Rise and Dine

Getting out of bed in the morning just got easier with our 35 top breakfast and brunch picks.

Potato hash, country bacon, two dippy eggs, and fresh-squeezed orange juice at Woodberry Kitchen –Stacy Zarin

For those of us who greet most days with cold cereal and cheap coffee, a relaxing morning meal at a cozy restaurant is just our cup of tea. And as we looked around the region, we realized there were an amazing number of choices for breakfast or brunch. Soon enough, we were on a mission to find the best places to savor fresh-brewed java, fluffy omelets, and thick pancakes. (We decided to skip diners because they would be too similar.) And after eating oodles of eggs Benedict, Belgian waffles, breakfast burritos, and good-old-fashioned scrambles, we've come up with 35 spots that will make you happy to set the alarm.

BREAKFAST: JUST ABOUT ANY DAY

Blue Moon Café, 1621 Aliceanna St., 410-522-3940. You have to start with the cafe's signature dish, Cap'n Crunch French toast ($8.95). The cereal coats the bread perfectly, providing enough sweetness to forgo syrup. Topped with fresh blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and a dollop of whipped cream, the dish feels almost like a naughty treat. Three varieties of crab Benedict (market price, $15.95 that day) are on the menu, too, including one with layers of crisp bacon. Generous portions of savory crabmeat sit atop each half of an English muffin and eggs cooked subtly enough that they won't turn your plate into a gooey yellow soup after just one forkful. It's accompanied by some of the best hash browns in town. Biscuits ($2.50) and cinnamon rolls ($4.50) are among the other favorites at this wildly popular Fells Point eatery, which always has a line on weekend mornings.

City Café, 1001 Cathedral St., 410-539-4252. Newly redesigned with a clean modern interior—think metal, glass, and high ceilings—City Café is all about blending industrial cool with a welcoming vibe. Friendly service and a menu filled with American brunch and lunch favorites make for a fun, urban food experience with selections that will please everyone from the strictest vegetarian to the most avid carnivore. The chef has a knack for making classics his own with dishes like sweet strawberry "overkill" French toast ($13)— topped with fresh strawberries and a strawberry sauce—and a savory "breakfast burger," a beef patty topped with a fried egg, bacon, and cheese, served on a toasted English muffin with a side of crispy truffle tater tots. Diners in a hurry can wash down muffins, wrapped sandwiches, and yogurt and granola parfaits with rich Zeke's coffee.

Clementine, 5402 Harford Rd., 410-444-1497. We've never seen a more child-friendly place—with an entire corner dedicated to kid stuff (easel, books, dinosaurs, crayons)—so parents might actually eat. And devour we must. Breakfast—served until 2 p.m. on weekends—is not fussy. Most offerings have ingredients that can be counted on one hand (eggs, onions, potatoes, cheese) and are served best with a steaming cup of Zeke's coffee. The homemade hot sauce—just ask the waitresses—adds just the right kick to the casseroles, scrambles, egg sandwiches, and cheese grits ($3.50). (We've even considered adding it to the French toast—we love it so.) This Hamilton restaurant is also part charcuterie, and the house-made smoked duck sausage ($3.50 for two) leaves you counting the days until the next weekend. The restaurant itself is quaint and hip with lots of great art on the walls and a relaxed vibe.

Eggspectation, 6010 University Blvd., Ellicott City, 410-750-3115. The cavernous space, with its sculptural chandeliers, court-jester logo, and whimsical decorations, almost feels like a circus. The main event is the griddle in the open kitchen in the massive dining area, where kids sit on bar stools and gawk at the single-hand cracking of dozens of eggs and the flipping of scores of pancakes. The lengthy menu has sections devoted to sandwiches and salads, plus just about any variation of pancake, omelet, crêpe, or eggs a person could imagine. The California Benedict ($14.99) starts with a pile of onion-sautéed potato rounds and is topped with triangles of toast, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, spinach, asparagus, Gruyère cheese, and smoked salmon. Whew!

