Dining review

Baby's on Fire, a combo record store-cafe, offers harmonious experience

For The Baltimore Sun
A bookstore/cafe is old news. Baby's on Fire serves up records with your coffee.

With the renewed popularity of vinyl records, David Koslowski had a plan. Instead of the standard bookstore/cafe, he would combine his coffee shop with a record store.

His wife, Shirlé Hale-Koslowski, was a willing partner. She has run a personal-chef business, Four Corners Cuisine, for 15 years.

Together, the couple turned a Mount Vernon carriage house into Baby's on Fire, where they showcase Hale-Koslowski's food and bins of vinyl records for sale.

The cafe, which opened in June, is named after a Brian Eno song. "It's one of our favorites," Koslowski said. "It's catchy."

Music has long been in the forefront for this duo, who has played in indie bands — such as Gerty, named after Gertrude Stein — since the '90s. Hale-Koslowski plays bass; Koslowski is a guitarist and lead songwriter. Their current band is Vivid Low Sky, a play on their last name.

The idea of a running record shop was not new to Koslowski, who hung out at his father's Carroll County record shop when he was growing up. When his dad died in 2015, he knew it was time to open his own place.

"I wanted to do something to make me happy," said Koslowski, an art designer by training.

You can count on a variety of vinyl records being played at the cafe, where breakfast and lunch items are served. Customers can enjoy egg frittatas, baked goods, paninis, a mac and cheese of the week, soup of the day and salads. Baristas prepare various espressos.

The room seats 26 and fills quickly. But the friendly patrons are happy to share a table, which happened on our visit.

Koslowski encourages the communal atmosphere.

"It becomes like family," he said. "Everyone is welcome. We're Smalltimore."

Scene & Decor The restored Mount Vernon carriage house is an inviting place, with bright red details and album covers highlighting the white-brick room. Bins of new and used vinyl records for sale are set up in the middle of the space. The bare black tables are close together, so be prepared to share your conversation with others. We liked the camaraderie.

Appetizers Not applicable

Breakfast and lunch: We stopped by Baby's on Fire for a late lunch. The Albini panini ($9) was really delicious. The pressed sandwich was stacked with prosciutto, kale, pesto and mozzarella on country white bread. Another panini, The Bird ($9), was good, too. Turkey, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomato aioli were stuffed between slices of multigrain bread. The sandwiches come with a small bag of chips (including Cape Cod potato chips or sea-salt garden veggie crisps) or fruit (red apples were available on our visit). We also dug into Thai peanut noodles ($4.50), a colorful pasta dish that had just the right amount of nuttiness. The food is served in disposable containers.

Drinks Baristas confidently turn out espresso drinks like Americano, macchiato and cafe au lait. We indulged in a frothy latte ($4 for 12 ounces; $4.50 for 16) with latte art. The decorative swirl was either a tulip or a double heart; either way, we appreciated the extra effort. The cafe uses coffee by Stumptown Coffee Roasters, based in Portland, Ore. Hand-crafted sodas from Boylan, bottles of water and a pitcher of complimentary water are available to also quench your thirst.

Service You order at the counter, and the staff delivers the food to your table. You're likely to find the affable owner Koslowski on the scene.

Dessert An assortment of baked goods made by Hale-Koslowski are available, as well as pastries from Belgium and bagels from New York. The restaurant's offerings aren't necessarily for dessert. You can enjoy them after your meal, as breakfast food or with a beverage. We relished a delectable Jewish apple cake muffin with an apple-butter center ($3.75) and a flavorful apricot-pistachio biscotti ($1).

Baby's on Fire

Backstory: Musicians David Koslowski and his wife, Shirlé Hale-Koslowski, left Baltimore in the late '90s to attend art school and start a personal-chef business, respectively, in North Carolina. They returned to Maryland in 2012 so Koslowski could be closer to his parents. The couple decided to open a record-shop cafe in June, where Koslowski works the front of the house while Hale-Koslowski prepares most of the cafe's food. She also continues to run her personal-chef service, Four Corners Cuisine.

Signature dish: The Bird panini

TVs: No TVs

Where: 1010 Morton St., Mount Vernon

Contact: 443-885-9892, babysonfire.com

Open: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Credit Cards: All major

Reservations: Does not accept reservations

Bottom line: Music, coffee and food pair well together — especially at Baby's on Fire, where vinyl records spin in a friendly surrounding.

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