Sometimes all you want is some steaming soup, a hearty sandwich and an honest cup of coffee. At such times, Charmington's in Remington is just the spot.
Situated in the first floor of the old H.F. Miller and Son Tin Box and Can Manufacturing Plant — a building recently converted into Miller's Court apartments and offices — Charmington's is more cafe than restaurant. It bustles with life.
Many of the patrons are teachers, as the building offers discounted rents to Baltimore area teachers. This move has garnered national attention and has drawn tenants. Thibault Manekin, one of Miller's Court moguls, has said he hopes the he property will help revitalize the area while attracting teachers to the city.
Charmington's kitchen is open, behind a counter where customers order from the chalkboard menu then scoot to another counter to pick up their meals. There is also a smattering of tables and chairs. Large windows, a feature of the renovation, look out onto Howard and 26th streets. There's not much of a view, but the windows are nice when the sun is shining.
The coffee here is fair-trade and the beverages are "environmentally friendly." The place has a vibe to it, with many of the customers exchanging greetings with each other and the staff. Like the building it sits in, Charmington's represents a rebirth for the staff as well. The principals have relocated here after closing their Blue House operation in Harbor East.
The fare here is what I'm terming "young folks' food." Sandwiches include "gourmet" peanut butter and jelly ($3.95), made with all-natural peanut butter and a jam that traces its heritage to local strawberries, tuna and vegetable wraps, and also a couple of turkey options. Vegetables are in abundance and the soups, the menu promises, are usually vegetarian and often vegan. Charmington's opens at 6 o'clock weekday mornings and offers freshly baked muffins.
Trying not to distort the demographic, I went to lunch there with our 25-year-old son. Coffee plays a big role in this operation. The chalkboard lists about a dozen coffee drinks, and bags of beans are sold at the counter. I started off with a mocha ($3.25). Usually, I take my coffee straight and black. But this cup kept its authentic coffee flavors, while smoothly mixing in steamed milk (organic, of course), cocoa and cinnamon. My son had an iced tea, brewed on the spot with some Earl Grey leaves, one of the many varieties of tea that Charmington's carries. (I am a serious coffee drinker, yet our sons detest coffee and prefer teas. Maybe I should check their DNA to make sure they are really our offspring.)
My cup of roasted squash soup ($3.50) took a while to appear, but once it did, its smooth, full flavors were satisfying.
The turkey powerhouse sandwich ($7.95) that my son ordered was large and packed with fresh vegetables. In it were chunks of tomatoes, red onion, alfalfa sprouts, Muenster cheese and hummus, as well as slices of oven-roasted turkey on sunflower flax bread. Some spinach was in there, too. If that sounds like a mouthful, it was. The combination of good bread and juicy ingredients made this sandwich a success.
The veggie wrap ($5.95) was a spinach-flavored wrap stuffed with, among other items, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, red onion, feta cheese and a terrific tapenade. It was my favorite.
The sandwiches came with serving of kettle potato chips from Utz. Cooked in peanut oil, these chips were good. But I prefer the Grandma Utz, a chip cooked in lard. I think if you mentioned "lard" in Charmington's, you might be asked to leave. But maybe not. There is a friendly — if very green — feel to this cafe.
On a brisk winter's day, it is a pleasing place to warm up and fill up.
Where: 2601 N. Howard St.
Contact: 410-235-5004, facebook.com/charmingtons
Hours: 6 a.m.-9p.m. Monday-Thursday; 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Sandwiches and soup: $3.50-$8.95
Credit cards: Discover, Master Card, Visa
[Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or uneven: ✭✭ Poor: ✭]