When it's not quite 9 a.m. on a Sunday and there's a crowd gathering on the sidewalk, there's a good chance something special is happening.
When that crowd is gathering outside the funky facade of Blue Moon Cafe in Fells Point, breakfast is that something special.
Here's how breakfast at Blue Moon works: Upon arrival, head inside to track down a waiter and add your name to the ever-growing list. During our visit, at a quarter to 9, the wait was 30 minutes; an hour later when we left, it had swelled to a full hour and a half.
With your name safely in place, head back outside to talk with your friends, stroll around Fells or play Angry Birds on your phone. If asked to share a table with another group, consider it. We spied a few friendships forged over coffee and pancakes.
But don't fret about the wait. It's worth it.
Once we were finally inside (30 minutes later, as predicted), ensconced at a small, scarred table that butted up against an unused fireplace, we waited only a moment before a waitress came over to take coffee orders.
Standing in between us and our table neighbors, she rattled off specials to the whole group. The list included an item that's a menu mainstay: Cap'n Crunch French toast.
We ordered the French toast as a part of the Full Moon breakfast ($8.95, plus $2 for "specialty" pancakes or French toast), which comes with two eggs, any style, sausage or bacon, and pancakes or waffles.
The eggs, scrambled and creamy, were seasoned nicely. Rounds of sausage, just a little bit spicy, tasted fresh and salty — everything we look for in breakfast meats.
But the French toast was the star of the show. When Blue Moon was featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" in 2008, owner Sarah Simington made the French toast with host Guy Fieri.
After the show aired, sales of the French toast went through the roof. Fortunately for diners, Simington's French toast tastes as good as it looked on TV.
Two thick slices of bread, dipped in batter and coated with Cap'n Crunch cereal, then topped with fresh fruit, were sweet and crunchy. The fruit — berries and a banana — was more than a garnish. The slight acidity of the berries paired neatly with the sweet bread.
All together, the taste and texture were somewhat sophisticated — surprising for something sourced in the kids' cereal aisle.
The Blue Moon menu isn't a mile-long list of diner favorites, but it does cover the holy trinity of breakfast flavors: salty, spicy and sweet.
In the spicy column, huevos rancheros ($8.95) weren't a strictly authentic version of the Mexican dish, but they were good enough that we didn't care. On our waitress' recommendation, we ordered the egg cooked over-medium. When pierced, the yolk ran just a little — exactly as it should have.
But it took a while to find that yolk, buried as it was under spicy crumbled chorizo and bright, thick tomatillo salsa. Together, the sausage and salsa had some bite, but the spice was tempered by the rest of the flavors on the plate.
Corn tortillas under the egg provided a hefty base for each bite and a large round of hash browns — mixed with cheddar cheese and cooked to a crisp — added salty crunch to the whole mess.
If dessert for breakfast is your thing, go for the red velvet pancakes ($6.95). Dyed the blood-red color of their namesake cake, the pancakes looked the part. They tasted it, too.
Fluffy, airy and super-sweet, the pancakes were dressed with whipped cream and white chocolate chips. We wouldn't eat them every day, but they made a lovely Sunday treat.
After demolishing our breakfasts, we nursed our coffee, waiting for the check. Blue Moon is the kind of place that inspires long, leisurely brunches. There's much to look at, from local art on the walls to celestial knickknacks all over, and everyone is friendly. But with the waiting crowd on the street growing every few minutes, we felt a moral duty to give up our seats.
Unfortunately, at that point, we couldn't find our waitress. Throughout the meal, the wait staff was friendly and present — someone was always available to answer a question or refill a cup. But when it came time to pay, our waitress pulled a disappearing act.
Eventually, we spotted her. Still, it was another five minutes before she made her way over with our check. Not a big deal — we didn't mind relaxing for a few minutes — but the people outside in line might have disagreed.
Fortunately for them, even after they had spent 90 minutes on the sidewalk, their breakfasts would more than justify the wait.
Blue Moon Cafe
Back story: Since it opened in 1996, Blue Moon Cafe has been a fixture in Fells Point, serving creative homemade breakfasts every day and all night long on the weekends.
Parking: Street parking
Signature dish: Made nationally famous on an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," Blue Moon's Cap'n Crunch French Toast deserves all the attention it gets. Though it's coated in kids' cereal, the French toast is surprisingly sophisticated thanks to its fresh fruit topping and satisfyingly crunchy texture.
Where: 1621 Aliceanna St.
Contact: 410-522-3940, http://www.bluemoonbaltimore.com
Open: Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 7 a.m. Friday to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted
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