This is one cool cafe. At the new Showroom Cafe & Bar, the vibe is hip, and so are the customers. A big sign on the wall says it all: “Fun.”
Part of the restaurant’s allure comes from its location: on the first floor of the Motor House, an artist incubator space that includes a studio, gallery and performance venue.
We stepped into the low-lit industrial space on a recent evening, not sure what to expect. It was happy hour, and most people were sipping wine, beer and cocktails.
A bartender gave us the lowdown after handing us paper menus: You order at the bar and the food is brought to your table. We found a seat in the busy room, enjoying the thrum of a cheerful clientele while waiting for our meal.
Showroom, aptly named for the automobile showroom that once occupied the Motor House space, is open for breakfast (think yogurt bowls and egg sandwiches), lunch (pressed sandwiches and salads) and dinner (nibbles and more).
The menu is in flux, said executive chef Daniel Horwitz, who runs the food service in partnership with his Pantry Catering. He’s planning to focus more on snacks like deviled eggs, a cheese dip and stuffed dates in the evening.
“We’re still trying to figure out what the public wants and needs,” said Horwitz, a classically trained chef. “It’s a dynamic growth process.”
Whatever time of day you go, we think you’ll like the camaraderie and menu choices.
SCENE & DECOR: The minimalist room with a high ceiling houses tables and a spacious bar. Wood details, pendant lights and succulent plants in vases add warmth to the angular space. If you have a beret, this is the place to wear it.
APPETIZERS: The Mediterranean duo ($7) was an intriguing, shareable plate that featured a pillow of lemon-garlic hummus with a cap of piquant tomato tapenade. It was served with pita triangles for scooping up one or both of the dips. The house-smoked salmon spread ($7) was a chunky pleaser with a bite of horseradish and a crown of pickled onions. Baguette crisps and cucumber slices were good bases for the fish mix.
ENTREES: The restaurant’s signature dish is a bolsita, a play on tacos in a bag, though the kitchen serves the braised meats and vegetables in a bowl for easy eating. We were happy with a bolsita original ($9), a densely flavored red chili with Doritos, mashed avocado and Mexican toppings like salsa verde. We’re not sure how the mix-up happened, but we ordered a grilled eggplant sandwich and ended up with a lemon-herb chicken sandwich. But our wrong order turned out to be all right with us. Tender chicken and bacon were stuffed into a croissant with tomato and avocado for a captivating hot sandwich.
DRINKS: Cocktails ($11) are available after 4 p.m. and are designated by numbers. For instance, a No. 5 is described as being made with gin, sweet vermouth, lemon, honey and bitters with the note: “Tart and herbaceous; raise your spirits and glasses with this one.” A half-dozen wines ($9) and draft beers ($7) are also offered. Happy hour prices run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Coffee, espresso drinks and organic teas are available, too.
SERVICE: You place your order at the counter, and the food is delivered to your table. On our visit, an affable bartender was tending to drinks and food, and doing a great job.
DESSERT: The fresh-baked cookies were gone by the time we were ready for dessert. But we were satisfied with a house-made almond frangipane bar ($3), which was big enough to split between two people.
Showroom Cafe & Bar
Backstory: The restaurant opened in October as part of Motor House, an artist incubator space, in Station North. Daniel Horwitz serves as executive chef.
Signature dish: The bolsitas (tacos in a bowl)
Where: 120 W. North Ave., first floor of Motor House, Station North
Contact: 410-862-0930, showroombmore.com
Open: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday
Credit Cards: All major
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Bottom line: Baltimore’s newest arts cafe is a fun place to hang out, drink and eat, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.