The King of ‘Truck-Stop Gourmet’

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Good says it’s great to run West Side eateries

By Mirva Lempiainen

Larry Good is an Upper West Side kind of guy. Born and raised in New York, he grew up on West 86th Street, where his parents still live. Currently calling 123rd Street home, the 45-year-old restaurateur has spent nearly all his life to the west of Central Park.

“The West Side is the crème de la crème. I’ve always felt at home here,” he said, sitting in his “downtown” restaurant, the second Toast NYC that is located at 105th Street and Broadway. “Well, it is my home,” he quickly noted.

Larry Good, owner of Toast, said he looks to underserved sections of the West Side to open new restaurants.

Good says the only times he has ventured out of the neighborhood are the times that he has left the city altogether: to attend college at Cornell University and to live the life of a ski bum out West for a few months while in his twenties.

Considering his background, it’s only appropriate that all three of Good’s restaurants are located in the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights: The two Toasts can be found along Broadway, the original one near 123rd Street and the sequel at 105th Street, and the Heights Bar & Grill is between 111th and 112th streets, also on Broadway. The establishments currently employ about 100 people.

Good said he always looks to set up restaurants in underserved communities, as rents tend to be cheaper and his places will stand out more. When the first Toast opened at 3157 Broadway in 1999, he said it was the first restaurant on the northern edge of Morningside Heights.

“There was a need that wasn’t filled as much,” he said of the neighborhood that now boasts a lively nightlife scene and tens of restaurants. “I like the area a lot, it has a unique charm to it.”

Good found his way into the food business after he was nominated “the guy in charge of food” at his Cornell fraternity, Beta Delta Chi. “I ended up liking cooking,” he said, and things progressed from there.

Combining his love of good food and his business degree, Good bought his first restaurant, Nacho Mama’s Burritos, 18 years ago. It was renamed the Heights Bar & Grill in 1996 after a fire destroyed most of it. Prior to owning the place, Good worked as a chef in the restaurant, and a host of others.

“I strayed from kitchen to management,” Good said, adding that though he still loves food, nowadays he only deals with it when it comes to menu planning and tasting.

Good calls the grub at his restaurants “truck-stop gourmet,” as it is good quality food served in big portion sizes. The two Toasts and the Heights Bar & Grill offer a selection of Mexican-American choices, and cater for vegetarians, too. “All things for all people,” assured Good.

Above all, Good said his restaurants are neighborhood favorites. “If you don’t want to travel to Brooklyn or Downtown, you can come here, stay close to home and have a good old time.”

Much to the joy of his loyal customers, Good is currently looking for new underserved areas where he could set up house. Possibilities include Washington Heights or City College area, anything “uptown-Broadway” in general.

Once a West Sider, always a West Sider.

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