On an overcast Sunday, after returning from Thanksgiving travels and then stuffing ourselves at Friends-Giving, we figured we'd extend our itinerary composed entirely of eating out and constant snacking. For our next stop we went to Harbor East and sidled into TenTen American Bistro for brunch, showing up around 1 p.m. to a dining room that was bright, comfortable, and only partially filled.
We've had Sunday brunch here before and always appreciated that the menu, while not especially extensive, has both small and large plates ($7-$12 and $13-$18, respectively). Since brunch for us is just code for "feed me eggs," and those come on the large plates, we ended up tossing in a small plate or two for good measure. Our grandmother never wanted us skinny.
We started out with the fall vegetable tart ($9) and the smoked salmon bruschetta ($12). Both were a little slow coming out of the kitchen, but the bruschetta was worth the wait and the shining star of the meal—generous piles of smoked salmon mixed with goat cheese and a light crunch of diced red onion. The balance of salty salmon and creamy goat cheese made it impossible for us to stop munching once we started. We tried to hold back (We really did!) since a main course was coming, but we ended up gobbling up most of the plate and then wiping it clean.
Real talk: The bread they served it on was incredible, fluffy and with a chewy crust drizzled with olive oil. We did some poking around and found that the Bagby Group makes its own breads and pastries in its Towson bakery. In the interest of full disclosure, we're so partial to its baking we once ordered a plate of pastries after we'd paid the bill.
The tart was OK but needed something—cheese? Herbs? A fried egg? It was pleasant and had all the right veggies, but it didn't stand up on its own. There was a small side salad, but that wasn't the proper fix.
Feeling rejuventated and still nursing our coffees, we ordered breakfast cocktails: Aperol Spritz ($8.50) and Ventures into Verse ($10). The Aperol Spritz was sweet, fizzy, and lightly tart with a long, sexy rope of lemon peel draped over the ice. It was pretty and crisp, and we felt cooler than we should have holding it. The Ventures into Verse fit that chilly fall day, boasting overtones of dried fruit without being cloying and carrying a soft punch of spice. The drink totally worked for brunch, but if we were ordering it again, we'd probably get it later in the day.
Our server enthused about TenTen's approach to pre-Prohibition style cocktails—less fancy infusions and syrups, more behind-the-bar staples—compared to the more contemporary style served by its sister bar, Fleet Street Kitchen.
The kitchen seemed to hit its stride and our mains swooped in: crab and prosciutto benedict ($18) and huevos rancheros ($15). The benedict came with two sizable crab cakes, crispy on the outside and topped with runny eggs seated on salty slices of swine. We always hold my breath with poached eggs, but when our companion cut into them and out ran a perfect oozy yolk, our little heart sang. This Maryland riff on a brunch classic acutely portioned sauce to egg, egg to bread, and the dish came with a pile of home fries to sop it up. Absolutely would get it again.
The rancheros weren't really rancheros—no beans, no sauce—so we dug in and started exploring and found a pile of smoky Andouille sitting atop pico de gallo and flour tortillas topped with two sunny-side eggs. To be fair, we would have liked a little sauce—maybe red or green chili or just more of the pico—but the further we dug in, the more we didn't care it wasn’t "true" rancheros. The Andouille had a crisp sausage snap countered by the tang of the tomatoes and jalapeños, all smothered in rich yolks. This cheerful, hearty dish offered layers of deep flavors and different textures that made mixing-n-matching bites part of the fun.
With our bellies full and a light caffeinated buzz hitting our heads, we had the server pack up the last of the rancheros, which we promptly demolished that night, sharing only bits and nibbles of the Andouille with the permanent roommate.