Brunches: Sunday best

UP FRONT

July 06, 2000

It's the heat of the summer, and you don't feel like cooking. But the relatives have come in for the weekend and they must be fed. Often.

Here's what you do: Kill two meals (breakfast and lunch) with one outing. Sunday brunch is your ticket out of the kitchen. There's a good chance the kinfolks will eat so well they'll even want to skip Sunday dinner.

There's a long list of area restaurants offering Sunday brunch, so we sent some food lovers out to pare it down for you. The result is a sampling of some highly recommended places - 17 in all.

Our reviewers are Sloane Brown, Helen B. Jones, Gina Kazimir, Suzanne Loudermilk, Joanne E. Morvay and Karin Remesch.

Baldwin Station, 7618 Main St., Sykesville, 410-795-1041. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. $6.95-$10.95. Baldwin Station is in a refurbished railroad station that's located along a still-active rail line. Patrons have a choice of dining in the station or on the prettily appointed platform outside. Passing trains are part of the restaurant's charm, as are the deer, herons and other wildlife that visit the banks of the nearby Patapsco. Don't be alarmed at the absence of breakfast items on the regular menu - they're always offered as Sunday specials. On the afternoon we were there, we watched a number of diners order that week's version of steak and eggs: a New York strip in a port wine demiglace accompanied by eggs cooked any style. We opted instead to start with some great salads; ingredients included very fresh greens, Gorgonzola cheese and purple onions. The light and airy Chesapeake crab omelet had just the right amount of lump crab meat and was topped with an excellent seafood Newburg sauce. That day's vegetable pita included sauteed carrots, zucchini, yellow peppers and sweet slices of tomato. Desserts run from the fresh and light, such as a wildberry sorbet and a honey-laced strawberry shortcake, to the decadent, such as a chocolate pate. - J. E. M.

Carrol's Creek, 410 Severn Ave., Annapolis, 410-263-8102 or 410-269-1406. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $17.95 adults; $8.95 children under 10. It's a feast not only for the palate but also for the eyes - actually it's a double visual treat. First there's the beautiful presentation of dishes artfully arranged and served from food stations along the wall and from the center of a spacious room adjacent to the dining room. And then there's the view. What a view! From the gently swaying masts of sailboats moored at the Annapolis City Marina below to the Naval Academy across Spa Creek. Whether you're sitting on the deck or near large windows in the dining room, there's something tranquil about gazing out onto the water, sipping a mimosa and munching on freshly poached salmon, or smoked bluefish, or seafood risotto, or eggs Benedict, or pasta, or.... The menu seems to be endless. Peel-to-eat shrimp is available in abundance. A carving station serving tender beef, juicy lamb and smoked ham stands next to an omelet station staffed by a chef who's juggling skillets and a waffle maker. And one drink - champagne, bloody Mary or mimosa - is complimentary. - K. R.

City Cafe, 1001 Cathedral St., 410-539-4252. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Saturdays also.) $5.95-$8.95. Trendy young things dressed head-to-toe in black rule here, but all are welcome. You'll feel oh so urban in the airy, contemporary, multilevel dining room as you look out on the Mount Vernon street scene through the ceiling-to-floor windows and sip a bloody Mary, a mimosa or one of the 30 coffee/espresso drinks. The food? Delicious. Try a flavorful Tuscan omelet (mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, Cheddar and basil) or a tender, golden-brown Belgian waffle with or without a fruit topping. There are also pancakes, a breakfast burrito, French toast, croissant sandwiches, egg dishes, tarragon chicken salad, a granola and fruit combo, several specials and more. Service is efficient and friendly and, best of all, lingering over your chocolate Chambord latte is not frowned upon. - H. B. J.

Crossroads, Radisson at Cross Keys, Village of Cross Keys, 410-532-6900. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $24.95. What a spread - spicy shrimp, ice-cold oysters, tender beef, flowing champagne. And we weren't even at a wedding reception. This groaning board is a regular Sunday procession of good eats at the hotel restaurant. Most patrons seem to know the drill. They're barely seated before they hop up and head to the buffet table, juggling plates with salmon, omelets, waffles, blintzes, strawberries, cheeses, salads and more, including desserts. Some, such as the guy with the huge plate of oysters, take a simpler approach and load up on one kind of food. Foods are temperature-perfect, and the wait staff is excellent. Soiled plates disappear and corks keep popping as glasses are filled with bubbly - and refilled. Sunday brunch here is a pricey indulgence, but add the two-man combo playing light jazz and the workweek suddenly seems far, far away. - S. L.

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