Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Bunch of Baltimore Brunches

by EP

I often say that brunch is my least favorite meal of the day, but in truth, I have mixed feelings.  I love brunch because (a) I love morning time, (b) I love coffee, and (c) I love socializing, and at brunch, all three are present. I dislike brunch because I generally am not that into the food selections available.  I know, I know, many people LOVE breakfast foods and kvell over brunch opportunities, but for me, most of the time, I'd rather have a burger.

That said, in recent weeks I've had some excellent brunch experiences around Charm City, and I may just be changing my tune if this streak continues.  It started about two weeks ago when Xani and I joined our buddy Rebecca at Woodberry Kitchen for their Saturday brunch.  We planned to have brunch after hearing about Beckett Hitch, a unique shop-ortunity where several local vendors set up in one of the dining rooms at Woodberry Kitchen (tickets were $10 and included the price of admission, valet parking, and coffee, champagne, and snacks to enjoy while shopping).  

Long-time readers (and anyone remotely aware of the food scene in Baltimore) will know that Woodberry is one of the (if not THE) best restaurants in Baltimore.  We absolutely love it there for the outstanding food, ambiance, service, and commitment to local, seasonal, and sustainable cuisine.  So, shopping + brunch at WK = no brainer.

We sat in the sunny dining room and ordered French-press coffee and breakfast cocktails.  I loved that they brought us the coffee and a little timer so we would know when it was ready to press and pour.  Xani ordered  "The Full Monty," a Bloody Mary with a shrimp (head-on!) and candied bacon, with a Natty Boh chaser.  Oh yeah.  Rebecca and I got the WK Mimosa, with freshly squeezed OJ, Cointreau, sparkling wine, and orange jelly.  You know I love anything with sparkles!

For our brunch, Xani got the Andouille Sausage Link & Grits, with a fried egg, pork belly, and red eye gravy.  Rebecca got the Country Fried Chicken, with creamy white gravy, a fried egg, potatoes, and carrots.  I got the Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, with potato hash, onions, and sage.

Fried chicken with egg, cream cravy, potatoes, carrots

Andouille sausage with egg, grits, pork belly, red eye gravy

Biscuits and sausage gravy with potatoes

Everything was so delicious, and so rich!  We tried all of our own dishes, and then rotated so we could try each others.  So, I can comment on all 3!  Xani's sausage and grits dish was super-flavorful from the sausage and the gravy, and the grits were mighty creamy.  The biscuits in my dish were buttery and flaky, and went well with the sausage and the creamy gravy.  My only complaint about the sausage gravy was that it was more sausage than gravy, an unexpected format.  Finally, Rebecca's chicken was so awesome, flavorful, juicy, and went great with the white gravy and potatoes alongside.  

On our way to shop, we ran into fellow blogger and friend Meg, who was also there for the brunch/shopping duo (smart lady).  We shopped our way through the Beckett Hitch event, and picked up a few things and a few business cards for future purchases.  It was a lovely Saturday morning, made lovelier by the fact that we continued shopping on the Avenue in Hampden, and picked up LOTS of pairs of shoes between the 3 of us.  It was a great day :)

The following weekend, I met up with college/law school friends for brunch at Miss Shirley's, a Baltimore institution that I have been hearing about for years, but somehow never had the chance to go.  We opted to go to the original location in Roland Park (instead of the newer downtown location in the Harbor), and despite rumors of long wait times, we only had to wait about 10 minutes before being seated in a cozy booth.

We ordered coffee and perused the extensive menu, which boasted service of brunch AND lunch all day.  I was torn - I love lunch, but it wasn't even 11:00am and I had been out pretty late the night before (seeing my friend Cezar's band, Saffron Holiday, rock out).  While we were still deciding, we ordered some Funky Monkey Bread, cinnamon-scented pull-apart bread bites with bananas, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and pecans.  You know, a nice, light starter.  It was sweet and delicious and exactly what I needed after my late night.

