Stone Mill cafe a nice place for soups, sandwiches

Baked goods help round out this cozy, simple eatery

Eats: dining review, Table Talk

October 09, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Stone Mill Bakery Cafe, in a trendy Roland Park shopping strip, is part of the Stone Mill mini-empire, which also includes a cafe in Green Spring Station and a bakery that provides wholesale bread to about 300 clients in the Baltimore-Washington area.

At one time, there were cafes in Pikesville and the Inner Harbor, but now there are just the two. The Green Spring cafe is about 11 years old, and Roland Park has been open about eight, said Alfie Himmelrich, who took over the business about four years ago, after his brother moved to Florida.

In June, Himmelrich once again took control of the Roland Park cafe, after subcontracting its management for the previous two years. He also spiffed the place up a bit, adding new tables and chairs, new floors and a new counter.

As before, the small space is divided into two rooms. The first is dominated by a counter, where customers order salads, muffins and sandwiches. Shelves hold plastic tubs of soups and granola for sale, and bins are filled with loaves of bread. The second room is a dining area with funky posters on the walls, stylish metal-topped tables and a corner loaded with newspapers, magazines and toys. There's even a train table set up so kids can play while grown-ups linger over coffee and listen to Norah Jones or mellow reggae on the sound system.

Customers order at the counter, then wait in the dining area as food is brought to them.

The cafes, of course, sell Stone Mill breads and baked goods. Customers can choose from more than a dozen breads for their sandwiches, including a tangy, chewy sourdough, a marble rye, a carrot bread and a bread studded with sun-dried tomatoes.

Though Dr. Atkins wouldn't have approved of all the carbs, the emphasis at Stone Mill is definitely on healthful eating. Sandwiches are piled with vegetables, and sauces tend to be vinegar-based instead of creamy.

The chicken-salad sandwich, for example, features morsels of white meat dressed with a balsamic vinegar, then mixed with capers and apples. A club sandwich layers sprouts and red peppers with thick slices of turkey and provolone cheese, then gives the whole thing a much-needed zing with a thin smear of garlic aioli. Like many sandwiches, it comes with a small dish of cucumber salad that achieves an admirable balance between tart and sweet.

The only sandwich I didn't love was the apples with melted brie. The cheese, topped with honey and almonds, turned somewhat oily when heated, and the slices of tart Granny Smith apple oozed juice into the baguette. The combination just didn't work for me.

Every day, a no-fat veggie soup is served, as well as a soup of the day. Soups for sale include split pea, gazpacho and wild rice with turkey. I had the gazpacho and found it to be fresh and almost sweet, with plenty of vegetable chunks.

As in most cafes, any focus on calorie-cutting is thrown out the window when it comes to pastries. At Stone Mill, a large display case is filled with oversized muffins, cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods. I had a blueberry muffin, which was basically a very sweet, blueberry-studded, sugar-topped cake, and a granola square made with dates and honey that was also very sweet.

Though my food arrived quickly, the young man ringing up my order seemed lost in the clouds. I would have liked a little more information on my bread and veggie options, but he wasn't really paying attention.

Maybe the mellow music had made him lose focus, or maybe it was simply that Stone Mill isn't a complicated place. It's simply a nice neighborhood cafe with fresh soups, good sandwiches, yummy pastries and a train table.

Stone Mill Bakery

Where: 5127 Roland Ave.

Call: 410-532-8669

Open: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sunday

Credit cards: MC, V

Prices: Salads and soups, $5.25-$7.25; sandwiches $5.95-$7.95

Food: ***

Service: **

Atmosphere: ***

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

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