Golden West Cafe, 1105 W. 36th St., 410-889-8891. This may be the only place in Baltimore for a true Tex-Mex breakfast—the burrito (try it with the chorizo) is a beautiful mound of beans, eggs, and potatoes, wrapped in a flour tortilla, and topped with salsa fresca, a pile of cheese, and the house special—a spicy green chile sauce ($9.99). This is a good place for non-meat eaters, too—with lots of meat substitutions and vegan options. For those looking for more "traditional" fare, there's a toasted bagel with lox, capers, cream cheese, tomatoes, scallions, and cracked pepper ($11.99); New System Bakery cinnamon-swirl-bread French toast ($9.99); and for a true daredevil, the Elvis and Lisa Marie buttermilk pancakes ($8-$13) with bacon strips inside and topped with sautéed bananas, honey, and peanut butter.

Jimmy's Restaurant, 801 S. Broadway, 410-327-3273. This Baltimore institution is what it is. (And that's why we love it.) It's the kind of place where you leave the tip under the sugar shaker, the hot sauce comes in packets, the syrup is in a squeeze bottle, and the waitresses speed by too fast (unless, of course, you're a regular). But what makes this Fells Point eatery so enticing—a hint: it's not the décor—is the simplicity of its good, cheap egg, ham, and gooey cheese sandwich ($4.09), well-done home fries ($1.79), light and fluffy stacks of pancakes, and omelets filled with anything from feta cheese to scrapple ($4.89-$8.09). Even the hearty Hungry Man Special (three pancakes, two eggs, bacon, sausage, and scrapple) is under $10—all served on those paper placemats filled with random advertisements.

Miss Shirley's Café, two locations: 513 W. Cold Spring Ln., 410-889-5272; 750 E. Pratt St., 410-528-5373. Breakfast is worth the wait at Eddie and David Dopkin's Miss Shirley's, where it's perfectly acceptable to order a cone of sweet-potato fries as an appetizer for breakfast. While the house specialties are creative and decadent—try the fried green tomato, applewood-smoked bacon, avocado, white-cheddar-cheese, and egg on pumpernickel bread Southern Slammer ($7.99) or the coconut cream-stuffed French toast ($10.99)—we also love the make-your-own omelet ($12.99) with ingredients ranging from andouille sausage to avocado slices. And the buttermilk pancakes ($8.99) with a hint of vanilla and served with a dusting of powdered sugar are always cooked to perfection.

Slainte Irish Pub & Restaurant, 1700 Thames St., 410-563-6600. It's a pure Irish pub, from its deep polished wood interior and Guinness beer signs to the friendly service. But the food is most Irish of all. Every Saturday and Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to noon, it serves a breakfast that would do any Emerald Isle grandmother proud. Little tykes will love the classic favorites on the kids' menu, like a Belgian waffle ($5), while grownups can indulge big appetites with the traditional Irish breakfast ($12), a plate piled high with fluffy scrambled eggs, savory rashers and bangers (Irish bacon and sausage), beans, toast, and black-and-white pudding. Or opt for the "breakfast boxtie" ($9.50), two crispy Irish potato pancakes stuffed with rashers and bangers and topped with tangy, melted Guinness-infused cheddar. Wash it all down, of course, with a Guinness—for strength.

Spoons, 24 E. Cross St., 410-539-6751. This dimly lit coffee shop, with its bowl-sized mugs of steaming latté and pastry case stocked with muffins and croissants, invites lingering on the couches. But there are also plenty of tables and booths to enjoy daily breakfast. Health-conscious breakfasters can tell themselves the chunky organic granola parfait ($7.95) with pecans and flaxseed, served with a hearty dollop of yogurt, is the way to go, while their devil-may-care companions dig into blue-corn pancakes. Risotto Benedict ($11.99) is a nifty twist, eliminating the ubiquitous English muffin for a risotto cake, crisp around the edges and topped with a fat poached egg and a rich sauce of Asiago cheese.

