Do you need to get out of Charles Village? Are you in need of a new brunch place? Is your sanity begging you to treat yo’self to a good weekend meal? You’ve come to the right people and the right place.
We’re brunch freaks. A combination of breakfast and lunch that basically allows you to consume two meals, sweet and savory, in one — honestly could any foodie ask for more? From Baltimore to our hometown New York to Paris, France where we spent a semester abroad, we’ve explored brunch places fanatically. Even the French love brunch enough to turn the act of eating it into a French verb, bruncher.
So où bruncher in Baltimore? Here are three of our faves for hearty meals, good atmosphere and excellent service that have led us to explore new neighborhoods. City Cafe, Food Market and Woodberry Kitchen are must-brunch spots, each with a different vibe.
We’ll whet our brunch appetites with City Café. A modern spot in Mount Vernon with a chrome-clad interior, lots of sunlight and high ceilings, City Café is probably the most casual of the three. The space is industrial, and the food is churned out efficiently. Make a reservation here because it is always busy! You’ll probably have to spend a long time reading the menu, so it’s a good thing your waiter will bring complimentary cinnamon buns for your table.
A Bloody Mary is the drink of choice here and is deliciously spicy. We finally decided on an order of the Grand Marnier French Toast for the table. It came with a rich fig butter, maple syrup, granola topping and a sprinkling of blueberries. A super sweet dish, it was ideal for sharing since we’re not sure we could have handled a whole plate (and we have high tolerances for sugar). The Blackened Salmon BLT was good, although the brioche bun was about three times the size of the piece of salmon it held. Pineapple-mango salsa added great sweetness to each forkful. The side of fries were traditional, nothing fancy but decent.
The Crab Cake Sandwich was served on the same huge brioche bun, which was toasted to perfection. The Crab Cake was not overly mayonnaise-y and had sizeable lumps of crab it. We still think Food Market’s crab cake is better, but more on that later. We got chips and salsa on the side for this dish, and the chips were crisp, thick, super salty and clearly made fresh.
Finally the Moroccan Chicken Salad was good although nothing special. That it was overdressed was our main complaint, but the dried cherries were an excellent touch.
Now onto the entrée at the chic Food Market in Hampden, where you will find unique dishes on a whimsical menu, organized by “Funchies,” “Brunchies” and “Lunchies,” with a choice of “R-Rated” or “G-Rated” beverages. We love their menu because it is so Baltimore-centric and fun to read. Acoustics here are not great, so for good conversation, we recommend a brunch visit over dinner. It’s possible to get a table without a reservation in the morning, which makes this spot stand out among our list of three.
Before you even commit to ordering food, a waiter will bring over delicious mini slices of pound cake. This is a tasty preview of dishes to come. If you’re going the lunch route for brunch, as we said before, the crab cakes with yummy tartar sauce are a good option. But if you’re feeling breakfast-y, we recommend you follow up the gratis pound cake with the Lil Heathbar Pancakes. The plate comes with three small and thin pancakes that give you the kind of sweetness that doesn’t overwhelm your tastebuds in the morning. It’s also the perfect dish to share. Next, we recommend one of their most popular brunch items: the Smokey Bowl, which includes bacon, gouda cream, potato gratin, dippy eggs, english muffin and hollandaise. It is a rather hearty meal, but it’s worth trying.
Other possibilities for a breakfast brunch are the Turkey Sausage Tacos or the Breakfast Wrap (both of which are pretty spicy). The only plate we would suggest you avoid is the Army Breakfast (bacon, sausage, grits, eggs, breakfast potatoes and wheat bread) — all the ingredients seem to be kind of thrown together on the plate. We’re all for simplicity, but with so many things on one plate and so little flavor to pick up, we think there are other, better options at The Food Market.
And for the grand finale, all hail Woodberry Kitchen! With its rustic vibe and knowledgeable flannel-wearing waiters, Woodberry always comes through with our favorite brunches. As soon as you get in the restaurant, take in the exposed brick, hanging lightbulbs, lanterns and wall of logs. Equally charming but a bit chilly at this time of year, sit outside with the mums and succulents and warm up next to the big bonfire or toasty furnaces. No matter where you choose to sit at Woodberry, the atmosphere is laid-back yet refined and sophisticated. The waiters are always very available and eager to answer any questions you might have.
Here’s our two-cents on Woodberry’s brunch: Be sure to start off with your coffee-esque drink of choice. For coffee drinkers, our suggestion is the Maple Latte for a twist on your typical cup of joe. If you’re set on a real java kick to commence your day, be sure to try one of the coffee presses! If coffee isn’t your go-to morning drank, try the earl gray latte. It’s similar to Carma’s Twiggy drink minus the vanilla.
Now onto the serious stuff: Order the doughnut plate. This is not a suggestion. If doughnuts aren’t really your thing, order them anyway. The menu changes often, but it usually includes some variation of a doughnut plate. Whatever it is, order it. Ours came with a maple-glazed doughnut, two mini sugared ones and a bite-sized, plain one. They were flakey yet soft, sweet but not overwhelming, and definitely a great precursor to our main meal. We can’t stress this enough.
As for your principal plate, the menu is long, like City Cafe’s, so you might want to consider looking at it before you arrive. They offer a wide variety of options, but we can suggest some highlights: Beau’s Breakfast (the maple sausage is out of control), Morning Flatbread, the Cast-Iron Buttermilk Pancake and French Toast. Pick your poison! Whatever you end up deciding, you will not be disappointed.
So, nos amis, as you can see, we have eaten our fair share of brunches. Although Woodberry is our absolute favorite, it does require advanced planning as reservations are hard to come by. The Food Market is a nice, closer alternative with tasty and unique choices, and City Café is also a short seven-minute car or JHMI shuttle ride down St. Paul with a pretty reliable brunch menu. At this time of year, everyone could use some well-deserved R&R, so allow yourself to splurge on one of these brunches — we’re sure you won’t be disappointed. Happy brunching!