The food at Werner's is good -- wholesome, tasty and without pretense. But it is the atmosphere that gives Werner's its real flavor.
This combination coffee shop-diner-tearoom, tucked among the financial institutions of East Redwood Street, is a throwback to simpler times.
It won't take you long to recognize that. You seat yourself at Werner's. There's a counter with stools on one side, a row of wooden booths along the other, another row of smaller booths down the middle.
The menus are encased in plastic folders with hand-written specials under the front cover. The sugar comes in a glass shaker instead of a paper pouch and the jelly is served in white pleated cups without a foil top to fight.
Built into the rear wall is a stainless steel faucet and drain for filling water glasses -- the kind of thing you might have seen on
TC train a few decades ago -- and behind the counter is one of those stainless steel dispensers that puts a froth on the milk.
If it's Baltimore before the renaissance you want, Werner's is a good place to get it. Opened in 1950, Werner's serves breakfast and lunch and seems to cater, at least at lunch, to businessmen. At breakfast, the clientele seemed more diverse -- a few students from the nearby culinary college, a retiree or two and some late-starters.
Like the surroundings, the breakfast menu is simple: griddle cakes; seven omelets; eggs fried, scrambled or poached; bacon, ham or sausage; toast; English muffins, and donuts.
I ordered the pancake special: two hotcakes, two strips of bacon and coffee, $3.30. The pancakes were large and unusually fluffy; the bacon, crisp and good.
My husband had a cheese omelet ($4.95), served with toast and home fries plus a side order of bacon ($1.35). The omelet was large, nicely browned and rich without being greasy. The home fries, unfortunately, were dry and almost too peppery to eat.
The coffee, as you would expect, was strong and good. I wish it had not been served in plastic.
The lunch menu is more diverse.
There are "homemade" soups, sandwich and salad platters and at least two daily specials; among them are pot pie ($5.50), chicken Marsala ($5.75), broiled flounder ($5.50) and meat loaf with tomato sauce ($5.75). The sandwich selection includes egg and olive ($3.25), cream cheese and jelly ($2.40) and nine varieties of the club ($4.75 to $5.25).
I chose tomato soup ($1.60) and the No. 3 club -- tuna fish, sliced tomatoes, sliced hard boiled egg and lettuce ($4.95), served with potato chips. The sliced egg turned out to be egg salad layered thinly over a good tuna salad to produce a creamy combo. This was a club worth joining.
The soup was good -- thicker than canned with tiny bits of tomato to make the texture interesting.
My husband opted for a white meat turkey sandwich ($4.20 with tomato) and side orders of potato and egg salad ($1 and $2.50, respectively). The turkey, "prepared daily" according to a note on the menu, was indeed fresh and delicious, though my husband thought the sandwich a little small for the price. By itself, the egg salad was dry; the potato salad was a bit bland.
We passed up desserts, although I was tempted by a fluffy-looking slice of lemon meringue pie served at the next table. The waitress said the desserts are no longer made in-house.
During both visits, we had friendly, efficient service. This was true even during the busy lunch hour.
Although Werner's has kept much of its 1950s flavor, it has given into convenience in one area: All the food was served on or in paper or plastic, even the soup. This is OK at delis and carryouts, but restaurants with as much old-fashioned charm as Werner's ought to stick to china.
Our bills totaled $27 for two breakfasts and two lunches, including four beverages -- and a lot of old-time flavor.
231 E. Redwood St.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: None accepted.
Handicapped access: Limited access.
Smoking: No separate areas designated