Stone Mill, 10751 Falls Rd., Green Spring Station, Lutherville, 410-821-1358. The cheery cafe has long been known for its artisanal breads and other baked goods—and you still can get those delectable items—but the menu now boasts a much more eclectic range of food, from creative sandwiches and salads to pizzas and soups. For breakfast, we're addicted to the Tupelo honey granola ($8.99) with dried cranberries and sliced almonds topped with creamy organic vanilla yogurt—and a side of fruit. There are also several egg options. The fresh spinach-and-feta omelet ($10.99) with roasted potatoes and toasted multigrain mixes savory flavors in a big way. If the weather is good, sit outside on the patio. It's one of the best outdoor spots around.

Teavolve Café & Lounge, 1401 Aliceanna St., ground level, Eden apartment building, 410-522-1907. Teavolve has several different personalities—it's a quiet, wake-up place for breakfast, a bustling eatery at lunchtime, and a happening spot with cocktails and music in the evening. We like all the moods but find it especially nice in the mornings when you can greet the day with its many teas, espresso drinks, or freshly brewed coffee with muffins, croissants, or heartier options. The inch-thick Belgian waffle ($5.50) is fine with syrup, but toppings really give it a boost. We enjoyed sliced bananas and almonds with ours ($7.50

with two additions). The made-to-order breakfast sandwich is another good starter. The scrambled eggs with Swiss and turkey bacon on a toasted English muffin ($6) is like a gourmet Egg McMuffin!

Village Square Café, 66 Village Square, Village of Cross Keys, 410 433-2233. Cross Keys shoppers now have a new spot to refuel and revive with a deep mug of café au lait ($1.80-2.20) brewed from local Zeke's roast and a classic breakfast sandwich ($6.95), which layers eggs, bacon, and cheddar on sourdough (it could use a turn under the panini press) with home fries. Mix and match an omelet, tuck into fried eggs over prosciutto and cheddar grits, or stack up chocolate-chip (or blueberry) flapjacks ($8.25). All of which go well with wonderfully crisp home-fried potatoes ($2.50) and big, if slightly bready, house-made muffins ($2.25). Breakfast and lunch share the menu from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., making this a great spot for the late riser.

BRUNCH: A WEEKEND REPAST

b bistro, 1501 Bolton St., 410-383-8600. Housed in a bright, airy room with high ceilings and a slightly funky but upscale vibe, Bolton Hill's b is just right for a neighborhood that combines gorgeous historic homes with the artsy cool of the Maryland Institute College of Art. But it's the constantly evolving menu that's the real draw. Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the menu features a selection of omelets, eggs Benedict, and waffles, as well as a handful of salads, cheeses, and charcuterie options. Seasonal ingredients are combined with creativity and care—an omelet is stuffed with fresh mozzarella and sautéed squash blossoms ($13), fluffy pancakes are topped with sweet butter and enormous blackberries ($8), and a salad of frisée, poached duck egg, blue cheese, and lardons is tossed with a light, creamy mustard dressing ($9). Pair them with a delicate Bellini or mimosa ($7.50).

Carrol's Creek Cafe, 410 Severn Ave., Annapolis, 410-263-8102. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and especially dessert are treated with equal respect at this Eastport mainstay with food that matches its beautiful water views. Perfect for large parties of diners whose tastes vary widely, the Sunday brunch buffet ($21.95 a person; includes one well-spiced Bloody Mary or mimosa) features omelet, waffle, and carving stations; pasta dishes; traditional breakfast items (don't pass on the plump, perfectly seasoned home fries); and treats like the rich tortellini with Gorgonzola and succulently sweet fried-corn fritters. Be sure and save room for dessert. An elaborate spread of cookies, brownies, Danish pastries, bananas Foster, and deliciously moist pies awaits you.

