One of the pleasures of going to those great big mega-bookstores in the mall is sitting in the cafe with a book or a magazine and taking your time over a double skinny latte or green tea or
whatever the drink of the moment is.
The Enoch Pratt Free Library has torn a page from the mega-bookstores’ business plan and partnered with a popular downtown deli to open a full-service cafe at the Southeast Anchor Library in Highlandtown.
David and Dad’s is the popular downtown deli. It’s family-owned and specializes in serving freshly made baked goods, sandwiches, salads and wraps to the downtown office and courthouse crowd.
David and Dad’s opened the Pratt Cafe in October at the Southeast Anchor Library. The cafe is compact and inviting, and it serves good, healthy fare.
Well, except for the potato chips, but if you don’t want chips you can have a banana. Up to you.
The coffee is good, but the specialty drinks are great, and far cheaper than the multinational corporate venti lattes down Canton. A large mocha, very chocolaty and with a double shot of espresso, will cost you $3.85 and keep you running all morning. There’s also cappuccino, latte, chai and fancy tea, and you can get any of them iced during the summer.
The smoothies are divine. Try the pina colada one. Very coconutty, pineappley and good. No rum, alas, but you can always get one to go. The strawberry banana ones are also delicious. Everything that goes into the smoothies is fresh.
And—as long as you have a lid on the drink, you can take it into the library. Sandwiches and salads are a no but drinks with lids are OK. So you can relax at a table or an armchair with a good book and a drink.
On to lunch: the salads are fresh and crisp, the sandwiches and wraps are delicious, and the prices are right. The most expensive sandwich is the shrimp salad for $9.50, and it’s worth the splurge—large fat shrimp steamed just right and tossed with mayo and plenty of Old Bay, piled high on white, wheat or rye.
My favorite sandwich, though, is the chicken salad on marble rye ($5.95). The chicken salad is moist and well seasoned, the leaf of romaine lettuce is crisp and bright green, and it makes a very tasty and filling sandwich.
Or you can get roast turkey—real roast turkey, not the cold-cut loaf—with swiss or cheddar on different types of bread. It’s also available as a wrap. There’s also roast beef, and ham, and all of it is the real stuff, not a cold cut.
Liz, the greeter, barista, server, manager, cashier and business strategist of the little cafe, says the soup tureen is coming in soon in time for the cold weather.
The Pratt Cafe has its own entrance, right at the corner of the building by the main steps. It’s open 8:30-3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and open during some evening programs.
We had a chicken salad, a veggie wrap with hummus, a smoothie and a latte for lunch. The tab came to $20.62 including tax.
Notes: South Baltimore mourned first the loss of Vince Rallo, the longtime proprietor of Rallo’s, the little corner diner at Fort and Lawrence, and then they mourned the closing of the cafe itself. The mourning period is over for the cafe at least—it’s reopened as Big Matty’s Diner.
Matt Gurczynski was a daily customer at Rallo’s, and he and his wife, Laura, went in, did a little sprucing up, and reopened last week. The whole staff stayed on. “We did it to honor Mr. Rallo and so people don’t lose their jobs,” said Laura. Big Matty’s is open daily, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. The phone number’s the same: 410-727-7067.
by Jacqueline Watts