Iron Rooster (3721 Boston St.,  990-1600, ironroosterallday.com) is the newest addition to the suburb-style strip mall transplanted into the city called Canton Crossing. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I love having a quality grocery store, a big box store where I can source everything from clothing to home goods to last-minute gifts, and a host of other shopping and dining options that also offer the convenience of parking within the city limits. But what's not to love? The same sort of wait times you run into at popular suburban spots.
That said, while I haven't encountered a wait time like I did for a recent brunch at Iron Rooster in a while, I also haven't encountered the balance of impeccable service in tandem with high-quality food in a bit.
So, on a Saturday afternoon visit to the just-opened outpost of Annapolis' well-regarded Iron Rooster, despite the wait I was pleased to have the option of nursing my hangover by either taking a spot at the bar or carrying drinks outside in the unseasonably warm weather while I waited for a table. If that's not your style, they are also hospitable enough to offer comfy bench seating as well. Regardless, the host staff gets their exercise diligently fetching waiting diners from any of those areas when their tables are ready.
After about 30 minutes, I was seated at a high-top table by the bar and our server, Claude, was quick with water and just as fast to bring our much-needed coffee, which we were informed is a house blend created by owner Kyle Algaze.
While figuring out what to order, I noticed that while the spot is incredibly busy, surrounding noise is almost unnoticeable thanks to the dual floors and partitions. Pop music plays lightly, barely audible, and the voices of other diners are just background noise, a surprise in such a large, open space.
Our first dish, monkey bread ($9.95), arrived quickly. Just warm enough, the dish was drizzled with a rum raisin sauce that puddled around it, begging for me to mop it up with the cinnamon-infused bread that hid soft plump slices of apple within.
One of the most talked-about dishes at Iron Rooster since its recent inception has been its house-made pop-tarts ($5.95). The varieties change regularly, and I had the options of mixed berry or drunken apple. I chose the latter. Buttery, crumbly crust was the winning part of the pastry. The apples within, purportedly soaked in merlot, were pretty yet nondescript in taste unless removed from the pastry, at which point they tasted just like any soft baked apple. They were tasty, but not special. (I've been told that the mixed-berry option is far more impressive.)
While sipping on an Old Bay-rimmed bloody mary ($9) decorated with a slice of crispy bacon and a gorgeous green pickled stem of asparagus, I was unable to choose from the wide selection of brunch dishes, as was my coffee-sipping partner. The two of us chose to order the shrimp and grits ($13.95) and the chicken and waffles ($14.95), and then to share the Ranchers Benny ($13.95) because neither of us can turn down a benedict for brunch.
Creamy grits drizzled with a slow-heat chipotle butter sauce coddled the five large, firm shrimp that also, on their own, delivered a subtle heat that was well balanced with the creamy yolks from the two poached eggs perched atop the massive dish.
Waffles sporting their own sweetness from the cornmeal base required no syrup, and were topped with an enormous breast of crispy chicken fried in batter that had plenty of pepper to lend a bit of spiciness. The thick chicken-stock-based creamy gravy over top made the dish a bit more decadent and Southern-style than those more typically accompanied with syrup.
The Rancher's Benny was a hit or miss on the plate. The typical halves of toasted English muffins were each topped with a green pepper sauce, poached egg, diced tomatoes, and corn before the standard hollandaise treatment. Slightly sweet with a subtle heat, the green pepper sauce was a welcome addition, and the corn and tomato added a textural nuance to the dish. Poached eggs spilled gorgeously onto the plate, and the fry on the tomatoes was ideally crispy. However, while my friend was pleased with the dish, I wasn't in love with the flavor. We dove in with our forks to discover why and uncovered that one tomato was entirely green while the other was nearing red. While the contrast of colors may seem inconsequential, the dichotomy of flavor was extremely apparent—one half was extremely enjoyable while the other had startlingly different flavors.
Regardless of a few very minor missteps or inconsistencies, as long as you're willing to sip a well-made bloody mary while you wait, there's a reason why this new spot has a wait list and it's entirely worth it. I'll certainly be standing in line again soon.