Christopher Daniel, 106 W. Padonia Rd., Timonim, 410-308-1800. This Baltimore County outpost of fine dining makes Sunday brunch easy. Step in, sit down, and once your server takes your drink order, head for the buffet ($19.95/ $9.95 for children under 10). Or should we say buffet room—one space entirely dedicated to over-feeding you. There are omelet, carving, and bagel stations as well as a Mt. Everest of doughnuts and crullers, a table with cakes and pies arranged like caloric aircraft ready to mount an attack on your waistline, fruit salad, pasta, veggies, salmon fillets, fresh raw oysters, shrimp cocktail, bacon and sausages, home fries, and waaay at the end, delicately sliced lox. We sampled as much as we physically could, and found it all delicious. Our very junior food-critic apprentice declared we had to go back next week. No surprise. Her face was flecked from forehead to chin with doughnut frosting.

Donna's, 3101 St. Paul St., 410-889-3410. If the weather's right, take advantage of the alfresco seating here—people watching along Charles Village's main drag is an ideal way to while away a Saturday or Sunday morning over refreshingly old-school Bloody Marys and brunch dishes that possess Donna's characteristic Mediterranean flourish. An elegant smoked salmon hash ($10.50)—bits of smoked salmon, nicely browned sweet onions, cubes of tender potato, capers, and dill—is formed into a cylinder to support two expertly poached eggs. A mushroom omelet ($10.95) combines meaty portobellos, sweet peppers, shallots, and a welcome note of feta cheese. Service is generally friendly, but can be a bit aloof.

Gertrude's, 10 Art Museum Dr., 410-889-3399. Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays is a sublime precursor to a weekend stroll through The Baltimore Museum of Art. The restaurant, named after chef/owner John Shield's grandmother, is a tribute to her and is all about Maryland flavors. And along with offerings like Tilghman Island eggs ($18, with oysters) and eggs Gertrude ($20, with crab cakes) is a dish with a nod to a tiny city street near Greenmount: The Gutman Avenue eggs ($13) are a pair of poached eggs atop a wonderfully salty heap of potatoes mixed with bits of salmon and smoked fish with crispy scraped-from-the-pan edges. We also love the buttermilk waffles ($10), dripping with pecans and caramel sauce.

Harvest Table, 1000 Hull St., 410-837-0073. Though an ownership change has brought some variations to the regular offerings, the restaurant's interesting Saturday and Sunday brunch menu remains largely intact. In addition to standard omelets ($7.75, build your own) and pancakes ($7.50), there are unusual choices like the chicken pancakes ($8.99)—potato pancakes with shredded chicken, topped with a fine dice of pear, cilantro, and sour cream, and served over greens in a tangy dressing. Another dish, the Harvest Layered ($9.49), is all richness and comfort, although the wilted spinach can get lost in the grilled croissant, buttery eggs, provolone, and garlicky cheese sauce. Eat in or get your food to go and picnic along the harbor on Tide Point's boardwalk—if you're lucky, you may even snag a hammock.

Helen's Garden, 2908 O'Donnell St., 410-276-2233. The Sunday brunch menu (with only some items available on Saturday) offers a variety of omelets, French toast, pancakes, and signature Mexican eggs ($9.95), which are scrambled with tortillas, salsa, and cheddar. The offerings get more interesting on the specials menu, with items like the Tilghman omelet ($12.50), a fluffy sheath of eggs encasing lump crab, asparagus, Old Bay, and imperial sauce, or the London Calcutta ($10.95)—eggs scrambled with spinach, caramelized onions, and feta cheese, and seasoned with a pleasant-tasting curry mixture. Applewood-smoked bacon ($2.50) is excellent, as is the restaurant's spicy Bloody Mary ($5).

Little Havana, 1325A Key Hwy., 410-837-9903. The unlimited glasses and pitchers of mimosas and Bloody Marys (which come with the $14.95 prix-fixe brunch) start to flow the minute you stumble through the doors on Sunday morning. And good thing: The wait for a table at this Cuban-inspired favorite among twenty- and thirtysomethings can crawl well past an hour. But nobody seems to mind. A big plate of baked eggs with sofrito (stewed tomatoes, onions, and peppers), bacon, and potatoes cooked with chorizo is the perfect hangover breakfast—or try the Cuban-style fried eggs over rice and beans. If spice isn't your thing, go for an avocado or crab omelet. If sweet is, there are decadent churros con chocolate (doughnuts dripping with chocolate sauce), $3.95.

