Though restaurant that Woodberry Kitchen most reminds me of is Roberta’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn. Though not as ethnically focused as Roberta’s Italian (even though Roberta’s is much more than an Italian restaurant), Woodberry Kitchen shares a similar ethos – taking topnotch ingredients and treating them simply with good technique and respect and letting those ingredients shine through the use of fire. Woodberry Kitchen’s focus is more regional while Roberta’s is more international, but underneath they are both top quality casual restaurants with a base of pizza/flatbreads hiding much more ambitious cores. They also both pack a killer weekend brunch.
One recent sunny Sunday as my wife and I were driving back home to northeastern NY from visiting our son at the University of Virginia, we happened to be passing through Baltimore at a suitable time for brunch (coincidence? I think not.) and so availed ourselves of the opportunity to take a short detour and eat at Woodberry Kitchen. Once again, though, with plenty of driving in the offing, we stayed away from alcohol.
I love the space of the main dining room. It is open and spacious. This time (see here for my dinner report from WK) we were seated upstairs on the balcony overlooking the main floor and the open kitchen with its wood-fired oven. This is a great vantage point for people watching as well as listening to the live jazz being played below.
We did not have a lot of time and couldn’t afford to eat too much, so we kept things relatively simple. My wife started with a delicious Virgin Bloody Mary, which was everything a virgin bloody should be. It was full bodied and full flavored. The liquor would have been nice, but…
The coffee was so good last time and considering the time I would be spending driving, I once again broke my rule against drinking the stuff. The nice thing about not drinking caffeine regularly, is that it works when I really, really need it to and a little goes a long way. This cappuccino was just right.
I was tempted by both the Eggs Benedict and the Fried Chicken and Waffles, but I was won over by the Marvesta Shrimp and Polenta (grits in disguise), tasso ham, red onion and shrimp gravy with a Poached Egg. This was a wonderfully rich and satisfying dish. The egg with its runny, bright orange yolk was perfectly cooked with the yolk enriching the already rich shrimp sauce even more. The Maryland, farm-raised, head-on shrimp had great flavor and the grits, I mean polenta, absorbed the flavors like a sponge. I was happy.
My wife was happy too, though she surprised me with her choice. She opted for the Fried Marvesta Shrimp and Oyster Roll with chile mayonnaise, GKF greens, cherry tomatoes and potato salad. She surprised me, because she has a tendency to avoid fried foods, but like the coffee for me, the allure here was too great. Both the shrimp and oysters had great flavor and every component was top notch. The sandwich reminded me of the shrimp and oyster po’ boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern in New Orleans and that is no slight.
Though I could not repeat the dessert extravaganza that came with my first visit to the WK, we couldn’t leave without having some dessert. I opted for ice cream, combining three scoops with three different flavors: malt, apple cider sorbet and sweet cream. The cider sorbet was absolutely refreshing, capturing the essence of really good, tart apple cider. The sweet cream was nicely balanced and a perfect bridge between the tart and sweet cider and the brilliant caramelized touch of savory bitterness from the malt ice cream. The shortbread cookie was a nice addition.
My wife had the sweet potato pie, a nice rendition. The combination of sweet potato and toasted marshmallow, was still a bit too sweet for my preference, though the tart cranberry sauce cut the sweetness nicely.
The food at Woodberry Kitchen manages to walk a tightrope of being comfort food, but also being truly interesting. It is a place where one can go relax and have a good tasty meal without having to think too much about it, but where if one cares to ponder these things, find an awful lot to keep one’s mind wondering and happy too.