Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 17: Mornings with Miss Shirley

coconut creme stuffed French toast!

My best breakfast of the week: coconut creme stuffed French toast. As Seen on TV!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

In our early road-tripping years, we couldn’t afford food-based tourism. We ate whatever we could find within range of the sights or near the hotel, whatever wouldn’t destroy our budget. I used to plan our hotel reservations around which chains offered free breakfast. It didn’t take long to get tired of weeks-old, shrink-wrapped, itty-bitty pastries. We’re used to having at least one McDonald’s stop per year — usually as our last meal before we arrive back home — but can’t handle seven straight days of it. Longtime MCC readers may recall we ate Subway so many times that I eventually declared it my mortal enemy.

Now that we’re older and in a somewhat stabler position, occasionally we can stretch our legs and try places we don’t have in Indiana, and dabble in pricing above fast-food levels. On the morning of Day 3 we decided to take a deep dive into Google Maps and see what breakfast we could find in the immediate Baltimore area besides the Hyatt buffet. That trail led us a few blocks northeast to the comfort of Miss Shirley’s Cafe.

Miss Shirley's!

Miss Shirley’s is at the edge of Baltimore’s business district, where Monday morning wasn’t quite as bustling as I’d expected.

The eponymous inspiration herself passed away in 2001, but the Southern-style tribute to her legacy lived on when the first Miss Shirley’s opened four years later. The original founder has since passed away as well, but the Miss Shirley’s name lives on in three locations, two in Baltimore and one in Annapolis. (I had an entire Annapolis contingency planned as a bonus leg for this trip if time permitted, but Baltimore kept us too fascinated and ran us out of time.)

Miss Shirley's!

Part of me deeply wished it were actually run by Shirley from Community, with Troy and Abed as her partners. Ah, if only.

Fun trivia we didn’t know till we approached: Miss Shirley’s has been on TV! Food Network dude Guy Fieri once graced the premises for an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I stopped using the notorious TRIPLE-D! as a travel resource after an amusing letdown in Topeka in 2012, but I wasn’t about to let that stop us from seeing their offerings.

As Seen on TRIPLE D!

I can hear this entire sign in my head in Guy Fieri’s voice. It’s drowning out my other voices and making it really hard to write.

Monday their staff was busy but firing on all cylinders — seating and feeding were quick, everyone around us all smiles. Anne isn’t one to dabble in unusual breakfast ideas and decided to order from the appetizer menu instead. On her side: fried green tomatoes with lemon-herb aioli.

fried green tomatoes!

I was happy to help her finish the entire row.

Meanwhile for me, a special of the day — Cajun shrimp omelet.

Cajun shrimp omelet!

Of course there’d be Baltimore seafood involved.

We enjoyed ourselves so much, I pleaded for an encore presentation the morning of Day 4. We’re normally looking to diversify our experiences and rarely visit the same restaurant twice in one vacation, but their menu had more than enough options to help casual diners avoid culinary redundancy. The staff seemed a bit more stressed and low-key this time, but eventually another round of A+ meals arrived and got our day off to a great start. Hopefully their day improved later. My amazing colossal result for Tuesday was the coconut creme stuffed French toast in our lead photo, accompanied by fresh strawberries and bananas. According to their menu, it’s what they served Guy Fieri ONLY ON TRIPLE D!

…now Guy Fieri’s voice has taken over my internal monologue and cranked the volume up to 9½. This. Must. STOP.

…anyway: Anne once again ordered appetizer because she doesn’t need five thousand calories to survive till lunch. In my opinion hers was the prettiest dish of all — strawberry cheesecake bites tinged with goat cheese, mascarpone, and hints of chocolate.

Strawberry cheesecake bites!

Not the kind of delicate food art you’d expect to see Guy Fieri wolfing down in sloppy handfuls NEXT TIME ON TRIPLE D! (AAAAAUGH.)

To keep our budget balanced, for Days Five and Six we behaved and availed ourselves of the Hyatt’s complimentary breakfast buffet. Of course it just wasn’t the same — basic corporate standards, nary a hint of Baltimore seafood or the legend of Miss Shirley.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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