Meli American Bistro, 1636 Thames St., 410-534-6354. Weekend brunch means that the kitchen's signature ingredient, honey, wends its way through a pleasing variety of offerings both sweet (atop the vanilla-scented waffles) and savory, like the honey-onion marmalade alongside a crispy duck confit with candied bacon and quail egg (yes, yum). There are well-prepared omelets and salads (we loved a grilled tomato and halloumi with—what else?—balsamic honey), but heartier eaters will appreciate substantial and inventive items like a braised lamb hash with poached eggs in oxtail reduction. Despite the sometimes addled service (our waitress took forever to bring us both our food and our bill), entree prices here are so reasonable (topping out at $15 for a sizeable Maryland crab cake) and the portions so large that we'd gladly linger over the house signature cocktail—Meli-Tini with honey liquor and vodka, and garnished with a honeycomb—while we wait for the lovely food in Meli's golden-hued dining room.

Miss Irene's, 1738 Thames St., 410-558-0033. Daily brunch (starts at 11 a.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. on weekends) is available till 5 p.m. at this Fells Point waterfront restaurant. The French-inspired menu of fresh shucked oysters ($8/15) with sauce mignonette and steak salad ($16) with Stilton also has omelets (mushroom, ham, and Gruyère or prosciutto with Reggiano and arugula), French toast, and, of course, the obligatory Benedict. But we're enchanted by such breakfast-lunch hybrids as the croque madame ($10)—a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg—or the crêpe lasagna ($12), in which thin pancakes replace the pasta, layered with savory sausage and béchamel.

The Morning Edition Café, 153 N. Patterson Park Ave., 410-732-5133. After all these years, Morning Edition continues on, despite its perplexingly limited hours, as a niche Baltimore institution. The kitchen still turns out interesting and well-executed fare. The Eastern Shore breakfast ($10.50) alone covers many bases with crisp fried oysters, a slab of Virginia ham, eggs, home fries, and toast, while the summer omelet ($10.50) melds sautéed vegetables, avocado, farmer's cheese, and almonds to a satisfying result. The nicely spiced Bloody Mary is a steal for $3. Service can be slow, so set aside some extra time during peak hours, and try to avoid getting seated at the uncomfortable church pews.

Mountain Branch Grille & Pub (at Mountain Branch Golf Course), 1827 Mountain Rd., Joppa, 410-836-9600, ext. 3. On any given Sunday, worshippers (of food, that is) show up at this Harford County restaurant in droves. The draw is a buffet table ($19.95, $8.95/ages three-10) laden with dozens of hot and cold breakfast fixings, like scrambled eggs, and lunch items, like tender pork loin, chicken breasts, and cold, poached salmon. But most of us are there to peek under the silver lids of giant serving dishes, looking for delicious eggs Benedict, fat sausages, pancakes, and more. It won't take long to fill your plate with sides like asparagus, roasted peppers, Caesar salad, mac and cheese, and lox and bagels. You can always go back to the spread for the inches-thick bread pudding or exquisite petit fours to savor with coffee while you enjoy the pastoral view from the wall of windows.

Orchard Market and Café, 8815 Orchard Tree Ln., Towson, 410-339-7700. Compared to overwhelming, groaning-board brunch buffets, this one can't hold a candle, variety-wise. But when it comes to flavors, this regular Sunday presentation ($13.95, $6.95/children under 12) hits the mark quite nicely with tantalizing Middle Eastern ingredients. Start with a rich lentil soup, then move on to a green salad laced with mangoes and pears, and drizzle on pomegranate dressing. Follow it up with a chunky lamb stew over basmati-style rice or a deconstructed kabob, meaning all the items are available cooked without a skewer—mix and match ground-beef patties, chicken chunks, green-pepper squares, onions, and tomatoes for a personalized combo. You may not think you want dessert until you spy the silky crème caramel with strawberries. Do partake.

