I'm grateful to Billy Himmelrich, owner of the several Stone Mill Bakery cafes in the area, for bringing such good bread and such flaky croissants and such buttery brioches to Baltimore. But I wish he would teach his staff how to make an iced latte.
We had lunch at the recently opened Stone Mill in Roland Park last Sunday. This is a handsome cafe, done in a sort of Shaker chic -- minimalist decor, comfortable ladder-back chairs, the Stone Mill's trademark riveted metal tables as well as a couple of wooden ones, and two high chairs hanging from pegs along the wall.
The food is excellent, but you have to be willing to put up with music that may not be to your taste (Natalie Merchant, for instance) and a charming staff that isn't as well trained as I've found at the other Stone Mills.
For example, that iced latte. I was brought a china cup and saucer filled with coffee and steamed milk and a paper cup of ice. A do-it-yourself iced latte, and if you slop a little onto the table, you can always go get a few extra napkins.
I really threw the staff for a loop by ordering my shrimp salad sandwich on a croissant. (It's not one of the four bread choices.) They wanted to please, but this was a tough one. Feeling a little like Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces," I suggested they charge me for a croissant and a sandwich, and hold the bread. That made everybody happy.
But I have no complaints about the food itself. The shrimp salad featured whole shrimp studded with celery seed; it was great on Stone Mill's big, flaky croissant.
The cafe always has a soup or two. A chilled gazpacho, full of summer flavors, was better than I've had at many a fancier restaurant.
The Stone Mill offers a capon salad -- chicken to you lowbrows -- tossed with bits of green apple, capers and a fine vinaigrette on baby greens. With this you get a crusty, rosemary-scented roll. (And no butter. Not that it really needs it, but still . . .)
The limited menu includes a few other sandwiches, such as "Hilda's cucumber and goat cheese," plus peanut butter and jelly for the kids. Stone Mill actually has more different kinds of bread for sale than it does sandwiches.
This is the place to go for a leisurely breakfast of coffee and toasted baguette with sweet butter and raspberry jam. Or one of the pastries laden with cinnamon and nuts and raisins.
Or have afternoon tea here -- you could order an oversized chocolate chip cookie or an individual lemon tart in a short pastry crust.
At the very least, stop in for a loaf of semolina bread or foccaccia. If you don't have a chocoholic in your family, get a loaf of the chocolate bread. (If you bring it within range of someone who can't resist chocolate, it won't last a day.)
Stone Mill Bakery
Where: 5127 Roland Ave.
Hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Credit cards accepted: No
Features: Sandwiches and pastries
Non-smoking section? Yes
Call: (410) 532-8669
Prices: Around $5