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In Charles North, a trio of new cafes

Keep your eyes on Charles North. The continually emerging neighborhood, much of which is contained within the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, was a 2013 hot spot with the openings of surprising new places like Bottega and The Crown, attracting appreciative crowds.

Charles North continues to blossom, and three recently opened cafes — Red Emma's, Canteen and Nancy by SNAC — are welcoming the new year with plans to expand their hours, menus or both.

Red Emma's (30 W. North Ave., 410-230-0450, redemmas.org) opened on the corner of North and Maryland avenues in November, about six months after closing its home in Mount Vernon.

More room was the main reason for the move, according to Kate Khatib, a worker-owner for the cooperatively owned vegetarian restaurant.

"[We had] felt for several years that we had outgrown our space," said Khatib. "And we wanted to be a full restaurant. We were not able to do real cooking at our old space." Located on the below-ground level of an apartment building, the original Red Emma's had no range-top or full-size grill.

Even so, the new Red Emma's opened with a menu much like the one offered at the original location. "We're starting off with a menu we're comfortable with," said Khatib, who added that Red Emma's will expand its selection of sandwiches and salads in the first weeks of the new year and introduce more substantial entrees in the spring.

Khatib said the larger space lets Red Emma's roast its own coffee, in cooperation with Thread Coffee, and to do all of its vegan baking on premises as well.

"There's a lot of new stuff on the horizon for us," said Khatib.

Kevin Brown and Bill Maughlin, who run the Station North Arts Cafe on North Charles Street, have added a second SNAC operation on North Avenue in the Maryland Institute College of Art's graduate studio center.

Named in honor of the late Nancy Haragan, the founding executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, the chic cafe space was created as part of MICA's $18 million renovation to the campus facility.

When it opened in the fall of 2012, Nancy was operated by Parkhurst Dining Services, the art school's main food-service provider. But Brown and Maughlin took over a year later, renaming it Nancy by SNAC (131 W. North Ave., 410-685-0039, stationnortharts.com).

At first, Nancy by SNAC was open only for breakfast and lunch, but it has added weekly "Friday Night Arts Dinners" to its schedule and plans to soon add Saturday night dinner and Sunday brunch service.

Brown said that the new nighttime and weekend offerings are part of an effort to expand the cafe's reach beyond MICA.

"What we're trying to provide is a cultural canopy," Brown said, "not just for MICA students and faculty but for the whole community."

The third cafe, Canteen (1821 N. Charles St, 443-838-1626) has taken over space that was formerly the Bohemian Coffee House.

Dane Nester, Canteen's owner, is the founder of Oak Hill Honey, a small urban apiary, and an artist working in a broad range of media, including, he said, food.

"We don't want to think of ourselves as a restaurant," Nester said. "We think of food as cultural production."

But you can get food to eat at Canteen — mostly Asian-influenced comfort dishes like laksa, a spicy noodle dish from Indonesia, Thai tofu melts and congee, a kind of porridge. Nester said he plans to more fully equip the kitchen at Canteen. When that happens, Canteen will start serving a dinner menu in addition to its current lineup of cafe fare.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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