Although Charles Village has a few quality brunch spots (we’re looking at you, Donna’s), we’ve recently been finding ourselves wanting more. This weekend, our stomachs lead us to Belvedere Market for a much-needed, post-Halloween recovery feast. Belvedere Market, also known as Belvedere Square’s Market, is about a ten-minute drive in the direction of Loyola, so start begging your car-bearing friends to chauffeur you over there.
Having been there a few times, we consider ourselves pretty seasoned customers of the Market. It is set up in a casual, cafeteria style (but, no, nothing like the FFC) with different counters offering enough options to satisfy every craving you came in with as well as more you didn’t know you had.
With so many choices and constant crowds swarming around the place, it can be overwhelming to navigate this food mecca. But have no fear, your food gurus are here!
Walking from the leftmost parking lot, you will enter through the left door of the Market, meaning you will be immediately greeted by Atwater’s ice cream counter. Stay calm and hold yourself together. Even though it’s tempting to forget about brunch and go straight to three scoops of their seasonal flavors, we advise you to move along. Do your best to save room for dessert so you can pay the counter a visit on your way out. Atwater’s claims three different parts of Belvedere Square: this ice cream counter, the bread/cheese counter and the coffee counter. Their breads and pastries are made without sugar or fats and baked from scratch in the Market (Eddie’s on St. Paul carries Atwater’s packaged loaves, which is good to know if you become Belvedere fanatics like we are... a Celtic Harvest loaf is currently sitting in our kitchen).
The rest of their menu, which you can order from both the bread/cheese and coffee counters, is similarly made with local, organic ingredients. Atwater’s menu is definitely the largest and healthiest selection of food at the Market (not including the Juice Press... but we’re getting ahead of ourselves). They offer a range of breakfast sandwiches, soups and salads — all of which are very healthy and made from scratch. When you pass by the bread/cheese counter immediately after the ice cream counter, ask the nice workers at the register to glance at a menu. Don’t feel pressured by their looks and urges to take your order, though. Look at the menu, make a few mental notes and move on. Visiting a market like Belvedere’s is all about staying calm and being practical. This is just one of your many options.
If you continue walking past the Atwater’s bread/cheese counter, you’ll pass their coffee counter and arrive at Tooloulou. Tooloulou, famous for its pizza and po’boys (“Louisiana style sub served on French bread dressed proper with lettuce, tomato, spicy Cajun pickles and Tobasco remoulade,” FYI), offers more exotic comfort food. Although it does have a full menu, its brunch menu is comprised of only about six different plates (blackened shrimp and grits, chicken, chicken & biscuits, eggs benedict, fried green tomato sandwich, grilled pork belly and build your own plate).
Don’t let its less-crowded-than-Atwater, old-school counter deter you from ordering from here. After eating food from both places, we agree that both are awesome depending on your mood (we’ll elaborate later).
Next, wander past Tooloulou and you’ll reach Planet Produce and its juice bar, Earth’s Essence. Fresh juices, when done right, are the bomb. Although we’ve been too famished to consider beverages during our visits, the produce on display in authentic wooden crates always looks very fresh and full of good juice-pressing potential.
For a total change of pace, turn left at Planet Produce and Ejji Ramen (edgy) will be on your left. That’s right, readers, Baltimore is finally catching onto the ramen rage! This counter opened just last week and offers Malaysian and Japanese influenced ramen, as well as rice bowls, gyozas, yakitori skewers and a selection of beer and sake.
This weekend we were hunting for typical brunch food, so we chose to pass by Ejji. But Belvedere Market is open for dinner! So we’ll definitely pay them an evening visit soon (...probably tonight).
To the left of Ejji is Pure Chocolate, which sells exactly that. Its small counter offers “raw, organic, gluten free, vegan, no refined sugar, delicious” chocolates and its ingredients are scientifically proven to “promote glowing skin, shiny hair, anti-aging and vitality.” We’re taking it upon ourselves to adopt these chocolates as our new form of vitamins. We’ll let you know how it goes.
To the right of Ejji is Neopol Savory Smoker, which offers an array of smoked specialties, the highlights being seafood and savory cheese pies. Behind the glass counter are about five of these pies, all differently seasoned, as well as cooked salmon and prepared salads. Our favorites are the cranberry or mustard salmon (best to bring home and have for dinner at room temperature, if you want to be gourmet like that). Also look for the list of their offered omelets — it’s located on a chalkboard behind the counter and definitely easy to miss!
If you can make it beyond this smokin’ joint, you’ll enter Ceriello Fine Foods which offers gourmet Italian products, including artisanal salami, imported Italian delicacies, handmade pasta sauces and salad dressings. They also offer paninis behind the counter and rotisserie chicken, which are actually great to keep in your fridge to incorporate in sandwiches, salads and dinners throughout the week.
We weren’t kidding when we told you this was a food mecca. For an amazing brunch feast, we recommend either Atwater’s or Tooloulou; neither will let you down. For brunch at Atwater’s, we’ve enjoyed the French toast casserole with caramelized apples; the big day egg dish with grits, bacon, scrambled eggs and bread; the steel cut oatmeal with warm milk, raisins and brown sugar; and the pulled pork sandwich on a cheesy biscuit (good for the carnivores of the bunch). Their soups also seem like great options and specifically the Moroccan lentil, which we were drooling over for a few minutes too long.
For brunch at Tooloulou, we suggest the fried green tomato sandwich or a plate of your own creation (it comes with two eggs any style, Coca Cola ham, house made maple sausage or bacon, roasted potatoes and toasted sourdough served with honey butter). Whatever you end up choosing, you have to order the Coca Cola ham. It was the perfect combination of sweet and savory and definitely the highlight of the meal.
Although a little far for a weekday trip, Belvedere Market is the perfect weekend adventure; it’s close by, with great food, casual vibes and smiling service. If Belvedere isn’t your jam, Greg’s Bagels, home of the chocolate chip bagel, is just a stone’s throw away. So go next weekend! We’re sure we’ll see you there...