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What's fresh and fun at Baltimore's Miss Shirley's?

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Now that Miss Shirley's has been garnering national acclaim for years, there seem to be a lot of places trying to capture they've created. I've laughed at some of these places, because they just don't master all of what makes Miss Shirley's a winner. I've thought about it for years and I can articulate what's apparent to me: they've got a fusion Southern cuisine that works well -- Chesapeake Bay and Carolina Low Country. The recipes change with seasonal ingredients or to evolve with modern tastes. The presentations are very cute and portions are quite generous. The service is always attentive and they're a very busy restaurant! That's why I was very happy to be hosted to experience some of their new Spring menu items.

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With Miss Shirley's you can go as indulgent or as skinny-minny as you like. With some new, fresh veggie and fruit offerings, the restaurant doesn't have to be special occasion only.

Getting back to how popular they are -- and they don't take reservations -- have I get a tip for you! If you get there early -- like when they open at 7 weekdays, 7:30 weekends or within the hour -- you have an excellent chance of getting seated right away!

To start out with, I tried one of their new appetizers: Green Deviled Eggs & Ham -- avocado, Tasso ham, chives, dusted with smoked paprika. I love deviled eggs and I make some really good ones. I "went creative" with mine during the holidays last year and almost started a riot. So, I was wondering how these would turn out. They turn out great! The yolk of the egg is mashed with avocado for color and rich, savory flavor. The ham adds a little salt -- not too much -- and the smoked paprika makes it more exotic, Spanish, than sweet paprika.

I also tried a one-roll portion of something that's on the menu: Jalapeño Smoked Bacon Cinnamon Rolls -- three cinnamon rolls drizzled with maple glaze, topped with diced jalapeño smoked bacon, dusted with powdered sugar. Mixing sweet with salty/savory has been popular for a bit . . .did you know it was also popular in the Renaissance, what with sugar being transported on the Silk Road and used to season meat? Miss Shirley's keeps things fresh and does its own modern thing with adding the heat with the bacon and also pepper garnish! Don't worry, the flavor is not jarring. For most of your bite, it's sweet. The heat warms in your mouth as you continue eating.

I love that Miss Shirley's has a true -- and broad -- view of Southern cuisine. It's not all "meat and 3", fried, whatever. It's about very good bounty of the land! That's where (and great for vegetarians) Summer Veggie Egg Tower fits in. It's poached Eggs over stacked grilled eggplant and zucchini, red and yellow tomatoes, Bermuda onion, fresh Mozzarella and basil leaves with chive Hollandaise sauce and avocado slices. See how it's a modern, vegetarian take on both Eggs Benedict and a salad Caprese at once? It's very hearty, too, with thicker onion slices, but not goopy with sauce.

The famous Shirley-Feller has changed for the season . . . soft shell crab replaces fried oysters: Grumpy Shirley-Feller... ‘cause it’s Crabby! -- cornmeal-encrusted soft shell crab, Chesapeake chicken sausage gravy, stone ground grits with diced bacon and egg round topped with pimento cheese, Tabasco bacon onion jam and chow chow, dusted with Old Bay. This is like three different Miss Shirley's/Southern faves in one dish! Sure, it's decadent. It also really works. You can totally share this dish; people will dig their forks into their favorite parts!

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