By GENEVIEVE OTT Your Weekend Columnist
I love my hometown of Baltimore, and I love breakfast, the most important meal of the day. But I especially love how Baltimore — like any up-and-coming town for millennials and yuppies — has embraced brunch and all of its potential.
Brunch is the best: no one gets angry when you effectively eat dessert at 9 a.m., it’s the only meal of the day when sundresses are essentially required and restaurants have taken to garnishing Bloody Marys like they’re food Jenga. It’s such a satisfying feeling to consume 2,000 calories by 1 p.m. and be sitting outside with a drink in hand while doing it. It’s paradise.
And Baltimore is basically paradise for a foodie. It’s one of the reasons I decided to stay here for college (along with the fact that I’m too cheap for Amtrak). But between Yelp and that girl in your class insisting that you try Place XYZ, it’s hard to navigate which restaurant will be worth the $8 Uber every Sunday. Here’s a guide for your next four.
French Toast, Blue Moon Café: Blue Moon Café is a favorite Fells Point joint best known for its appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Though I try to separate my taste level from Guy Fieri’s, I really cannot deny that this place is worthy of a Food Network claim to fame. The long wait times and crowds outside confirm it.
I’d heard legends of Blue Moon Café’s Captain Crunch French Toast in the same way that you hear playground stories of the kid who went all the way around the swing set. I barely believed that it existed because it seemed too great for this world.
I protested ordering it at first, claiming it as much too indulgent for me, which is ridiculous because Gluttony is my deadly sin. So I stopped lying to myself and ordered it.
I wanted to hate it because Guy Fieri loved it and because Captain Crunch usually shreds the roof of my mouth and because I wanted to be the dainty cute girl who orders a veggie omelet or something lame. I loved it. The Captain Crunch is surprisingly salty-sweet and doesn’t get soggy (a chronic issue plaguing many French toasts) and the whole stack is topped with sliced fruit and not-too-sweet whipped cream. Yum. I ate the whole thing, despite the fact that I read a book on icky facts to pass the time.
Pancakes, Paper Moon: I am a pancake devotee. When I have my midlife crisis or hit retirement — whichever comes first — I’ll open a pancake shop. I love them. I take it personally when people like waffles (more on that later).
In short, don’t take my pancake suggestion lightly. I have searched far and wide, practically dedicating my foodie life to finding the best pancakes. But I always keep coming back to Paper Moon’s.
I think it’s because I am a pancake purist. I like that chefs are using pancakes as a kind of neutral template for bizarre food trends (red velvet! carrot cake! bacon!), but as a classic food it deserves to be enjoyed simply. Let’s not pretend that people didn’t use to eat this on the prairie in their covered wagon.
The craziest I’ll get with my pancakes is chocolate chips and/or bananas, which I justify because maybe some rich Manifest Destiny-ers had that stuff. Probably not. It’s fine.
Paper Moon executes the most perfect breakfast food perfectly. They’re fluffy, they arrive quickly, they’re cheap, and they’re not too dense. Boom. What more do you want from a flapjack?
Benedict, Miss Shirley’s: If you think you’re too good for pancakes, then maybe you’re a Benedict kind of person. Chefs are projecting the same kind of creativity onto Benedicts (smoked salmon! corn cakes! caprese!), giving so many more vehicles for hollandaise sauce, the real reason why we all like Benedicts so much.
Unlike pancakes, I love the experimentation with Benedicts because literally any other protein is better than Canadian bacon. Sorry, it’s true. And it’s especially true when that protein is a crab cake perched on a fried green tomato, a la Miss Shirley’s.
If I had to pick a dish to resemble my taste in food, it would be this. The crab and Old Bay hollandaise are quintessential Maryland, the fried green tomato has its own southern twang and the corn relish and asparagus provide a perfect in-between-bite cleanser. I once boxed up my last bite of this and ate it cold on the MARC to Washington, D.C. It’s that good.
Pro tip: go to the one on Cold Spring Lane by Hopkins. I hear the food at the Inner Harbor location ain’t as great. Just make sure it’s not Loyola Parent’s Weekend (been there, done that — ate another meal at Alonso’s next door and still made it back in time to wait for a table some more).
Waffles: Baltimore Waffle Company
Ugh, waffles: the ugly cousin of pancakes. I’ll try to be open-minded, but they’re just crunchy, plaid pancakes. Everything they can do pancakes can do better. While I won’t date a guy who prefers waffles, I will still at least make my selection.
If I’m going to get a waffle, I’m going to get it from a place that has waffle in its name — that’s credibility if I’ve ever seen it. I ran into them at the Fells Point Farmer’s Market. I ordered the speculoos waffle (Cookie Butter, for those of you who speak Trader Joe’s). It was hot off the iron and small, so optimal waffle conditions for this pancake-lover.
My list of brunch picks is ever-growing and yours should be too during your time at Hopkins. Get out there this Sunday and carpe calories! You know you wanna.