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Here’s a review of the new Silver Queen Cafe from Kit Waskom Pollard, a Towson resident who writes about fun things like parties, food and drinks over at her site Mango & Ginger and is a regular freelancer for The Baltimore Sun and other publications.
Some people like to kick off a new year with a commitment to healthy eating. Juices, vegetables, lean proteins. I, on the other hand, prefer focusing on flavor. When your first meal of the year is a great one, it bodes well for the next 365 days – and 1,000+ meals.
This year, a January 1st trip to Silver Queen Café set the tone for a terrifically delicious 2016. Silver Queen opened late last year in the Hamilton space recently vacated by Herb & Soul Express, and serves dinner from Wednesday through Saturday and weekend brunches.
We arrived ten minutes after nine on New Year’s Day, so we weren’t surprised to find the restaurant empty (though it filled up quickly over the next hour). It’s a small space, bright with natural light and decorated with local art. A nook in the front of the restaurant has been decked out as a kids’ corner, with toys and books.
Chef Jason Daniloski, an alum of the late, great Clementine, owns Silver Queen with his wife, Nicole Evanshaw. He is a Maryland native with a love for regional cuisine and comfort food, and he has created a brunch menu that feels familiar, but has enough twists to keep diners on their toes.
The hangover hash, for example, is made with fried chicken livers – a protein that should be on more menus. The livers were huge — much bigger than we expected – battered and fried until super crispy on the outside. Piled with home fries, sunny side up eggs, gravy and hot sauce, it was immensely satisfying — and would stand up to any hangover.
A duck croque monsieur — layers of pulled duck and salty ham tucked between thick mustard-slathered slices of bread and topped with creamy mornay sauce — was as savory and rich as it sounds. We topped the sandwich with an egg, technically making it a croque madame, and half the sandwich was more than filling.
My only complaint about the croque madame, and it was a small one, was that the egg was cooked a little more than I like. It wasn’t overcooked, but I prefer my yolks runnier than this one was.
Daniloski’s Maryland roots were on display in a side of well-seasoned scrapple. When it comes to scrapple, the slice is important. Here, the chef got it right, slicing the meat thin and frying it until it was very crispy outside, but still soft in the center.
Silver Queen’s atmosphere and menu are both immensely kid-friendly. My son said the chocolate chip pancakes were the pancakes best he’d ever had (earning him some serious side-eye from my husband, who cooks him pancakes most weekends). The praise was deserved: The pancakes were fluffy and light and loaded with enough chocolate that syrup was superfluous.
Service at Silver Queen is friendly and welcoming, if not always lightning fast. That’s okay – we enjoyed the leisurely pace of our meal – but guests should know that just because the restaurant serves homey food, that doesn’t mean meals are churned out with the speed of a roadside diner.
Given its location, family-friendly atmosphere and Daniloski’s pedigree, Silver Queen naturally invites comparisons to Clementine. The two restaurants overlap philosophically, sharing an appreciation for local flavors and products and a belief that comfort food can and should be thoughtfully prepared.
But Silver Queen is more than Clementine 2.0. It is less meat-centric, for one thing, with more vegetarian and seafood dishes – and that is by design, say the owners.
Also, unlike Clementine, which transitioned from BYOB to having a full bar, Silver Queen plans to retain its BYOB status, thanks in part to a local zoning issue that requires restaurants to have 75 or more seats to be eligible for a liquor license.
The kitchen is thoughtful about booze, though. During our visit, a housemade bloody mary mix was on the menu, as was a cranberry fizz drink that sounded like a great start to a cocktail.
The restaurant is also planning to partner with Arcadia Wines, a new wine shop slated to open in the neighborhood later this year. Once Arcadia opens, Silver Queen hopes to recommend particular pairings for dishes on their menu.
But even with a cup of coffee and a large glass of OJ, Silver Queen’s brunch hits the spot. On New Year’s Day…or any day.
Silver Queen Café
5429 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21214