Editor's Note: Patch will be sponsoring a free coffee giveaway at Towson Hot Bagel located at 16 Allegheny Avenue on Wednesday Jan. 12 from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., while supplies last. All are invited.
Close your eyes and follow your nose.
Our neighborhoods are fragrant with the scents of Einstein Bros’ bagels, Dunkin Donuts’ muffins, and Panera’s fresh breads. And coffee, too – always there is the aroma of rich, hot coffee, lingering near any of these chains. Even places like 7-Eleven and Royal Farms have their stakes in the morning breakfast market, offering several different kinds of coffees, gourmet flavorings and creamers, and surprisingly fresh breakfast items like apple fritters, Krispy Kremes and oversized croissants.
But where are the local gems, where breakfast is served before the sun comes up, by the folks brave enough to compete with the chains? Where are those hidden stashes of homemade bagels, fresh fruits, and of course, coffee, coffee, and more coffee, that are made in local cafes and carry-outs in Lutherville-Timonium? Below, we offer you our favorite, (mostly) locally-owned five breakfast spots:
Galleria Deli – 1419 York Road
Opens: 6:30 a.m.
Best breakfast on the menu: Egg-white veggie omelet
Been here for: 5 years
Regular and decaf coffees, pumpkin spice coffee, French vanilla coffee, sweeteners and creamers – that’s just the self-service selection of your morning’s hot beverage. You can also order cappuccinos, chai tea, Oregon chai and hot chocolate. Hungry? Have a bagel, or have some fresh mango, grapefruit, or watermelon. Select from a pile of muffins: blueberry, cranberry, carrot, lemon, grain, and chocolate-chip. Try yogurt loaf – slices of bread, baked with yogurt, wrapped and ready for you to grab by the cash register.
Need some meat with your carbs? “We do a lot of breakfast sandwiches,” said Kim Boyd, who owns Galleria Deli with her husband, Gerry. “Bacon and egg, ham and egg, sausage and egg,” just to name a few.
In the morning, many people order the omelets, too. “We have a lot of people get the veggie omelet, with provolone cheese, mushroom, green peppers,” Boyd said. “We sell a lot of breakfast wraps. Bacon, egg, and cheese, veggie omelet wrap – you can wrap anything you want.”
The best part of Galleria Deli is the atmosphere. “Everybody is like a family,” Boyd said. “I know everybody’s names. Which means they come every day.”
Bagel Works – 1701 York Road
Opens: 6 a.m. M-F, 7 a.m. Sat & Sun
Best breakfast on the menu: “Brilliant Bagel”
Been here for: 21 years
Nova Scotia salmon, cream cheese, onions, chopped olives and tomatoes—that’s what’s on the Brilliant Bagel, a house favorite a Bagel Works. “It’s a real New York style thing!” laughed Katie Bielski, who owns Bagel Works with her siblings. But don’t be scared away if you’re a cinnamon-raison-bagel-with-butter kind of person. Bagel Works has that too. Bagel Works has any kind of bagel you could imagine. They make egg bagels, sun-dried tomato bagels, plain bagels, everything bagels, salt bagels, poppy seed bagels, blueberry bagels, honey granola bagels, pumpernickel bagels, Asiago cheese bagels, garlic bagels, sesame bagels, onion bagels… Shall I go on?
“We are pretty much the only place around here that still makes our own dough, boils the bagels, and then bakes them,” said Bielski, “in the true New York way.” Bagel Works makes all their bagels fresh every morning.
Perk Avenue is a coffee bar debuting in a corner of Bagel Works. It’s all part of the same restaurant. It offers cappuccinos, espressos, lattes and lots of good coffee. “Eventually we’ll stay open later, just on this side, as a coffeehouse,” Bielski said. “I definitely recommend our cappuccino. We have a really smooth cappuccino.”
The cappuccino comes in many flavors. Bielski’s favorite right now is the Gingerbread. “Which,” she added slyly, “unlike Starbucks, we keep all year round. You can get any of our flavors all year.”
You can also get a whole range of fruit smoothies. Some smoothies are made with raspberries, honeydew, strawberries and bananas, to name a few of the fruits. Some are made with cranberry juice, some with fat free yogurt, and some with a splash of coconut flavoring.
If you are scared away by the difficult parking that Bagel Works has always had to work with, you can relax. The popular morning spot now owns the entire parking lot adjacent to its building.
Baltimore Coffee & Tea – 9 West Aylesbury Road
Opens: 7 a.m. M-F, 7:30 a.m. Sat, & 9:00 a.m. Sun
Best breakfast on the menu: “Crazy Good” Oatmeal
Been here for: 18 years
Let’s just start with a number: 120.
That’s how many different kinds of fresh-roasted and fresh-ground coffee that Baltimore Coffee & Tea offers. The number can go as high as 130 during holidays when seasonal flavors are popular. Not only are the beans ground fresh right there in the store, they are also roasted and flavored right there, too. The coffee beans, still green, are imported from Hawaii, Central and South America, Africa, and Indonesia. Baltimore Coffee & Tea imports Fair Trade, organic beans.
