

by Stephen Troiano

It was a sunny and unusually warm November afternoon walking through Bed-Stuy, but that alone couldn’t help uplift the cloud over my head. The past few days have involved tweaking my knee while working as a bike messenger which forced me to give up the job entirely, getting high as a kite and eating a lot of junk food. You get out what you put in. With that being said, after my visit to Toad Style, both my stomach and my heart were filled with quality food and kindness. Perhaps that’s the real superpower.

The little vegan restaurant, located on Ralph Avenue between Putnam & Jefferson Avenues, greeted me as I walked in with the lyrical greatness of MF Doom being played in the dining room. Funny, because I couldn’t help but hear heavy punk rock being played faintly from the kitchen. Hip-hop for the diners and rebellious rock for the vegan chefs. A clash of cultures fitting for a present day Bed-Stuy.

Chef Tyler Merfeld, co-owner of Toad Style. Photo by  Stephen Troiano

Chef Tyler Merfeld, co-owner of Toad Style. Photo by Stephen Troiano

I popped my head into the kitchen in search for co-owner Tyler Merfeld to pick his brain about veganism, the industry and his own personal health:

“I was vegetarian when I moved to the city in my early twenties and became
vegan four or five years ago…Reducing any kind of suffering in this world is a
good thing and, for me, it's an animal rights thing. But from there, there are some
selfish reasons to why being vegan is good. It's great for your health.”

Have you noticed a change in your health?

“Yeah, definitely. Someone asked me this the other day. I used to smoke, I used to drink. I very rarely drink now but it all felt pretty connected.”

So overall wellness?

“Yes, for sure. Definitely digestive reasons. Just not clogging your body up with
dead animals.”

Do you look at other vegan restaurants as competitors?

“No, I think any additional vegan businesses, anywhere, is a good thing. It'd be pretty counter productive to have that mindset in the vegan business. But I think also more vegan businesses benefit other vegan businesses and creates the general education and interest and gets people shopping around. You can recommend other places and nobody wants to eat at the same place everyday.”

Tyler went on to talk about the Toad Style menu and where he and his co-owner & fiancée Jillian lie with their vegan culinary philosophy:

The Sunshine Burger. Photo courtesy of  Toad Style

The Sunshine Burger. Photo courtesy of Toad Style

“I think the casual vegan fare is often not very creative and it's just the same ingredients. Our cheeses are all nut based. It's a soy-free menu. It was kind of a thing to get us to be more creative and not use packaged things and reheat them. We make everything from scratch. With the exception of the bread, we use New York bakeries for that. Everything is New York. We only sell beverages from New York. Just try to keep it as local as possible.”

I let Tyler get back in the kitchen and I put my order in: fried pickles to start, followed by their Sunshine Burger and paired with a grapefruit & mint Pilot Kombucha.

The fried pickles. Photo courtesy of  Toad Style

The fried pickles. Photo courtesy of Toad Style

Already my mood was beginning to change. You want to make the world a better place? Try deep frying it. The pickles were thinly breaded but it kept the color and flavor of a healthy pickle in tact. Five in an order and served with a side of horseradish mustard. Sam, one of Toad Style’s front-of- house employees, gave me a side of sweet chili sauce, which he said was his favorite. The Sunshine Burger, a mushroom & lentil patty served on a pretzel bun with a cashew dill cream cheese, sweet chili mustard, avocado & arugula was able to overcome my unexplainable childhood fear of consuming mushrooms. The bun combined with the patty was soft in texture, forcing me to take my time with it (like eating a spoon full of peanut butter). If you’re hungry, it’ll fill you up. Afterwards, I hung around and continued to socialize with Tyler and Sam. As I walked out it felt as if I was leaving a friend’s house. That imaginary cloud above my head cleared as my basic human instincts told me that, sometimes, all you need to get out of a self-induced funk is good people and good food. I’m no vegan, nor am I a vegetarian. From a carnivore’s point of view, I now view vegan cuisine as a sort of mental-health benefit, served Toad style.

Toad Style is located at 93 Ralph Avenue, Brooklyn NY