ToyBox Bistro is a favorite haunt of mine. Owned and operated by grade-school best friends Bill and Michelle, its most obvious and endearing feature is that you sit in and around an impressive toy collection! You see, Michelle’s husband Steve, now passed on, was a nerd’s nerd. And what better place to display a nerd’s nerd’s toy collection but a fantastic restaurant in one of the nerdiest cities in the country?
ToyBox Bistro is on the southwest corner of Jordan and Holmes, in a location that has been a restaurant for decades. Of the eateries in this spot I’ve been around to visit, this one is my favorite. It’s easy to call it a burger joint, but you diminish it stopping there. This place has poutine for an appetizer, and a spicy cheeseburger with peanut butter on it. And have you ever had macaroni and cheese made into waffles?
I made it a father-son visit with Aaron for a weekday lunch. (ToyBox Bistro is open for lunch and dinner, but like many places, they’re emerging from some pandemic restrictions on operating hours. So verify they’re open before you go at one end of the day or the other.) We started with poutine, and though I’ve never ordered and eaten it north of the border, this sure looks right. With ample brown gravy and cheese curds over delightfully crisp fries, it vanished quickly.
Aaron went with one of the designer burgers for his entree. The Hades comes topped with ghost chili cheese, fried spicy pickles, and fried jalapenos, and unless you’ve progressed a bit beyond Tabasco, you may want to ask for a little taste of the ghost chili cheese before committing. It’s delicious, but it’s also pretty relentless for several seconds. Be advised.
I went with the Northside Hero, which is a satisfying take on the Chicago classic Italian beef sandwich. With seasoned roast beef served au jus, you also have the option of getting it topped with a spicy Italian relish called giardiniera (which I recommend). It’s not something you can roll in and get just anywhere. (Noticing a menu pattern here?) It was the very first thing I ever ordered at ToyBox Bistro, and I revisit it often.
To accompany, I got the waffled mac and cheese, which is a signature ToyBox item. It’s served in a good two-or-three-bites finger food size, and it’s just what it sounds like: a waffle made out of macaroni and cheese. If you think that sounds good, you’re right. And don’t try it at home, because you’ll make a big smelly mess. And don’t ask ’em how to do it, because they won’t tell you. And then they’ll laugh.
(I may or may not have personal experience with each of the previous three sentences.)
Other offerings include wings in varying heat levels, smoked sausage-sized hot dogs, and several other designer burgers (the PB&Yay!, with the same ghost chili cheese as the Hades, as well as bacon and peanut butter, is awesome). There’s frequently an interesting daily special, as well. (It was chorizo nachos when we went, but I already had my tummy set on a Northside.)
The food is excellent and distinctive. It’s a full-service place. It’s family-friendly, but there’s a small bar too, with rotating draft selections. And it’s almost certainly like no other restaurant you’ve ever been in. Get it in your rotation, and I’ll see you there!
511 Jordan Lane NW, Huntsville
Bo Williams is a Christian, husband, father, writer, and human trafficking activist. He is the Director of Public Relations for the North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force (stnow.org). He enjoys IndyCar racing, wristwatches, and spending time with his family, especially at the beach. You can keep up with Bo day to day at BoWilliams.com.