Rise and Dine

Downtown Frederick is Made for Breakfast Lovers

By Nancy Luse | Photography by Tuner Photography Studio | Posted on 11.15.13 – Dining, Food & Drink

Frederick has long been the go-to place for a business lunch or fine dinner, but if you’re like a lot of people whose favorite meal is breakfast, don’t worry. You just need to know where to look.

Back in the days when Downtown had department store lunch counters with huge grill tops and establishments like The Village with its traditional pancakes and eggs, getting breakfast was a no-brainer. Today, it takes a little bit of exploring to root out that first meal of the day, but what you’ll find has the distinct Frederick twist. Breakfasts here embrace local products along with international flavors and regional specialties—grits and fried green tomatoes from the South and maple-glazed bacon from the North. Forget corn flakes and Pop-Tarts, let’s rustle up some real breakfast.

Café Nola is among the early risers of the bunch, opening at 7 a.m. through the week and 9 a.m. on weekends. Family Meal also gets those eggs cracking at 7 a.m., and Magoo’s has the coffee brewing by 8 a.m. through the week and 9 a.m. on weekends.

At That Cuban Place, breakfast goes from sunrise to sunset. “We have a crowd that comes in at 8 o’clock at night and wants breakfast. You want an egg on your Cuban sandwich? That makes a pretty good breakfast,” says Alfredo Maggi, who with his wife, Narcisam, owns the East Church Street restaurant.

With its bold orange walls and island vacation vibe, That Cuban Place is relaxed and easy-going and it’s not unusual for perfect strangers to compare notes. Three men in a booth nearby, who identify themselves as skate boarders, although they seem a little old for all that, rave about the guava and cheese pastelito, so I decide to order the flaky pastry. Likewise, when I talk up my mango smoothie, they flag down the waiter.

The breakfast selection is slim, but if you can settle on eggs, meat and bread, you’re in luck. Steak is an option, but order the chorizo, a spicy Spanish sausage made even more so with a dab of homemade hot sauce. Deep-fried plantains on the side are some of the best I’ve ever eaten and the Cuban bread they bake for their sandwiches is perfect for mopping your plate. The young waiter agrees this is the perfect hangover breakfast, admitting that he’s taken the cure himself on occasion: “It’s just the right amount of grease.”

If you want your breakfast more on the vegetarian side, which is not to say you can’t also get your fix of bacon, try Café Nola. I’m drawn to anything Benedict—maybe it’s the excuse to eat Hollandaise—so I order the Bella Benedict, a marinated portabella mushroom resting on baby spinach with fresh mozzarella and two poached eggs

sauced in Hollandaise. A choice between fresh fruit and roasted potatoes has me ignoring the healthier option and going with the spuds. The menu covers all the bases with omelettes (the asparagus and lump crab is a contender), breakfast
sandwiches, quiche of the day and house-made granola, not to mention bagels and pastries. Nola is a place where healthy, whether it’s the food or the environment, is a priority. During the growing season they have a garden a few blocks away where they harvest vegetables, and when I ask a staffer for a copy of the menu to take with me, it’s suggested I go online so I don’t waste paper.

A PLATEFUL OF PROTEIN

At Magoo’s you’ll find the full Irish breakfast, known in the Emerald Isle as a “full fry,” a great way to gear up before heading into the office. Consisting of a fried egg, Irish bacon (more like ham) and Irish sausage, accompanied by a fried tomato and toast, it’s a plateful of protein. Owner Jennifer Dougherty says she gets groups of people who come in regularly to enjoy breakfast and that the “full fry” is available all day. “It’s breakfast just like you’d get in Ireland,” she says.

Weekend brunch is special at Magoo’s, Dougherty says, with tables often populated with three generations of a family and a menu that suits all ages, whether it’s Old Bay Eggs served with crabmeat, pancakes and sausage, or a breakfast pizza with scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese on a pizza crust.

Although the Family Meal has breakfast plates, including one with bay scallops, I decide during my visit to go the à la carte route with scrambled eggs, home fries and, rather than your typical toast, a bourbon sticky bun. The eggs are moist and fluffy and a house-made hot sauce gives the right amount of heat. The potatoes are crisp with the proper measure of rosemary and garlic and the sticky bun makes me happy with its gooey sauce and generous sprinkling of toasted nuts
on the side. Co-owner Hilda Staples, who happens by my table, says breakfast is available all day, adding that having a chef crack some eggs should never be strictly a morning thing.

Brunch is a perfect choice for out-of-town guests, celebrating a birthday, or just because, and Downtown has a number of
restaurants that offer this gussied-up cousin of breakfast on the weekend. At Firestone’s Culinary Tavern, for instance, there are several platter choices including one that Chef Jack Walker calls “The Hillbilly,” which comes with fried eggs, scrapple, pork belly hash and maple syrup. Stuffed French toast is a favorite and if you want to totally side-step breakfast foods there is an artisanal grilled pizza with olives, mascarpone, sofrito and mozzarella, as well as a selection of salads that are an entire meal.

The Wine Kitchen offers an adventure with its menu that includes several varieties of Bloody Marys for starters and a drink called a Corpse Reviver. You might want to pair one of those with a nibble of fried green tomatoes or warm curry cashews. They also have a selection of house-cured meats and pates and Yellowfin tuna tartar. Cornmeal pancakes with blueberries is a nice change and the Maryland Benedict pairs a crab cake with the ham. Fish and grits will also start your Sunday off right.

Ayse Meze Lounge, which features eastern Mediterranean cuisine, makes brunch extra festive with pomegranate champagne fizz, followed by food that’s as much fun to say as it is to eat—think tabbouleh, falafel and babaganoush. Grilled skewers offer a choice of lamb, shrimp, chicken and beef. Ayse’s sister restaurant, Isabella’s Taverna & Tapas Bar, has an equally exciting menu. Try the Huevos a la Flamenca which is eggs baked with sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers and onions. Both establishments have menus that change each week, taking advantage of what’s in season.

With all that we have Downtown, there’s no excuse for skipping breakfast.

If You Go…

Ayse Meze Lounge
6 N. East St.

Café Nola
4 E. Patrick St.

Family Meal
880 N. East St.

Firestone’s Culinary Tavern
105 N. Market St.

Isabella’s Taverna & Tapas Bar
44 N. Market St.

Magoo’s Pub & Eatery
1-A W. 2nd St.

That Cuban Place
506 E. Church St.

The Wine Kitchen
50 Carroll Creek Way