Loyola Magazine

Loyola alumna behind the menu at Baltimore’s critically acclaimed Miss Shirley’s Cafe

Corporate Executive Chef Zuri Coles, ’99, fuses culinary expertise with Southern comfort at Miss Shirley’s Cafe
Zuri Coles sits in a booth in the restaurant Miss Shirley's Cafe while posing for a photo
Photo credit: Scott Suchman.

Just a few blocks from Loyola’s Evergreen campus, bright orange umbrellas shade a packed sidewalk where people are peppering omelets, drizzling maple syrup on short stacks, and sipping locally roasted coffee at Miss Shirley’s Cafe.

The nationally acclaimed breakfast, lunch, and brunch spot on West Cold Spring Lane is a favorite among locals, visitors, tourists—and members of the Loyola community.

Even if you are familiar with Miss Shirley’s, however, you may not be aware that behind the acclaimed creative flavor is one of Loyola’s own, Corporate Executive Chef Zuri vonTiesenhausen-Hush Coles, ’99.

A chef at heart, Coles grew up surrounded by people who loved to cook and spend time in the kitchen. She shared that love of food and cooking as a student at Loyola, where she majored in English. She remembers creating meals from the groceries her roommates would bring home for her to cook with—and extending a dinner invitation to hungry neighbors in her residence hall.

After she graduated from Loyola, Coles pursued her passion for cooking and enrolled in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. She earned her Associate of Science in Culinary Arts and returned to Maryland to be closer to her now husband, Eric Coles, ’99, whom she met as a first-year student at Loyola.

She joined the team at Miss Shirley’s Cafe three years after it opened its flagship location in Roland Park in 2005.

More than a Chef’s Hat

During her 15 years at Miss Shirley’s, Coles’ role has expanded tenfold, leading her to wear many hats beyond her toque for the award-winning restaurant.

Coles oversees Miss Shirley’s special events and has led community outreach initiatives, including preparing meals for first responders and vulnerable populations in Baltimore City during COVID-19.

As corporate executive chef, she concepts menu items and tests new recipes, sources seasonal ingredients, and has expanded the restaurant’s dessert offerings. She trains chefs at all four Miss Shirley’s locations, ensuring dishes come to life with quality and consistency.

“I love cooking and making people happy,” she explains. “I enjoy the creativity and infinite possibilities cooking allows, as well as exploring new cultures and trends.”

Miss Shirley’s unique decadent takes on Southern comfort food, often with a nod to Maryland favorites (think: crab), include Coconut Cream Stuffed French Toast, the Gravy Train Southern Skillet, and Chicken Cheddar ’n Green Onion Waffles.

“We try to keep things on the menu because we have loyal regulars who will let me know when something is missing,” Coles says. “So we like to reinvent dishes that are already on our menu—often with a seasonal flare.”

Making Culinary Memories

The breakfasts her father made when Coles was a child planted a seed that grew into a love of cooking—a love she’s passing on to her own three children.

“Breakfast is their favorite meal—and mine—because there are always so many options, whether sweet or savory. You can make anything,” she says.

“My kids love coming into Miss Shirley’s,” she adds. “They have made it their second home.”

Coles hopes all her guests feel just as welcome and feels a sense of Loyola nostalgia and Greyhound pride as students, faculty, athletic teams, and families visiting the Evergreen campus stop in for a meal at Miss Shirley’s.

“I love making dishes that people want to eat again and again—and even recreate for themselves,” she says.