The Oregon Grille, 1201 Shawan Rd., Cockeysville, 410-771-0505. If you're in the mood for an elegant Sunday awakening, this is the place to go. A creative lobster cocktail (market price; $21 that day) is stellar with two meaty claws, lobster salad, and diced mango drizzled with mint dressing in a martini glass. The Grille Classic ($16) couldn't get any more delicious: crab hash, grilled tenderloin, two poached eggs, and béarnaise and roasted-red-pepper sauces. The eggs Florentine ($13) was another diet buster with poached eggs over creamed spinach hinting of nutmeg and a delicate split puff pastry. Oh, yes, there was hollandaise on it, too.

Petit Louis Bistro, 4800 Roland Ave., 410-366-9393. At this Roland Park French bistro, the brunch menu reads a lot like the dinner menu, though it's prefaced by tender brioche and flaunts a few petit déjeuner additions, like fried eggs with ham and duck-fat roasted potatoes, French toast, and a Gruyere-and-ratatouille omelet. The brunch guest can also look toward the afternoon with choices like lamb-leg steak, roasted chicken, and the hearty Louis casse-croûtes, a steak sandwich thick with caramelized onions, tomatoes, and horseradish aioli ($14), served with Louis's notoriously addictive frites.

Regi's American Bistro, 1002 Light St., 410-539-7344. There are plenty of reasons to cozy up to the bar (and restaurant) for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Offerings include stuffed French toast ($9.50), fattened with strawberries and blueberries and topped with Nutella, and any number of variations on the Benedict theme, including the Neptune ($12.95), a mountain of lobster and crab salad piled on English muffin halves with melted cheese. Less complex choices are a cheese omelet, an egg-white frittata, or a breakfast burrito with chorizo sausage. If you arrive hungry, order the Truck Stop ($13.95), a New York strip served with two eggs, potatoes, and Texas toast.

Rocket to Venus, 3360 Chestnut Ave., 410-235-7887. The Sunday brunch menu has all sorts of temptations: nectarine flapjacks, banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich), the restaurant's signature wimpies (little burgers), and yogurt and granola. We couldn't resist the massive breakfast burrito ($9), packed with black beans, cheddar, onions, and jalapeños with a tingling sriracha (Thai hot sauce) sour cream. Add sausage for $1 more. We also were happy with the frittata of the day: spicy maque choux ($8), a nicely done flat omelet with peppers, corn, tomato, bacon, spinach, and Swiss.

Rusty Scupper, 402 Key Hwy., 410-727-3678. This Baltimore institution boasts everything you could ask for in a celebratory brunch spot—musicians playing light jazz; complimentary mimosas, Bellinis, sangria, and champagne; a breathtaking view of the harbor; and a spread that is sure to please even the pickiest palate. Every Sunday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., the restaurant puts on an impressive, all-you-can-eat buffet ($36.95, $10.95 for children 10 and younger). The bounty—a raw bar boasting several types of oysters on the half shell, carving stations, homemade breads and muffins, omelets and Belgian waffles made to order, and traditional breakfast favorites like bacon and eggs—is perfect for big occasions, and big appetites.

Victoria Gastro Pub, 8201 Snowden River Pkwy., Columbia, 410-750-1880. The jalapeño cheddar grits ($3) are a delicious sign that someone in the kitchen wants your weekend brunch to be a happy one. Try them with a couple of fluffy biscuits ($3) served with house-made jam, and maybe some eggs over easy ($3). Or consider the restaurant's version of eggs Benedict ($12) with lumps of sweet crab, slivers of prosciutto, and a lemony hollandaise sauce over biscuits. The menu seems to specialize in over-the-top richness with entrees that include pork schnitzel ($9), steak and eggs ($15), and French toast with bananas, pecans, and rum ($8).

