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What's Up Magazine

The Taste: Miss Shirley’s Café

Feb 01, 2018 02:49PM
By Rita Calvert
Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Miss Shirley's Cafe

1 Park Place Annapolis, MD 21401 • (410) 268-5171

What an impressive team we find behind the Southern style extravagant breakfasts at Miss Shirley’s Café in, not just Annapolis, but Roland Park and Inner Harbor...because it’s just one big restaurant! At the helm is Corporate Executive Chef Brigitte Bledsoe. Twelve years ago Chef Brigitte put her sight on becoming the best breakfast chef in the world as she answered an ad created by the late restaurateur founder, Eddie Dopkin. She then cooked him a dyn-o-mite meal that landed her the job.

I also spoke with Chef Zuri Coles, executive chef of the Roland Park location who is slim, enthusiastic, and works full-time as head chef even with three children. Jennifer McIllwain, director of marketing and public relations gave lots of background on how the vibrancy happens. They both had some great stories. The featured recipe is one of the beloved dishes at Miss Shirley’s and started as a special, but was kept on the menu due to popular demand.

Let’s catch up on all the awards Corporate Executive Chef Brigitte Bledsoe earns! Tell us about the awards Chef Brigitte and Miss Shirley’s have recently received.

We are especially thrilled to announce that over thirty-five thousand Maryland diners voted, and Corporate Executive Chef Brigitte Bledsoe was named Chef of the Year in the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s 2017 Stars of the Industry Awards!  Some of our other awards include:

• Best Sunday Brunch, What’s Up? Media’s 2017 Best of Annapolis Readers’ Poll
• Favorite Kids Menu & Breakfast Restaurant, Chesapeake Family Magazine
• Best for Visitors, Baltimore Magazine 2017 Best Restaurants Readers’ Poll
• Best Brunch, Capital Gazette 2017 Readers’ Choice
How does the cohesiveness of the staff at Miss Shirley’s happen?

“First, it trickles down from our management team to our team members to give them a strong sense of ownership, not just in one restaurant, but all three locations,” says Jennifer McIllwain, director of marketing and public relations. “Front and back of the house teams work at each location to foster consistency, which is key. We are just one big restaurant family. Our owner is hands-on and treats every member of our over 100-person team with consideration. Many of our team members have grown with, and moved up within the company. For instance, I started as a server and as the business grew, the need for a full-time marketing position became apparent. I got the job, which was perfect with my college background and prior professional experience. I celebrated 10 years with Miss Shirley’s this past July.”
Corporate Executive Chef Brigitte has appeared on the Food Network? How did that come about?

In 2016, a producer from Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives contacted our restaurant to ask if we were interested in being featured on the show. 
Then in 2017, Guy Fieri handpicked Chef Brigitte for his show Guy’s Grocery  Games
Games. The two of them hit it off, and have an ongoing joke about who has better hair, since they both have the same blonde cropped “do.”
We’ve also appeared on Travel Channel’s Food Paradise, the “Bun-Believable” episode, this past September.
Executive Chef Zuri, what are the most popular dishes on your menu?

The recipe we’re featuring, Crab Happy Chesapeake Chicken Sammy, is a fun and unique breakfast sandwich and is a favorite with our guests. Some of our other signature dishes are our Crab Cake & Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict, Get your Grits On, and Chicken & Waffles.
What other local food businesses do you work with? 

We like to support local, family-owned companies as much as possible at Miss Shirley’s. We use Rise Up Coffee, which is 100 percent certified organic and fair-trade coffee roasted in Easton, MD. We also feature Huckle’s Late Harvest Jalapeno Gourmet Hot Sauce on all our tables, as well as in many of our dishes. The Chesapeake style BBQ sauce we use is local Baltimore Barbecue Co., which is hand-crafted with all MD ingredients. Our natural black angus ground beef comes from Roseda Farm in Monkton, and our sausage is created just for us from Logan’s Sausage Company based in Virginia.
How does Miss Shirley’s work with other business in the area? I notice you have an Adopt-a-Highway sign on Route 50.

Miss Shirley’s Café is proud to support the Annapolis community with annual memberships, local event sponsorships, and various organizations’ fundraising efforts. Some annual sponsorships include: The United States Naval Academy Athletic Program, Annapolis Parks & Recreation 10U Baseball Team, and an Adopt-a-Highway sign sponsorship on Route 50.

With close to three decades in the food, media production, marketing and public relations fields, Rita has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage and The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration, art and nourishment of food. Her work has always embodied the naturally wholesome and satisfying. In The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture while helping grillers understand what makes ‘grassfed’ different.

Crab Happy Chesapeake Chicken Sammy

Recipe and components courtesy Brigitte Bledsoe

Per Person
1 jumbo English muffin 
1/2 crab cake 
1 egg
1 slice white cheddar cheese
1 Chesapeake chicken sausage patty (created just for us by local Logan’s Sausage Company
1 slice red tomato
1/2 fried pickle 

Toast 1 large English muffin, split in half. 
Fry or oven bake crab cake. 
Fry 1 chicken sausage in pan until cooked through and browned. 
Fry 1 egg over hard in pan over medium heat. 
Add a slice of white cheddar cheese to top of egg and let melt. 
Quickly heat sliced tomato in same pan. 

Assemble Sandwich
Place bottom of English muffin on plate.
Top with chicken sausage.
Top with tomato slice.
Top with egg and cheese.
Top with crab cake.
Top with fried pickle slices (3–4).
Add top of English muffin.

Crab Cakes
Yield: 16–18 
2 pounds fresh jumbo
lump crab meat
1/2 cup roasted red
 peppers, diced
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 cup crab cake mix
1/2 cup cracker meal

Place crab meat in a large bowl, be careful not to break up lumps.
Add red peppers, parsley, and binder.
Mix gently, avoid breaking up lumps.
Add cracker meal and mix until just combined and meat sticks together. (may need to add a bit more cracker meal if too wet).
Shape into small balls and weigh out 2-ounce portions.
Store on sheet tray lined with parchment paper.
Should make about 16–18 cakes.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Crab Cake Mix
Yield: 2 cups
4 whole eggs
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon old bay 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Few dashes of hot sauce

In a large bowl place cracked eggs. Whisk for about a minute to break up the eggs.
Add all of the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and mix until well incorporated.
Place in plastic container covered and refrigerate until needed.

Fried Pickles 
Yield: 2 cups 
1 whole large pickle – cut in 12–15 slices
1/4 cup buttermilk 
1 cup breading mix 
oil for frying 

Soak pickle slices in buttermilk for an hour.
Heat oil in small pot.
Coat pickle slices well in breading and fry in oil until golden brown.
Remove from oil and drain on paper towels

Breading for Fried Pickles
1/4 cup Cajun seasoning 
1 cup cornmeal 
1/2 cup flour 
1/4 cup sugar 

Mix all ingredients together well in a bowl.