Hangover Helper: b bistro doesn't miss with its midday casual fare

We spend our weekends fraternizing with bartenders from near and far. Happy hour for these folks falls near last call, and every time we're out that late, we still knock back as many as if we started drinking at a more civilized hour. With an out-of-town drink slinger in tow this time, come Sunday morning we were in no mood for a line or a sticky table; we required luxurious brunch treatment. For that we headed to tree-lined, quiet Bolton Hill.

B bistro (1501 Bolton St., [410] 383-9600, b-bistro.com), known for relaxed-yet-high-end dinners, doesn't miss a beat translating evening service to midday casual fare. There was no wait for a seat outside among garden boxes and families with dogs and babies, so we settled in to overindulge at one of our favorite special-treat brunch joints.

To start, we littered the table with as much glassware as they'd give us: coffee ($3), mimosas ($8.50), Chimay ($11), plain ol' orange juice ($4), and a kiddie pool's worth of water glasses. Alongside our drinks came complimentary cinnamon-sugar beignets that were pillowy inside and crisp on the outside. We plowed through them so fast that we think the wait staff forgot they already brought them and promptly delivered a second small plate; we're not complaining.

After we'd drained a few beverages, we received our first round of entrees. First up, we took a stab at chef's rendition of two Mexican breakfast classics: huevos rancheros and the breakfast burrito (both $15). When they arrived, these dishes looked more like an imaginative rendition of south-of-the-border fare than they did the sloppy, oozy plates you find out West. We suspended our expectations for tradition and dug in to see what the Karzai-run establishment had to offer.

Turns out we could get into this new style with a tweak or two. The rancheros offered a thick smear of lightly spicy black beans spread between two crispy tortillas. Each tortilla was fried into asymmetrical shells, giving a modern art twist to a border-town classic. Perched atop the tortilla tower were two jiggly sunny-side-up eggs gently drizzled in cheese sauce and topped with guacamole. This dish hit the right notes for brunch: crispy, egg yolk, spicy, salty, and fried. That said, more sauce would've tied it together; we kept searching for more to dip it in and in the end gave it a heavy douse of hot sauce to dress it up.

Breaking into the sizable breakfast burrito, we were immediately drawn to the ample portion of deeply smoky andouille sausage mixed throughout. The sausage was so good we'd have settled for a pile of links and a fork. Even better, each little morsel came wrapped in egg with nibbles of potato that gave way to a delightful balance of salty, savory, and fluffy. Sadly, the whole pile sat atop an incongruently thin puddle of brightly flavored salsa verde and was flanked by dollops of sour cream and guacamole. The burrito produced a clear winner with snappy chunks of Louisiana sausage mixed throughout, but, much like the rancheros, we wish it supplied a better condiment-to-burrito ratio.

The best part of our brunch experience was the salmon benedict ($15). Full disclosure: We've had the house-cured salmon on the dinner menu before and continue to talk about it whenever we relive great dishes of Baltimore. In fact, it was the reason we decided to visit b bistro that day. Perfectly crisp, angular blocks of smooth polenta propped up thin strips of melt-in-your-mouth salmon. Each sheet of vividly orange fish arrives slightly oily with a satiny texture. The salmon's flavor is so rich and the texture so sumptuous we felt like we had to handle each bite with the utmost care; never mind that it was slathered in a decadent helping of hollandaise and egg yolk. If chef sold this salmon in packages, we'd stock our refrigerator with it and eat it every day.

Wrapping up with a makeshift breakfast dessert, we tucked into b bistro's version of pigs in a blanket. More layered than wrapped, thin pancakes with crispy edges revealed thick slices of house-made fennel sausage. The sweet-salty combination of the syrup coated pancakes and gamy meat gave way to an addictive yin and yang making us take bite after bite despite having entirely over-eaten.

We pushed back our plates and polished off the last of our beverages feeling like kings. Despite wishing for more condiments (and frankly, we'd always like more condiments), b bistro delivered an idyllic brunch experience on its homey patio that we'll surely be back for very soon—but we probably wouldn't need another meal for a few days.

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