With the last warm days of the fall season likely to fade fast, it's becoming critical to take advantage of outdoor seating before the holidays approach and poolside afternoons are replaced with fireside nights. We immediately think of the colorful row of umbrellas outside the restaurants and bars on Thames Street in Fells Point, a great place for people-watching. The outdoor tables at Riptide by the Bay, with its unpretentious-yet-friendly attitude and interesting-but-not-overwrought food, are a perfect place to soak it all in.
Told initially that there would be a wait for an outdoor table, we happily lounged at the bar and talked with our bartender. But it wasn't long before the manager told us that he had set up an extra table to accommodate us quicker—a gesture that was made in a no-big-deal kind of way, not as a favor to make us feel as though we owed them.
We sat down quickly and ordered a few more beers and a bloody mary ($3.50 until 4 p.m.) that was composed of a special house-made mix (a must for any place serving a brunch they care about). And the bloody, while only minimally accented with a single slice of lemon on the rim, was delicious. It was thick, spicy, and rich with tomato flavor, with a well-blended mix of Old Bay, horseradish, and the ever-essential vodka. We found it to be solid enough that it didn't need anything else to prove its merits—olives or otherwise.
Riptide doesn't have the same painstakingly designed interiors as some of the city's newer joints. Instead, it comes off as a relaxed space that would just as easily be found in a lazy waterfront town on the Eastern Shore. Our only gripe of the entire meal was that maybe it was too relaxed with it taking quite a bit of time before our food came out.
When the food finally did arrive I was quite pleased. I'm not one to normally order pancakes ($9) (they're usually too dry), but I was surprised to find Riptide's to be the perfect plate to soak up the previous night's booze. The three golden-brown saucers were fluffy enough to take a breakfast nap on. They were moist, thick, and served with a side of watermelon that freshened up the occasional heaviness that tends to come with a pancake carb-load.
After doing enough of these Hangover Helpers, I've come to find a crab cake benedict ($14) to be on about 73.5 percent of all brunch menus in the city (unscientifically speaking). Riptide is no exception, and while I'm getting pretty damn sick of crab benedicts—the egg-on-egg combo tends to overwhelm the subtle flavor of the crab—I rather enjoyed Riptide's take on the Baltimore classic. And the poached eggs are what made it, sitting dutifully on their airy biscuits awaiting to be eaten. Once poked, a rich, bright yellow yolk ran down onto a thick piece of bacon tucked under the egg. It was absorbed into the various cracks and crevices that make up the cross section of a good biscuit. The crab cake itself could have been a bit heftier and the side of potatoes a bit less flaccid, but I would easily order it again, regardless of those two qualms.
The last, and most interesting, dish were the huevos rancheros ($10). While there are plenty of less-than-great variations of this dish around the city, these were very satisfying, if not a bit lacking in the amount on the plate (a side of something in addition to the watermelon would have gone a long way). Instead of the dry tortillas that make up the base of most huevos I've had, Riptide's are presented fried and puffed up with a wonderful crunch and hearty flavor.
And while the tortilla breaking up made it a bit tough to eat, the yolk of the fried egg, mixed with the deep tomato and pepper flavor of the salsa, was the perfect way to mop up those crispy pieces. It was like eating a breakfast chips and salsa with the sour cream acting as the Mexican icing on top.