The cafe at the Walters Art Museum closed a few weeks ago. Chef’s Expressions, the latest in a line of caterers to operate the space, pulled out on July 2. Museum officials say they are looking for someone to run a scaled-down “grab-and-go” or vending operation in the short term.
To fortify themselves, museum-goers have plenty of options in Mount Vernon. Right across from the Centre Street entrance are the Cozy Corner, a long-running breakfast and lunch stop, and a relative newcomer called the Gallery Grill.
Formerly known as the Gallery Sandwich Shoppe and the Gallery Cafe, the space was taken over in early 2010 by Jean Choe, whom her customers know as Miss Jean.
For 20 years, Choe ran the popular New Civic Restaurant & Carry-Out on Paca Street, until, she says, she was ushered in out in 2009 as part of the Westside revitalization. Choe is running the Gallery Grill single-handedly, at least, she says, until business picks up. Some of her old customers, who used to line up out the door for her shrimp and chicken sub, have found her, but foot traffic is slow on this Mount Vernon block.
The menu is mid-sized: There are eight or so grilled sandwiches, a few deli sandwiches and a few stir-fries. Everything is freshly prepared, and there is a good reason why Choe is calling her establishment a “grill.” She grills.
Choe throws a big helping of fresh broccoli and string beans into a chicken and shrimp stir-fry, seasons it up freshly and serves it over a pile of white rice on a pretty, colorful plate. It’s worth all of the $8.75.
For her cheese steak she grills good, thickly sliced steak just until the edges get slightly charred, blending in onions and adding in the cheese at the perfect meltable moment. It’s one of the best cheese steaks I’ve ever had in Baltimore, worth seeking out. That shrimp and chicken sub is stuffed with chicken breast, shrimp, onions and melted cheese. It might not be health food, but you’ll find a way to fit it into your regimen.
There are a few tables in the Gallery Grill, and some counter spaces. Because Choe is busy tending the grill, you might have to give the space where you want to sit a quick wipe-down. There are also a few tables on the sidewalk.
During the hot spell that wore the world down, Choe was making up batches of lemonade mixed with fresh peach or watermelon juice. She puts plastic cups full of these out on the counter, half sunk in ice, where they look like life savers. They are.
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