And for a while, I struggled. I’m not really a brunch person. Maybe that’s because until recently, my weekends were a constant “oh my god, hurry up and write, bake, run, cook before you go back to your real job on Monday morning.” I was completely stressed out. Working a demanding time job, then managing my three other part-time gigs on top of that? A Michelada? No, I need a nap. And, I like making breakfast at home…
Then, I quit my job. I keep saying I need to write about that whole experience, but I still haven’t wrapped my head around the fact I did it. So, we’ll write that one another day. But honestly, once I wasn’t so stressed out on Sundays, my outlook on brunch changed a bit. And now that brunch seems to be becoming a ‘thing’ in Baltimore – catching up with NYC, San Francisco and other larger cities – I thought I’d give it a try. I mean, how hard could it be to like sleeping in, having eggs and other breakfast-y food, drinks and then coming home for a nap. Again, I like naps.
Where to go? I thought about some of my favorite restaurants, asked around with my friends about brunches they liked and also just figured it out via social media. People really, really like to Instagram about brunch…and I was about to be one of them. Oy. Was I a brunch person? I don’t like Mimosas – at all. And for me to like a Bloody Mary, it has to be very, very good. I don’t like the idea of bottomless drinks (that just spells trouble, or should I say, U-B-E-R) and I just wasn’t big on the idea of getting drunk at 1:00pm. Don’t get me wrong, I like a beer or three at an O’s game, cocktails out at night, a glass of wine at home, sure. Okay, okay, I’m in. Here we go, I thought.
I plotted out a few months of Sundays (and some places do brunch on Saturdays, too…) and started lining up friends to go with me. That’s the fun part of brunch – seeing your friends and people you love and slowing down a bit. There’s no way I can cover all of them…but here are some of my favorites – in no particular order, well, except for the first one.
Wit & Wisdom – A Tavern by Michael Mina.
To me, this is kind of like the mother of all Baltimore brunches. Honestly. Head and shoulders. I’ve never been a huge fan of buffets, but this one? It’s insane – the choices are both high quality and never-ending. Tons of seafood, which I love. For $50 per person, it’s an expensive option but if you can swing it, you get a lot for the money. Not to be missed on the boofay? Oysters on the half shell, Old Bay poached shrimp, Maryland crab salad, smoked salmon, the BIG pancake, French toast, prime rib and lots more. The Bloody Mary here is stellar – and – you can order anything off the regular cocktail menu (love, love love) and also, if you’re into Mimosas, theirs are bottomless for $24. I love this place, so I just can’t say enough nice things. Chef Zack Mills and his team go over and above for their guests. And, that view? The best.
The Food Market
Always packed. Always. For a reason…really good, approachable, slightly elevated comfort food. I live in Hampden and walk up to The Food Market for dinner at least once a month, often with my friend Sean. Chef Chad Gauss and his crew are fantastic, making you feel comfortable as soon as you walk in. And they have a very nice Bloody Mary – with bacon and thyme. Delicious, a little spicy, balanced. You can get lunch or brunch Friday, Saturday and Sunday – so, that friend who always prefers lunch food (I’m in that category a lot, I must admit) can get a burger, club sandwich, lobster roll, etc and then you can get your pork belly Benedict, fried chicken and biscuits or my favorite, the Smokey Bowl – bacon, gouda cream, potato gratin, dippy eggs, English muffin, hollandaise. Very rarely do I get the same thing over and over but honestly, I could eat that once a month. And make sure you get the French toast dippers with maple cream cheese fondue. Holy moly. Don’t forget to make reservations and if you can’t handle the noise level, go early.
