Coffeehouse gets the food right

Spoons serves up a flavorful chili and yummy desserts

April 30, 2003|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Spoons in Federal Hill has earned well-deserved recognition as one of the city's most appealing coffeehouses. The 3-year-old establishment boasts 20 different kinds of coffees and a comfortable, exposed-brick ambience.

We came, though, to try the food.

Spoons Coffeehouse & Roastery offers a nice selection of soups, salads and sandwiches (as well as omelets, bagels and other breakfast foods in the mornings).

After placing our order, we sat back in comfortable overstuffed chairs, played Trivial Pursuit and listened to Simon and Garfunkel on the sound system. Service was friendly and reasonably prompt.

Judging by the focus on coffee, I would have guessed that food was an afterthought at Spoons, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good everything was.

We started with chili ($3.95), which was thick and flavorful and provided a peppery, sneaky kick. A Middle Eastern salad plate ($7.50) combined delicious black-olive tapenade, garlicky hummus and tabbouleh, all served with greens and slices of grilled focaccia. Everything seemed fresh and carefully prepared.

A first-rate grilled salad Nicoise ($9.95) included good-sized chunks of grilled tuna, grilled green beans and potatoes, along with a lemon-herb vinaigrette. For sandwiches, we tried the vegetarian wrap ($6.50), a spicy tortilla rolled around roasted eggplant, red pepper and sprouts, among other things.

A BLT ($5.50) combined smoky bacon and good mayonnaise on nice, thick pieces of toast. And the Capri panini ($7.50) included sliced chicken breast pieces, fresh mozzarella and pesto sauce on focaccia. Another winner.

Spoons offers an enticing variety of desserts, some made in-house, including gelato. We tried the apple turnover ($2.15), which was flaky and drizzled in icing. The peanut-butter sin ($2.40) featured a thin layer of chocolate frosting on top of a grainy - and yummy - slab of sweetened peanut butter.

Parking in Federal Hill remains a chore.

Spoons

Food: *** 1/2

Service: *** 1/2

Waiting area: ****

Parking: * 1/2

Where: 24 E. Cross St., Federal Hill

Phone: 410-539-6751

Hours: 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday (Kitchen closes at 7 p.m. daily.)

Prices: Soups and salads from $3.95 to $9.95; quiches, wraps and sandwiches from $4.25 to $7.95; credit cards accepted

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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