The Wine Market, 921 E. Fort Ave., 410-244-6166. Sunday brunch poses a conundrum here. The place is, after all, about wine. Should you snag a bottle as you stroll through the wine shop on the way to your table (you'll be charged the sticker price plus a $9 corkage fee) or stick with the more familiar brunch cocktails (one of these will come with the $23 three-course, prix-fixe option). We're thinking it's all about the time of day and the mood you're in. The grilled steak salad ($13), for example, is definitely crisp rosé or light Bordeaux material, and the steak frites ($14) with blue cheese and rosemary truffle vinegar fries just call for a Cab. Our only question: What pairs best with chocolate-chip pancakes?

Woodberry Kitchen, 2010 Clipper Park Rd., 410-464-8000. The industrial-chic décor is so hip, the waitstaff so pleasant, the drinks so refreshing, and the menu so well-intentioned that even the occasional imperfect dish is forgiven in the general flow of happiness. The Bake Shop in a Basket ($12, changes weekly) holds a selection of fresh, hot pastries including a lemon glazed doughnut (slightly overdone), crumbly blueberry scone, and old-time monkey bread and sticky bun. Shirred eggs with lump crab, cheddar, and tomato-chive salsa ($15) are filling and flavorful. The menu is studded with Southern specialties, including sausage gravy over biscuits and smoked chicken, andouille, and grits ($15), heavy on the sauce, delicious on the local sausage.

Yellow Dog Tavern, 700 S. Potomac St., 410-342-0280. The bright, laid-back atmosphere in the upstairs dining room sets just the right tone for a Saturday or Sunday morning. The Canton restaurant's inventive menu ensures that your taste buds will be pleased as well. The smoked salmon omelet ($9.99) is made with three eggs, fish, red onions, capers, and cream cheese, which oozes throughout and adds flavor and texture. The breakfast burrito ($9.99)—a tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, applewood bacon, cheddar cheese, and black beans—is a great way to greet the coming day. If lunch is your game, paninis, chicken sandwiches, and burgers (including a veggie variety) are available. Quench your thirst with a Bloody Mary ($3) or linger over a cup of coffee.

Ze Mean Bean, 1739 Fleet St., 410-675-5999. You have to appreciate the Saturday-and-Sunday brunch offerings. You just don't see a changing roster of soups like beer-and-kielbasa stew or cucumber vichyssoise on many, if any, early-day menus. The restaurant—with leanings toward Eastern European cuisine—has a quirky Baltimore charm with mismatched chairs, bold artwork, and a chandelier with Christmas ornaments. Get your appetite revved up with pierogies ($6)—four fat dumplings stuffed with potato, cheese, and sauerkraut. The Polish cowboy breakfast ($10)—two buttermilk pancakes with warm maple syrup, two scrambled eggs,  a grilled Polish sausage, and fruit on the side—satisfies sweet and savory taste buds. You'll also be sated with the apple omelet ($9), a yummy three-egg combo with grilled apple slices, toasted pine nuts, and melted Brie.


Wake-Up Call: Chef's Choice


Some of our favorite area chefs tell us where they go for their first meal of the day.

All That Jazz

Benjamin Erjavec/executive chef, The Oceanaire

"Mimi's Cafe in Columbia does an awesome job. It's a New Orleans-style Cajun restaurant with great Bloody Marys and a New Orleans-style omelet with andouille sausage and vegetables. It's relaxing with jazz music in the background and a great place to hang out. I go there about once a month."

Old Favorite

Jason Lear/executive chef, The Wine Market

"I've been going to the Bel-Loc Diner [in Towson] since I was eight years old. Because I have worked every Sunday for the past three years, I go during the week, usually once or twice a month. I like the whole, campy '50s-style-era vibe. It's affordable and kid-friendly, and when you're tasting short ribs and foie gras all day long, you crave a good, sloppy diner meal. I'm a real simple, eggs-over-easy and hash browns kind of guy, and Bel-Loc hasn't broken a yolk yet. You know when you walk in the door what you're going to get. It's the same all the time, and there is real reassurance in that."