If I’m in South Baltimore, it’s usually for Hersh’s or Bookmaker’s. And now, for Sobo Café. Owner, Anna Leventis, is a friend. And since this is Smalltimore, we met because she grew up in the Greek community here in Baltimore with my best friend, Lia. That’s just how it works here (so, be nice to everyone, always.) I’d heard about Sobo over the years and Anna took over ownership four years ago and they do such a nice job with their menus, which change constantly based on what’s in season. I’d been to dinner there a few times, but never brunch – until this summer. My friend Sakina wrote to say she and her husband would be in Baltimore they were pulling a group together to have brunch on the following Saturday. “Hey, Charm City Cook! Where shall we go?! Ha, ha, ha…” I went on Open Table to get some ideas…and I see that Sobo serves brunch on Saturdays and I’d been meaning to get there, so…I booked it. In our group of seven, everyone got something different – cinnamon buns, cream chipped beef (and those crazy biscuits), smoked salmon, eggs benedict, chilled corn soup and I even got a Michelada (lager, Clamato, lemon.) And Anna sent out dessert for the table to share – an unbelievable strawberry shortcake made with a slightly sweeter version of their biscuit. The table was suddenly silent. Seven spoons. No talking. Holy smokes, it was good.
Oysters. They have tons of oysters. And beer. But really, seriously good brunch food. I like this place but I usually just go for beers (and yes, oysters) and hang at the bar. This time, I sat in the front section of the restaurant and we ordered what seemed like everything on the menu – burgers, Elvis pancakes, benedicts, oysters, bacon pimento cheese, wedge salad (I love a wedge), beers and built some tasty Bloody Marys from their cart – that was fun. They also have several kinds of roasted oysters, mussels and burgers. I liked having lots to choose from, but it the menu was not overwhelming, which is perfect. I need to get back to this place more often.
When I heard that Bryan Voltaggio‘s much adored Frederick diner was opening its second location in Baltimore, I must admit I was pretty stoked. I had only experienced Family Meal once and it was a quick drive by after dinner at Volt and we just grabbed an order of chicken pot pie fritters and watched the end of the O’s game. (They won and the fritters were kind of insane, so worth it was worth it…) I met up with some friends at Family Meal at the Inner Harbor for brunch about a month after they opened and I wasn’t really sure what to expect so soon after opening. And, the location? Not a fan, but we parked in Little Italy and walked over. We were greeted warmly and seated quickly (it was a little crowded but it’s a big place) and settled into coffee. We ended up not drinking for this brunch since we were on our way to a party and didn’t want to arrive “pickled.” But I’ve had some really delicious cocktails from Voltaggio’s mixologist, Dane Nakamura. (Serious business.) For brunch, we had omelets, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, soft crab tacos and for dessert? Yeah, um, that banana scotch pudding and PBJ cobbler? More, please. Definitely going back to Family Meal very soon.
This is honestly one of my very, very, very favorite places in town. Chef/owner Josh Herskovitz is a really smart, creative guy. If you know me or follow me on Instagram, you know that I am kind of in love with cocktails. One of my big peeves of brunch is that you only really get a choice of Bloody Marys or Mimosas. Not at Hersh’s – there is an actual brunch cocktail menu. I love that. And the food is solid – again, really creative and everything (even bagels!) is made in-house. On this visit, I had the fried chicken, which sadly is no longer offered at brunch. Next time, I’m getting the burger. It sounds so good – dry-aged chuck, shortrib & brisket, topped with fresh mozzarella, pesto, romaine & roasted red peppers served with polenta fries. Um, yeah. And…you can also get their fabulous pizzas. Any chance I have to get the Fumo e Fuoco or Il Duce pie? Done. Thank you, Hersh’s for never letting me down. Not once. And the cocktails, thank you for the cocktails.
BLT from Peter’s Inn
French toast and Flatbreads at Woodberry Kitchen
Shrimp & Grits and Fried Green Tomatoes at Miss Shirley’s Cafe
Pancakes and Fried Rice at Johnny’s
Tilghman Island Eggs and a Dirty Gertie at Gertrude’s
Biscuits at Blacksauce Kitchen
Breakfast Pie and Pastrami Cured Salmon at B&O Brasserie
Elvis Pancakes and Hueveos Rancheros at Golden West Cafe
Brisket and Piquillo Peppers at Cafe Quito
Cheese Grits and Charcuterie at Clementine
Soups and Cappuccinos at Artifact Coffee
Everything (including the booze) on the buffet at The Ambassador
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