Living in San Jose has really shaped my palate.
Toasted Craft Sandwiches sits in the rear of SoFA Market, across from The Fountainhead Bar and adjacent to Hawaiian Poke Bowl. Owner Tommy Loth, who began his career in industrial design, had an affinity for the area long before he decided to set up shop. “Downtown San Jose is where I went to school and where I worked. I already had an interest in this neighborhood because of Whipsaw and elemental8. It’s kind of crazy thinking about it now. I had no interest in starting my own business, but I was already naturally drawn to the SoFA District.”
“I think SoFA Market has the potential to be the face of downtown,” he continues. “SoFA Street Fair, SubZERO Festival, and First Friday Art Walks are great examples of community collaboration. People that live in this neighborhood have been really great to us, and I feel like it has been a very welcoming experience.”
While in school for industrial design, Loth’s curiosity towards food developed while moonlighting at Konjoe Burger Bar, a favorite local eatery at San Pedro Square Market. “I was in college at the time and was helping Konjoe with their signage and design work,” Loth says. “I started as a cashier and slowly moved my way into the kitchen as they needed help. That was what got me really interested in food.”
Prior to Konjoe, Loth already had a diverse culinary upbringing as a Bay Area son with Cambodian roots. “Living in San Jose has really shaped my palate. Mexican food and Vietnamese food have become staples for me,” says Loth. Kids who are products of the early ’80s Asian diaspora can attest that food knowledge starts at home—that it’s ingrained long before a person is even cognizant of such things. Loth explains, “I think like most people my palate was really shaped by my mom’s cooking. We mainly ate Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cambodian dishes.”
In the end, Loth decided to pour his energy into perhaps the most ubiquitous food item of them all: the sandwich. “I went with sandwiches because it’s a very universal food,” says Loth. Toasted’s menu currently consists of traditional sandwiches that are made-to-order with quality ingredients, including Boar’s Head premium meats and fresh bread delivered daily from local staple Roma Bakery. On the menu, you’ll find items like an Italian sub and pesto turkey avocado sandwich, as well as veggie options like balsamic portabella mushroom, a local favorite.
Though these sandwiches might be conventional, their components and the forethought that goes into them is anything but slapped together. All of this was a self-taught crash course for Loth. “I didn’t know I could be so picky about bread,” he says, laughing. “From different types of crust to the amount of chew to how well it would hold up in terms of structure. Just having quality ingredients doesn’t make a great dish. How toasted should the bread be? How much sauce should be used depending on the type of meat? All that is seriously taken into account—and more.”
Loth, now officially a young entrepreneur, takes pride in running a business in his hometown. Word has gotten out about Toasted’s quality, and increased foot traffic to SoFA Market is a testament to its success. According to Loth, “The best reaction is when someone comes and may have doubts, but finishes their meal, comes back, and tips us. I don’t care about the dollar amount because it’s more about the gesture and how it represents appreciation.”
Written by David Ma
Photography by Daniel Garcia