When I was a student at Mount St. Mary's University, finding a good breakfast was never a problem.
The school cafeteria always provided a variety of quality choices for my favorite meal of the day.
And Gettysburg, just 15 minutes north, offered not only a Perkins, but also the Lincoln Diner–a 24/7 safe haven for my taste buds.
So when I moved to downtown Bel Air in July, finding a reliable breakfast spot became a top priority.
The only place within walking distance of my County Village apartment offering a full breakfast was Little NY: The Lost Deli.
If the association with the city that never sleeps (I hate the Yankees) was not enough of a turnoff, that dirty lunch-sounding word–deli–put me over the edge. To top it off, there is a giant, ahem, New York Giants logo on the wall.
There was one way that this apparently displaced deli could atone for its sins against my psyche: provide me a breakfast that would make me forget everything my mother ever cooked me. Or at least make a good omelet.
My first visit was rushed, so I kept my order simple: French toast and scrambled eggs.
In the way of syrup-soaked items, French toast takes the bronze medal to my beloved pancakes and waffles. Not to mention that I'm quite the scrambled-egg cook myself. In other words, this better be good.
I was pleasantly surprised by the versatility of the scrambled eggs. The Underdog Deli, as I will hereafter refer to it until it meets my standards, blew my version out of the water. They were moist but not runny, and had a certain sweetness to them.
But it was the French toast that made the meal. It was crispy, but not burned. Powdered with sugar, but not in a blizzard-like fashion.
My only complaint was that the portion was not quite in sync with the price, but the quality certainly exceeded it. Then again, maybe I'm too used to the prices in the small towns of Emmitsburg, where I went to school, and Pylesville, where I grew up.
The second time I visited, I was prepared to order my go-to meal: Chocolate chip pancakes and sausage.
When I was informed that they did not have chocolate chips, I realized where The Lost Deli found its name. No one ever took the time to tell the cook how vital chocolate morsels were to a hearty breakfast.
I urge The Underdog Deli to go down the street to Shoprite and grab a few bags of chocolate chips.
Nevertheless, I regained my composure and ordered an omelet with bacon, cheese, green peppers and tomatoes. The scrambled eggs were so good on my first visit that this seemed like a failsafe order.
Much to my surprise, the meal was served with home fries and buttered toast. The speed of service and good conversation with the staff and owner was a bonus. (Having the song "(I Just) Died in Your Arms" by Cutting Crew playing in the background was a nice touch, too.) I also ordered a small cup of coffee, since waking up at 6:30 a.m. is more of a necessity than a choice these days. With no cream or sugar, the coffee had plenty of flavor.
I started with the home fries and splashed them with ketchup. Unfortunately they were in chunk form, as opposed to my shredded preference. But, yet again, I was pleasantly surprised. They had just the right salty taste and were cooked in a way that did not remind me at all of one of my dinnertime nemeses, the baked potato.
On to the omelet.
Now, you have to understand, I'm loyal to three omelet cooks: me, my mom and the woman behind the counter in college. So, again, my standards were working against the Underdog Deli.
My first bite, though, revealed all you need to know about the quality of an omelet's composition: I got a taste of every ingredient.
The tomato and green peppers were not runny or cold. They were crisp. The bacon, though I did not request it this way, was crunchy. And the cheese gooed it all together like some kind of culinary glue.
By now the toast was merely serving as a victory lap. I'm spoiled by the homemade peach and strawberry jams my mom makes, so even a packet of Smuckers could not equal Pylesville's finest preserves.
Something about the bread and the butter, though, made this toast a Mariano Rivera-like closer to an overall great breakfast experience. (You're welcome for the Yankees reference.)
While I will never reconsider my disdain for the Yankees, I will certainly refrain from referring to this deli, which also serves lunch, as an underdog anymore. Little NY: The Lost Deli, once again.