Take a look at some of the coffee flavors: Cinnamon Sticky Bun, Apricot Cream, Butter Rum, Chocolate Macademia Nut, Rainforest Crunch, French Roast, and the best-selling Baltimore Blend. Every day, eight kinds of the 120 coffees are ground and available for any kind of hot drink you might want to order, and every day the eight flavors change.
If you wanted to visit the store for several different cups of coffee every day, you could try every single flavor in the space of a month or two. “But,” said Mary Romeo, the regional retail director, “Any Coffee Any Time’ means, you can come in and say, ‘I have to have chocolate raspberry today,’ and we will actually make it up for you right then and there. So our tagline is, if you’ve got four minutes, we’ll give you anything you want.” That’s any flavor, out of 120 flavors, grounds, brewed, and prepared, while you wait.
Enough about coffee; let’s talk about tea. Baltimore Coffee & Tea has one of the largest tea selections in the region. They cut and flavor the imported tea leaves, put them in the tea bags, and assemble them in-house. A group of self-described “bag ladies” in the back adds the printed labels to the packages and ties them up, literally, with colorful bows.
There is Apple Cider Tea, Back Porch Tea, Blueberry-Lemon Tea, and most interestingly, Brassica Tea, which was invented by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine when they isolated an antioxidant in broccoli and add 15 milligrams to each teabag.
Hungry now? The “Crazy Good” Oatmeal is made with sunflower seeds, almonds, and coconut, and can be topped with cranberries, raisins, walnuts, and brown sugar. If you need more caffeine, add a cappuccino muffin to your order. If you’re ready for dessert, check out the gelato section.
Ashland Café - 10810 York Rd
Opens: 5:00 a.m., Sundays 6:00 a.m.
Best breakfast on the menu: The Ashland Special
Been here for: 30+ years
The Ashland Café is the diner that time forgot, but has been gentle to.
The booths are vinyl, the windows have curtains, the walls have paneling, and the placemats are paper, printed with local ads. It’s outdated, but cozy and clean. The waitresses, bussers and cashiers have a bustling, fast, efficient energy that brings to mind the trains that used to run on the old tracks right next to the parking lot. And the food is heavy, hearty and old-fashioned good.
Sure, you can get a bagel here, but you’d be better off with the Ashland Special—two pancakes, two eggs and a choice of bacon, ham, sausage, or Scrapple. You know you’re in for a big ole retro breakfast when there’s Scrapple on the menu.
“Breakfast is really our forte,” George Polites, a manager, said. He added that the big breakfast with eggs is the way to go at Ashland Café, and that this breakfast offering is more than holding its own among the popular hipster bagel joints.
“You can’t get in here on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said, referring to the sheer numbers of local folks that crowd the place, often before sunrise.
If you’re missing your fancy lattes and espressos, then add a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice to your breakfast of plain coffee. You might be surprised how good some charming old favorites can be.
Safeway – York Rd. & Fairmount, 1071 York Road
Opens: 5 a.m.
Best breakfast on the menu: Everything bagel and a caramel macchiato
Been here for: almost 5 months
Yes, you read it right—Safeway, the one chain to make our list of local breakfast eateries is a grocery store.
This is mostly – but not entirely – because they have a Starbucks. And what can’t you get at a Starbucks? You can get coffee of every flavor, hot or iced, plus teas, mochas, lattes, cappuccinos, hot chocolates and then the fancy things that most people love but not everyone can define: frappaccinos, macchiatos and Tazo chai.
The baristas often serve customers who are on their way to do food shopping. The carts at Safeway have cup-holders built right in – one might suspect this Starbucks-grocery store hybrid was long planned.
So what is the drink of choice, when you have a week’s worth of groceries to select and compile? “Caramel macchiatos, always,” said Shanell Sarwan, a barista, without hesitating.
And it doesn’t take long to get your order and do your shopping. This Starbucks has a brand-new espresso machine. “I can pull more shots in a faster time,” said Sarwan.
But plenty of customers come here just to drink their coffee and sit. There is a wide open, bright and spacious area with plenty of tables next to floor-to-ceiling windows. “They can stay as long as they want,” said Sarwan. “We have wi-fi and everything.” The best part? “I hear we’re getting couches soon,” she confided.
This Starbucks doesn’t have much in the way of food – just a small case of breakfast goods, which are usually gone by noon, according to Sarwan. But that’s okay, because this Starbucks is in a grocery store that has a bakery, which leads us to the next reason why Safeway made the list.
The bakery is beautiful. The fire roars behind the counter, while the Safeway employees bake as the customer shop. Breads are piled on their stands, the bagels are nestled in their bins with tongs for self-service, and the donuts practically gleam on their shelves.
“In the morning, it would be bagels, that’s the most popular thing. We make them fresh every day,” said Teresa Bennett, the bakery manager. “Plain, jalepeno cheddar, and ‘everything’ are the most popular.”
She added proudly, “A lot of customers come in and say we have the best bagels in town, even compared to other bagel shops.”
The French breads are baked several times a day. They also bake other breads, cakes, pastries, rolls, pies, cookies, and of course, bagels and donuts.