The desire for a perfectly poached egg at any time of the day is reaching critical mass, possibly due to the influence of Instagram. (I might admit to perpetrating some sexy egg porn myself.) The rapid expansion of local chain Iron Rooster means that need is being fulfilled, and then some.
The first Iron Rooster opened its doors in Annapolis in the fall of 2014 and was followed quickly by outposts in Canton in Baltimore City and Hunt Valley in Baltimore County. The newest addition to the Iron Rooster family, which opened this summer in the McHenry Row development in South Baltimore, is Baltimore City’s second location. My go-to branch is the one in Hunt Valley, which is in a stand-alone building on the south-eastern-most edge of the enormous Hunt Valley Towne Center. It’s pleasantly spacious, and a fine place to snag a cocktail or two and plates of chicken and waffles with the family. The other locations are somewhat cozier, which fits better with their respective neighborhoods. The four restaurants share a menu, which offers breakfast all day–plus lunch and dinner–7 days a week, and a spare and comfortable farmhouse motif. Breakfast includes all of the familiar eggy and carby staples, like brioche French toast and variations on eggs Benedict, but also more fun brunch-like dishes like the breakfast nachos topped with sausage and bacon crumbles and a queso gravy rather than straight up melted cheese. There’s an egg on top, too, of course, which is true of several dishes here. The shrimp and grits, for example, get topped with perfectly poached eggs that ooze seductively when pierced. The same goes for the “Rancher’s Benny,” which stacks the eggs on fried green tomatoes topped with garlicky boursin cheese, roasted corn salsa, poblano sauce, and hollandaise, all on the traditional English muffin.
If you’re at Iron Rooster at lunchtime, you can get all of the breakfast items, plus salads, soups, sandwiches, and burgers. Dinner (or Supper, as they call it) options expand to include all of the above and a selection of entrees.
I am fond of anything involving their fried chicken. Tender and juicy, the boneless breast meat has a fine crisp crust and works as well as a salad topping (on a fried chicken salad with housemade ranch dressing), with cornmeal waffles and a black pepper pan gravy, and sandwiched within one of Iron Rooster’s fluffy biscuits, with balsamic honey and raspberry preserves. I’m also fond of the steak & cheese Benny (sliced ribeye, caramelized onions, queso gravy) and the crab hash, both of which are topped with those gorgeous poached eggs. If that’s not enough protein for you, in true breakfast-all-day style, you can get a side of bacon, scrapple, or sausage. Taylor ham/pork roll, too, even though this isn’t New Jersey (and we’re certainly not picky about what you call it).
If you’d prefer to sup on something that in no way resembles breakfast, there are items like tacos made with pork belly or fried catfish, seared tuna with pineapple and a soy reduction, and a 10-ounce ribeye steak with fingerling potatoes. The catfish also pops up in a plate of catfish and chips with a pink peppercorn tartar sauce.
While portions are large and you might feel a bit piggy afterwards, don’t skip dessert. To continue with Iron Rooster’s breakfast theme, there are two options with waffles: one is an ice cream sandwich with red velvet waffles; the other is a version of strawberry shortcake. There’s also a house-made peanut butter cup and good old-fashioned peach melba with raspberry sauce. The must-have dessert, however, is the house-made pop tart. Large enough to share, it’s freshly baked and arrives at the table still warm, garnished with whipped cream and other goodies, depending on the flavor. I’ve tried the mixed berry (topped with berries), the brown sugar (a brown sugar glaze), and s’mores (toasted marshmallows and graham crumbs) so far and am always willing to try something new. At the McHenry Row location, the dessert station is right up at the front of the restaurant, to make sure you don’t forget about ordering that sweet treat at the end of your meal.
Minxeats Baltimore food blogger and Co-author of the new book, Maryland’s Chesapeake: How the Bay and its Bounty Shaped a Cuisine, plus Food Lovers’ Guide to Baltimore, and Baltimore Chef’s Table.
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