It's Delicious

Linwood Dame/co-owner, executive chef, Linwoods

"Three times a week, I go to Stone Mill Bakery [in Green Spring Station] for the pain de mie toast and coffee. I go there because it's delicious and because I find [manager] Cris [Janoff] so entertaining."

Sunnyside-Up

Aldo Vitale/owner, executive chef, Aldo's

"Our family loves the Waterfront Marriott. It's very convenient to our restaurant with a beautiful view and lots of open space. We go whenever we get a chance. We try to make it every other Sunday or at least once a month. There is so much choice. I love the omelets, the waffles, and the pancakes, but sometimes I just feel like a sunnyside-up egg."

Quaint Classic

Rashad Edwards/executive chef, Meli

"I like to go to Crêpe Du Jour [in Mt. Washington], but I work brunch at Meli so I only get to go about every other month. My favorite crêpe is the crêpe merguez, which is South African lamb sausage. I fell in love with the quaintness and coziness of Crêpe Du Jour."

Nothing Fancy

Nancy Longo/owner, executive chef, Pierpoint

"I have never liked fancy brunches because I don't like to eat all that food. I like very complicated food at dinner, but for breakfast, I would just like to have a good biscuit or an unadulterated egg and some crispy bacon. I like to go to Blue Moon Café [in Fells Point] a few times a year."

Warm and Hearty

Ann Costlow/owner, Sofi's Crepes

"I eat breakfast out a lot. Many Saturdays, I go to Atwater's [in Belvedere Square] and get an order of toast or oatmeal and a decaf coffee. Their bread is so great, and the oatmeal is hearty. I live right around the corner, so I love to take my dog and eat outside or meet friends there. I also love to go to Evergreen [Cafe] for their chocolate-chip muffins."

Simply Good

John Shields/owner, executive chef, Gertrude's

"I like the Towson  Diner—it's simple, down-home kind of things. I like to get pancakes, eggs, and they even have scrapple. I don't like to go to a place that does what you do. I work brunch at Gertrude's every Sunday. If I had to go to a place that serves eggs Benedict, I'd probably jump in front of a moving truck."

'Tis the Season

Jerry Pellegrino/executive chef, Corks

"My favorite brunch spot is around the corner from Corks at Spoons [in Federal Hill]. I have two favorite dishes, depending on the season. In the summer, I love the blue-crab Benedict—traditional eggs Benedict but with spinach instead of ham and an enormous amount of jumbo lump crab on a croissant instead of an English muffin. In the winter, I opt for the flat-iron steak and eggs. The hickory-molasses rub on the steak is perfect with eggs over easy, fried onions, and potatoes."

Oyster-licious

Michael Costa/executive chef, Pazo

"I go to Miss Shirley's because it's consistent. There are two items I prefer—the benne-seed-crusted chicken with waffles and oysters with corned-beef hash."

All That Jazz

Benjamin Erjavec/executive chef, The Oceanaire

"Mimi's Cafe in Columbia does an awesome job. It's a New Orleans-style Cajun restaurant with great Bloody Marys and a New Orleans-style omelet with andouille sausage and vegetables. It's relaxing with jazz music in the background and a great place to hang out. I go there about once a month."

Old Favorite

Jason Lear/executive chef, The Wine Market

"I've been going to the Bel-Loc Diner [in Towson] since I was eight years old. Because I have worked every Sunday for the past three years, I go during the week, usually once or twice a month. I like the whole, campy '50s-style-era vibe. It's affordable and kid-friendly, and when you're tasting short ribs and foie gras all day long, you crave a good, sloppy diner meal. I'm a real simple, eggs-over-easy and hash browns kind of guy, and Bel-Loc hasn't broken a yolk yet. You know when you walk in the door what you're going to get. It's the same all the time, and there is real reassurance in that."

It's Delicious

Linwood Dame/co-owner, executive chef, Linwoods

"Three times a week, I go to Stone Mill Bakery [in Green Spring Station] for the pain de mie toast and coffee. I go there because it's delicious and because I find [manager] Cris [Janoff] so entertaining."

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