Hangover Helper: Red Star Bar & Grill fails to deliver on its reputation as a good brunch spot

Fells Point is a bar mecca. So naturally there are plenty of brunch/breakfast options for the morning after to help absorb some of the previous night's indulgences. One place that we've always heard was pretty solid is The Red Star Bar & Grill. Unfortunately, our experience was pretty disappointing.  

We rolled into the spot near the corner of Wolfe and Thames streets around noon to an already-full house and quickly snagged the last four-top instead of being relegated to the bar, which had plenty of seating. One bonus of Red Star is there's free parking in the garage across the street at the new Union Wharf complex, so it's got that going for it. What's not so good, especially if you have a nasty hangover, is the loud music, which throughout the meal had us repeating ourselves while trying to have our normal brunch banter. 

Another thing it has going for it is the $10 all-you-can-drink bloody marys and mimosas (our server also told us screwdrivers were a third option in the deal, but their menu online says otherwise, so your mileage may vary). We started off with both, and although the bloody was a little bit watery, we did enjoy the spice level and the olive and pepperoncini accoutrement.

The mimosas were your standard variety, but the main problem with both drinks—as tends to be the case with an all-you-can-drink deal—was getting refills, which took forever. That isn't to say our server wasn't nice, helpful, and working her ass off; she most certainly was. But the amount of tables she was dealing with didn't give her a chance in hell to keep her head above water from the start. We were, however, impressed with her effort, which was exhausting just to watch. 

Despite the service troubles, the food started off good enough, with a wonderfully tasty mushroom pizza ($11.50) that we turned into a four-person appetizer. The pie's crust was thin and crispy on the edges and topped with addictively sweet caramelized onions, meaty mushrooms, a sweet-but-acidic drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and some nice cheese-on-cheese action by way of goat and melted mozzarella. It certainly had us looking forward to our main plates.

Unfortunately, some of them didn't stack up as well. The smoked salmon benedict ($13) (there's also Canadian bacon and Florentine options) was the worst offender. The salmon had a great smoky flavor to it with capers adding a nice saltiness, but the hollandaise was too thick—not to mention an odd orange-ish color—and the English muffins didn't look to have been toasted at all. We could have overlooked those gaffes had the poached eggs been done well, but they were so overcooked that there was just a dribble left of each yolk that still remained in liquid form—a critical component to any benedict and a major WTF for us. 

The chilaquiles ($11.50) were slightly better, although they didn't look it when they were delivered. The traditional Mexican dish consisted of a layer of fried tortilla chips topped with ranchero salsa, ground chorizo sausage, two fried eggs, queso and crème, way too many raw rings of onion, and slices of avocado. It came all thrown together into an unappetizing-looking mound. The flavors were good enough though, with the spice of the chorizo adding to the savory sauce that had, by design, been absorbed into the tri-colored chips (which we're pretty sure came from a bag). Overall, though, the dish was too dry, and while we weren't sure if the eggs were traditionally meant to be fried hard, the drippy yolks of over-easy eggs would have helped out quite a bit.

What was a sure winner was the blackberry French toast ($10). We spied it from another table, and after seeing the plump, egg-battered slices of toast topped with a deep, dark, wonderfully rich-looking blackberry compote, we had to order a plate for ourselves. They didn't disappoint. Worried that the compote might lead to mushy toast—the worst kind—we were impressed that not only did it hold up to the sauce, but the addition of cinnamon to the batter upped the ante on the bold flavors. The side of tri-colored potatoes weren't bad, but we couldn't come close to finishing the carb-laden dish, so maybe it might have been better to opt for the side of fruit. 

For those highly suspect friends who prefer the "unch" portion of brunch (really?), there's a ton of options on the menu (so much so that we were left wondering if the breakfast section is just an afterthought). Eleven salads, 10 sandwiches, five pizzas, and 10 burgers can make for some decision anxiety, but we found ourselves pretty satisfied with our pick of the turkey burger ($12.75).

Between two halves of a plump-but-airy bun was a hefty portion of ground turkey mixed with thyme—a nicely surprising touch—strips of roasted red pepper, thin slices of rich avocado, and a spicy creole aioli. Our friend had raved that it was the best in the city, and, although she admitted this time it was a tad dry (if we're splitting hairs), it was definitely something we'd order again—though it's unlikely it'll be for brunch, because, despite the killer French toast and the $10 (theoretically) unlimited drinks, Red Star Bar & Grill is probably best for regular old lunch or dinner.

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