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Meeting Miss Shirley

Miss Shirley's Blackened Salmon. Source: Author

A Miss Shirley’s brunch demands three non-negotiable ingredients: a cavernous appetite, a generous calendar opening, and the ability to publicly inhibit the caveman-esque instinct that urges you to grunt when your lips close around that first spoonful of pure Elysium.

The customary hour-long wait allows customers to lap the harbor and the resident geese are kind enough to mask the complaints of grumbling stomachs with their strangled conversations. After an inevitable round of complaints about skipping breakfast, you prance to the host with an air of entitlement typically reserved for royalty once your group is finally called.

Above the bar inside, televisions re-play the Food Network’s praise for the restaurant’s pancakes, French toast and collared greens.

In the section under the tin roof, six of us hunched over digital menus. We ordered seven plates, including a stack of the limited October-themed pancakes to be split six ways.

One friend sagged into his chair, eyes glinting each time another table’s plate of food appeared. He stared down each person returning from the bathroom, his momentary starvation bringing a ferocity to his expression. When the waitress returned with a stack of empty appetizer plates and set them before him, he bolted up, brought back to life. “Oh yes, food!”

A few minutes later, our main courses materialized around us. The waiters were like magicians retrieving new dishes from thin air, and we were just as awestruck as if watching a magic show. Maybe the hunger had us hypnotized, but when we glanced down at the food, our already-wide eyes bulged.

Fluffy coconut cream spilled out of a crevice between two thick pieces of toast, a caramel-glazed banana split hugging a pile of fresh strawberries. Salmon rested on a bed of vibrant vegetables, a swirl of whipped cream mingled with a light pumpkin mousse, and chewy candies shaped like pillows slept on a cloud of pancake perfection.

Our group was electrified. The two girls who split plates of Coconut Cream Stuffed French Toast and Smoky ‘N Sweet Benedict became telekinetically linked – one began a sentence the other finished with a mutual air of humble appreciation. “The raspberry is so good…but the banana.”

The friend next to me could only muster a nod, unable to form words. He pointed a shaky finger at the table and the rest of us tried to guess which dish had rendered him speechless as he chewed with enraptured delight.

Enough Beatles songs filled the brief gaps in conversation that I half-expected a staff member to appear sporting an Abbey Road shirt. Intermittently, the first-day waitress lifted her eyebrows each time a plate crashed in the back room, shrugging. “It wasn’t me.”

My speechless friend paused to mutter “Opa” in reference to the Greek wedding tradition of smashing plates, then refocused on his food.

Finished, overstuffed, and shivering, we signed receipts and wobbled out the door. All that remained on the table was half a strawberry, a diced tomato chunk, and an outdated definition of culinary excellence.

The Space: The space where we were seated was edged with windows and sandwiched between orange patio umbrellas and indoor booths. Its furniture consisted of standard seating at metal tables. String lights were draped across a tin ceiling rimmed with air conditioning units and fans. The noise level did not surpass a medium chatter.

The Crowd: Families with young children, middle-aged couples, and groups of young adults.

The Bar: Signature Cocktails: Kentucky Strawberry Lemonade and Spicy Shirley (a classic Bloody Mary with a house twist).

The Bill: Appetizers ($9-$18); French Toast/Pumpkins/Waffles ($11-$17); House Specialties ($14-$24); Omelets ($15-$20); Sandwiches ($14-$18); Sides ($5-$9); Non-Alcoholic Drinks ($3-$5); Cocktails ($11-$12).

What We Liked: Caramel Brownie Cow Tales Pancakes; Pumpkin Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast; Hot Brown; Cuban Huevos Sandwich; Coconut Cream Stuffed French Toast; Smoky ‘N Sweet Benedict; Eddie’s Two Cage Free Eggs Any Style; Shredded Potato & Onion Hash Browns; Collared Greens Bowl; Stone Ground Grits with Diced Bacon; Blackened Salmon (used as a substitute for Chorizo Sausage in the Smoky ‘N Sweet Benedict).

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