Fresh-made soups, muffins served with style

Eats

May 03, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The owners of Smedly's, a stylish new cafe in Fells Point, have all the energy and idealism of the very young. They make the soups, muffins and other food from scratch, man the counter themselves, serve really good coffee and support local artists.

And yet, they are not twentysomethings. They are mature adults who bring a welcome measure of sophistication to the venture.

Owners Helena and Bob Williams, who live in an apartment upstairs, are empty-nesters who moved to Baltimore after their youngest child left for college. Bob is a marketing professor at Villa Julie, who was commuting 90 minutes from Pennsylvania each day. Helena is a former consultant working mostly with people with disabilities.

After Helena spent a summer in Paris studying at the Cordon Bleu, the couple decided to give city living a try, she said. They moved right into the center of the Fells Point action, purchased the building, renovated it and opened their cafe in November.

Smedly's serves a changing roster of fresh-made soups, muffins, cheesecakes and cheery but small entrees, all made by Helena. Three or four soups are always available, along with several vegetarian choices.

The day's offerings are written in colorful chalk on a board and might include a white chili made with ground turkey and chili, cannelloni beans and a bechamel sauce ($6) or a plate of sliced pears with cubes of several flavorful cheeses ($4).

Hot drinks include the illy brand of coffee and espresso, organic tea and a refreshingly citrusy hot apple cider. And then there's sipping chocolate ($4), an insanely rich cup of barely liquid chocolate topped with a dollop of whipped cream. It's sweet and delicious, but so thick and sugary it requires giant gulps of water between sips.

The space, like many in Fells Point, is longer than it is wide. A brick wall on one side carries artwork that's for sale. The opposing wall is a chalkboard on which patrons are encouraged to craft their own art or write messages. The results are photographed periodically and shown on a monitor. Board games, newspapers and wireless Internet service are available to encourage lingering.

Customers order at the counter in the back. To the left of that sits a small room with couches, a coffee table and some toys. This might be nice for parents with young children, but it isn't nearly as sunny and cheerful as the rest of the space. An outdoor patio opens in nice weather.

Portions at Smedly's are small, but each little item is lovingly prepared and often just a bit unusual. One of the soups during a recent visit was a borscht ($4) that was white instead of the usual ruby red, and turned out to be light, sweet and just a little peppery.

A rich quiche of smoked turkey and several cheeses ($4.25) sat atop a particularly fine crust, and a plate of tiny, puffy pita rounds with small tubs of hummus, tapenade and bruschetta was lovely.

As with many coffee shops, baked stuff gets a lot of attention at Smedly's. Muffins ($2) come in slightly off-kilter variations like pineapple or corn and cheddar cheese.

Several cheesecakes are usually offered ($3 for a sliver, $6 for a slice), including ones made with Kahlua and Jack Daniel's. The light-as-air and gently tangy orange swirl cheesecake brought back pleasant memories of ice cream pops.

Another dessert choice might be crisp ladyfingers with a sweet-tart lemon curd topping ($4). Really, no matter what you choose, you can't go wrong.

Smedly's

Where:

600 S. Wolfe St., (corner of Fleet Street), Fells Point

Call:

1410-563-7545

Open:

6 p.m.-10 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Credit cards:

none

Prices:

$2-$7 for everything

Food:

*** ( 3 STAR)

Service:

*** (3 STAR)

Atmosphere:

*** ( 3 STAR)

[Outstanding: **** (4 STAR) Good: **** (3 STAR) Fair or uneven:

** ( 2 STAR) Poor: * (1 STAR)

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