by Courtney Chandler
Whether you're a self-proclaimed brunch aficionado or simply searching for new places to eat, you don't have to look very far to find a restaurant with a unique and satisfying brunch menu.
Brunch is the perfect combo of the sweet side of breakfast with the savory side of lunch. Having made it my first priority to explore the Baltimore brunch scene, here are five picks for the weathered brunch-goer and the newbie alike. Cue the mimosas, and cheers to the best meal of the weekend.
- Blue Moon Cafe – the Must-Try
The Blue Moon Cafe is just that, a quaint (read: small) cafe nestled in the Fell’s Point neighborhood of Baltimore. It is widely critically acclaimed and its popularity is immediately reflected in the wait times. Seriously, expect at least an hour+ wait if you're trying to go during peak brunch times, say 10 a.m. - noon (also, due to its quaint nature, waiting is outside so maybe consider putting off a visit until it's not a frozen tundra). If you've ever heard of the Blue Moon Cafe, you've likely heard of their signature Cap’n’ Crunch French Toast. As promised, the French toast is deliciously decadent - but don't expect to finish a full serving unless you want a sugar high that could last you a week. My go-to order, huevos rancheros, also satisfied, and this is coming from a Tex-Mex snob. (Admittedly, I can't rule out the possibility that hunger had taken over during my two-hour wait and blurred all my senses as I devoured my plate in record time). In all seriousness though, the food was delicious and hit all the key brunch notes. To summarize: Blue Moon Cafe definitely lives up to the hype, but be sure to expect a wait.
- Miss Shirley's – the Old Faithful
Miss Shirley's is, if nothing else, completely reliable as a brunch spot. It has a tried and true brunch-loving atmosphere, and has a menu literally tailored just for brunch (to be expected considering they only open for breakfast/lunch). The menu is two parts stereotypical brunch - two eggs and bacon with toast, omelets galore – and one part Southern twist – think shrimp and grits, or fried green tomato sandwich. Miss Shirley's even has two convenient locations in the Baltimore area, including one on Pratt Street near the Harbor. Even if there is a wait, you can get your brunch spirits at the walk-up bar, including Old-Bay rimmed Born On the Bay-O Bloody Marys and Southern Ruby Crushes (the salted caramel hot chocolate also gets a much-deserved shoutout). The restaurant is large enough to keep waits low, even during peak hours. Overall, Miss Shirley’s is a great place to head to when the impromptu brunch craving hits.
- Barcocina – for Something Different
For those looking for libations, Barcocina in Fell's Point is the way to go. They offer $10 bottomless mimosas and $12 bottomless bloody Marys (or Bloody Marias if you go with the house-made mix). Brunch drinks not your thing? Not to worry, Barcocina has so much more to offer. Take the duck confit enchiladas, for example. Juicy, tender duck enchiladas with black beans, and topped with brunch’s best friend: a fried egg. Need I say more? Barcocina’s reasonably priced menu features traditional brunch items with a Spanish twist, which makes it truly unique. Where else in Baltimore are you going to find carne asada y huevos or a tres queso omelet?
- City Cafe - the New Classic
Located in Mount Vernon, City Cafe seems to have it all – sleek dining room, marble bar, and even a patio (not promising now, but come summer I’m sure it’s packed). But what about the brunch? To start with, they bring you a free cinnamon roll. I repeat: Free. Cinnamon. Roll. Warm, ooey gooey, iced cinnamon roll - I was almost ready to proclaim City Cafe my new fav brunch spot with that alone. But it was the creative drink menu (pumpkin chai latte, spiked lemongrass limeade, locally-sourced coffee), reasonable prices, and diverse brunch menu that sealed the deal. I ordered the croque madame, and was floored when a huge (actually almost as big as my face) sandwich appeared within 15 minutes of ordering. The accompanying fruit was also fresh and ripe, which was a pleasant surprise. The Grand Marnier French toast and breakfast potatoes were also notably delicous. Also, if you like eggs Benedict at all, City Cafe is the place for you. They offer a classic Benedict with English muffin, Baltimore Benedcit with (you guessed it) crab cake, and a pulled pork Benedict. I couldn't help but eye my neighbor's plate with envy when their pulled pork Benedict was brought to them - that will definitely be my next order. Another bonus? They have a private parking lot, so there's really no excuse not to go - you won't be disappointed.
- Gertrude’s - the Chic Spot
Gertrude’s restaurant features self-titled Cheasapake cuisine, which is entirely reflected in their brunch menu. Gertrude's Crabmeat Omelete is the perfect example, in which the humble omelet is elevated with crabmeat, Gruyere cheese, and sherried mushrooms. The menu is also customizable with a 'build-your-own' option, where you pick a main dish, sauce and two sides – you literally can’t go wrong when you have complete control of what you’re ordering. As an added bonus, Gertrude’s is located in the Baltimore Museum of Art, so you’re perfectly primed for a post-brunch stroll through the galleries. Reservations are suggested, and although slightly pricier, Gertrude’s definitely deserves a spot among Baltimore’s brunch greats.