Charmington's is just a short walk from the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, but it's an even shorter walk for another thriving community of educators. They live in the same building.
Charmington's occupies a sunny corner space in Miller's Court, a former manufacturing plant that provides discounted housing for teachers and office space for nonprofit organizations.
Although Charmington's menu of sandwiches and wraps isn't very ambitious, either in size or culinary outlook, the food is wholesome, fresh and affordable. There's a good balance, too, of old-school coffeehouse staples like powerhouse sandwiches and hummus wraps and deli fare like turkey sandwiches and Reubens.
I ordered a BLT. For one thing, I love them. Also, I think the quality of BLT can tell you almost everything you need to know about the quality of a cafe's food.
Charmington's builds a great BLT ($6.50) with thick bacon slices, very fresh vegetables and porous country white bread that soaks up the homemade garlic aioli. For an extra dollar, Charmington's will layer chunks of freshly chopped avocado into the sandwich.
Daily specials and soups help to supplement the regular lineup, too. When we visited, Charmington's was serving a pumpkin soup with toasted coconut. It turned out to be surprisingly spicy and satisfying.
For a new customer, Charmington's is a little hard to navigate. It would help if they took a step back and looked at things from that point of view.
Orders are taken at the counter, but there's only a single printed menu to look at. Acknowledging when a customer waits longer than he expected would be nice too.
On a recent weekday, Charmington's bright, brick-walled space was filled with customers clacking away on laptops. There's a welcoming cafe vibe. Good music plays but not loudly. The furniture is comfortable, and original art work helps make the industrial space feel personal. It hits you that there need to be more places like this, an independently run business that caters to the needs of a core community.
Where: 2601 N. Howard St., Charles Village
Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Lunch entrees: $4.50-$8.50