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Eat Feature

Not Now, I'm on Break

The Daily Grind · Funk's Democratic Coffee Spot · Donna's Coffee Bar · City Café · Java Joe's · One World Café · Strand Cybercafé · Coney Island

Posted 2/25/1998

We've all been there. It's 3 p.m. You're still logy from lunch but at least two hours away from escape. Your mind starts to wander. Your eyes start to narrow. You need help. Sure, there's sludge in the percolator and candy in the vending machine, but that's not gonna make the nut. It's time to slip out, stretch your legs, and get yourself a little something to keep you going until dinner.

The Daily Grind (1726 Thames St., [410] 558-0399) is the epicenter of the city's slacker crowd. But lo and behold, a second Grind recently debuted in genteel Roland Park (501 W. Cold Spring Lane, [410] 235-8188). The bright, airy space is dominated by a kitschy water fountain incorporating a trailer-park lawn globe, a water-spewing gargoyle, and a pair of cherubs. The same melt-your-dental-fillings coffee is available, along with an array of sweet, sticky things and some curiously creative dining options. (Anyone for a Trinidad mango barbecue chicken wrap?) Yes, Roland Park Grinders can still ponder metaphysics and purple poesy over 50-cent refills--only now the more ambitious ones can also get a load of laundry done at the Brite Wash a few doors down. Life is good.

Baltimore's largest--and downright funkiest--coffeehouse, Funk's Democratic Coffee Spot (1818 Eastern Ave., [410] 276-3865) offers three floors of local art, whimsical painted furnishings, and a lending library of board games, not to mention a terrific selection of coffee brews, a veritable cornucopia of teas, and a menu friendly to vegans and vegetarians. Named for a candy store and the political club that each once occupied the building, Funk's provides a truly democratic opportunity for Baltimoreans of all walks to soak in the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.

Donna's Coffee Bars (various locations in Mount Vernon, Charles Village, Towson, Harborplace, and in Bibelot bookstores) were among the earliest presences on the Baltimore coffee-house scene. Despite the proliferation of outlets, founder Donna Crivello has managed to maintain high standards in each of her eponymous establishments, serving innovative food at reasonable prices. All over Baltimore Donna's is a favorite place to rest and refuel with an elegant, decadent dessert and a mean cup of joe.

Sunny, plant-filled City Café (1001 Cathedral St., [410] 539-4252) is a favorite choice for Baltimore's gay community and anyone else who enjoys seriously good coffee. City Café's bright interior, with its trademark checkerboard-tile floor, is decorated with changing displays of local artists' work. It's an all-around great place to enjoy healthy sandwiches, homemade soups, and creative salads--or simply dream away the afternoon over a steaming cup while overlooking Mount Vernon street life through the café's immense windows.

Java Joe's (222 N. Charles St., [410] 727-4007) mainly jumps on weekdays, when it seems all of downtown makes tracks to this small, energetic coffee shop. Decorated with a charming selection of accessories for the appreciation of all things caffeineated, Java Joe's is devoted to serious coffee consumption. Counter service only, but there are plenty of tables for enjoying a supercharged brew in-house--if you can make it past the oh-so-tempting array of fresh pastries and desserts.

The multilevel, multiroomed One World Café (904 S. Charles St., [410] 234-0235) cuts a comfortable middle ground between grungy, laid-back coffee house and yupscale bistro. The pungent coffee will get your gears turning, and the café's liquor license allows you to add something more daring than half-and-half to your brew. (Try the Pavlov's Dog, an eye-opening, saliva-spewing blend of Kahlua, Bailey's, and latte.) The veggie-friendly menu offers salads and a host of tofu dishes (tofu à la king, tofu burgers, tofu darn near anything). You can also forgo coffee and eats entirely, grab a Natty Boh, and have a go at the upstairs pool table.

If the '90s coffee-break ideal means cradling a mug in one hand and a computer mouse in the other, the Strand Cybercafé (105 E. Lombard St., [410] 625-8944) is the cyberplace. A pleasantly calm oasis in the middle of downtown, this café is devoted equally to perusal of the Internet and pursuit of the perfect caffeine buzz. If your World Wide Web wanderings leave you hungry, the Strand offers salads, sandwiches, soups, and baked goods --just point (and click) at the counter.

Of course, caffeine isn't the only cure for the midafternoon blahs. We can't imagine a sweeter pick-me-up than an agonizingly thick, sinfully tasty four-scoop milk shake from Coney Island (Lexington Market, [410] 539-5754). At $2 it's cheaper than a double latte and guaranteed to get you through the rest of the day.

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