With a casual upscale formula that has proved a hit in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, the only wonder about the American Cafe is why it didn't come to Towson any sooner than last weekend.
The American Cafe's croissant-and-a-smile approach to food and service is something that should go over well among youngish professionals who don't have all that many late-night choices in the county seat. Although the restaurant and market sections of American Cafe quiet down before midnight, the bar promises to pull a crowd of its own.
Towsonites will do double-takes as they walk into this place, because it has been so thoroughly renovated -- some would say rehabilitated -- since its previous incarnation as that nemesis of the liquor board, Schaefer's Pub. Actually, this bar site already had a pre-Schaefer's reputation for catering to a young drinking crowd. By contrast, the AmCaf demographic is a bit older than the ripped-jean patrons of yesteryear.
Virtually the only architectural holdover from the Schaefer's era is the brick wall with arched window that divides the interior in half. The changes include a new brick front with large, inviting windows along W. Pennsylvania Avenue; a new wood and Formica bar and wooden floor, track lighting and such distinctive AmCaf touches as bright neon stars.
Although AmCaf is more restaurant than bar -- the dining room seats 90, while the bar side holds 65 people -- this particular bar is large enough and has enough identity of its own to appeal to late-nighters.
A more specific lure is the late-night happy hour running from 10 p.m. until close, which includes such specials as $1 for domestic draft beer and $1 for house wines. Because AmCaf has a reliable, not too heavy on the stomach menu, you may find yourself wishing the kitchen stayed open a mite later than 10 p.m. weeknights and 11 p.m. weekends.
The American Cafe
Where: 2 W. Pennsylvania Avenue, Towson.
Hours: 11 a.m.- 1 a.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m.- 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.- 12:30 a.m. Sundays.
Menu: Soups, sandwiches, salads, light entrees, appetizers.
Credit cards: All major cards accepted.