Does Roland Park really need another hip/casual coffee shop, with funky reggae music, local art for sale on the walls and twentysomething customers clicking away on laptops? In the case of the Evergreen, which opened in October, the answer is yes.
Although the Evergreen has plenty of competition in the baked goods department from Big Sky Bread, a bakery and sandwich shop a few doors down, and Sam's Bagels and More across the street, it has found a following of its own. Seems people can never get enough of good coffee, freshly baked goods and tasty light meals, all in a spacious, sunny space.
The location has a long coffee-shop history. It was the Daily Grind and then Urban Grounds before its current incarnation. Owners Glen Breining and Mike Sproge spiffed up the place and revamped the menu.
The place is charming and bright, with a stone floor, high tin ceilings and wooden tables. There are booths along one side, as well as a couple of comfortable couches. Wireless Internet access means patrons can stay all day, sipping coffee and nibbling hummus platters as they clack away.
Customers order at the counter, and the food is brought to them. Service is quick.
The menu, written on a chalkboard behind the counter, hews to salads, sandwiches and soups, with specials offered regularly, including a very yummy spinach pie called torta rustica. Coffee is available in many varieties, from lattes to mochas, though oddly no iced coffee drinks are on the menu. (No problem, though. The genial man behind the counter whipped up a respectable and completely non-watery iced coffee in no time flat.)
The soup offerings change daily, and most of the sandwiches and entrees are on the light side. A grilled Reuben made with turkey instead of the traditional corned beef had plenty of tasty sauerkraut and wasn't the least bit greasy. The only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that there was so much sliced turkey in the sandwich that the middle was cold. Another sandwich that managed to avoid the greasiness of so many grilled sandwiches was a caprisi panini filled with pesto, tomato and mozzarella cheese.
A Cobb salad had bits of tender turkey, chopped bacon, egg and blue cheese but was less than fantastic because most of the lettuce was iceberg instead of darker, more flavorful varieties. A salad served as a side with the torta rustica was much better -- a mix of dark baby greens in a light vinaigrette. The torta itself was delicious -- a flaky crust overloaded with a creamy spinach mixture flecked with roasted red pepper. It was rich without being overly heavy.
Most of the baked goods at the Evergreen are made on the premises, and the selection changes. A linzer torte, not made in house, wasn't made with almonds but was delicious anyway. It was basically a crumbly shortbread cookie covered in a thin layer of raspberry jam, with a lattice of pastry on top. It was enormous, about the size of a dessert plate. A blueberry scone was probably made with whole wheat flour, as it was denser and less sweet than similar offerings elsewhere.
But the real treat was the straight-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies served warm on a recent afternoon. They were buttery and sweet, but not too sweet, and like other items at the Evergreen, a little lighter and a little better than expected.
Sproge said he lives in Roland Park and likes that the Evergreen is becoming a neighborhood hangout. Seems there's always room for one more coffee house, as long as the food is good and the environment is welcoming.
Where: 501 W. Cold Spring Lane, Roland Park
Open: Daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Credit cards: MC, V
Prices: Sandwiches, $5.95 to $6.95; salads and other entrees $5.95-$7.25