For my main, I chose a dish that has hints of both brunch and lunch: chicken and waffles.  Traditionally, this dish is just what it sounds like: fried chicken (usually wings) atop sweet waffles.  Miss Shirley's version used boneless chicken breasts that came with a honey-mustard drizzle, served alongside white cheddar-green onion waffles and peppadew-jalapeno butter.  The chicken was crispy and hot, and the waffles, while they could have been crispier, had great flavor and I absolutely loved the peppadew-jalapeno butter alongside them.  (Note that at first, I was incorrectly given banana waffles (hey, they look the same), but our wonderful waitress fixed me up right away and with a smile.)

Everyone else enjoyed their dishes as well.  Max got the chicken and waffles too, while Rachel got the California Chicken BLT with grilled chicken, bacon, greens, avocado, tomato, and a citrus mayo on ciabatta, and Lydia got the Veggie Egg Tower, with tomato, onion, avocado, basil, fresh mozzarella, and poached eggs and herbed hollandaise on top.  Yum!

Miss Shirley's has some outrageous dishes, including Pumpkin Cheesecake-Stuffed French Toast and "Shirley's Affair with Oscar," described as "Two 2-ounce Beef Filets, topped with Asparagus, Jumbo Lump Crab Meat & Hollandaise Sauce, on Fried Green Tomatoes and Savory Grits with Bacon, Dusted with Old Bay."  Oh Shirley, you crazy girl... 

The last bit of news on the brunch front is from this morning, when my friend Lydia and I tried to go to Blue Moon Cafe for some breakfast (their potato pancakes have bacon in them - need I say more?), but the wait time was an hour and we were hungry.  So I took her to my other go-to brunch spot in Fells Point, the Waterfront Hotel. As I've mentioned before, the Waterfront's corned beef hash is the best I've ever had and the standard to which I compare all others.  It is a huge portion with crispy potatoes and finely chopped corned beef, but then it also has corn, peppers, onions, lots of pepperjack cheese, and a sprinkling of Old Bay.  Hoo boy, SO good.  Lydia got the Crab Hash, which came with gigantic pieces of lump crab, potatoes, corn, peppers, onions, mozzarella, poached eggs, and chipotle aioli.  She also loved it and couldn't get over how good it was.  Maybe they are putting crack in their hash?  Then it'd be truly Baltimore-style.

So what are your favorite Charm City brunch spots??

Happy brunching around Baltimore,


  1. I am really not a brunch fan, either, especially since the lure of bacon is lost on me and a poorly-made spinach omelet is not really worth my $15.

    BUT, there are a handful of places that rock a great brunch, and although I've never eaten that meal at Woodberry (only dinner), it sounds like yours was great.

    Oddly, I have more beloved brunch spots in Bmore than in NYC (probably because now when I'm in Bmore I'm visiting and can't make my own!) My favorites are 1) Clementine in Lauraville - their menu is creative and the quality of their food is way better now than it was a few years ago (and it was considered great back then); and 2) my old standby, Red Star - their brunch menu has always been extensive but it's even bigger now and, while you would think that would make it suffer, it doesn't - everything is still excellent, and they have so many great vegetarian options that aren't just omelets. I've never liked Blue Moon, even more so after I got sick from french toast a few years ago.

    Let me know next time you're in NYC - I'd love to join you for a great brunch (or just dinner) in Brooklyn!

  2. I love brunch - though to be honest, we normally eat it at 12 which I guess makes it lunch?

  3. "Then it'd truly be Baltimore-style"... LOL!All the food looks amazing; I'm especially intrigued by Shirley's menu.

  4. Loved the crack hash comment. Sounded like something I'd say. I ordered the same thing when I went to Miss Shirleys and also would've preferred crispier waffles. Flaccid spongy waffles make baby Jesus cry.

    I really enjoy Miguel's in Locust Point for brunch. Also Rocket to Venus was pretty good too although a bit too hipster for me. Been wanting to check out WK for brunch, we have dinner reservations there in a few weeks, I can't wait.

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