There are plenty of places to order a good cup of coffee, open up a laptop, and get in a few free hours of Wi-Fi. But some of these spots can be distracting or try a little too consciously to be hipster-cool. This is why, when we want to come out of hibernation but still retain the comfort of home, we head to Canéla in Upper Fells Point.
With interior Formstone accents, 10 tables, and counter seating, the cozy neighborhood cafe has a decidedly laidback vibe. There’s global music on the stereo and some of the friendliest people you'll find working the kitchen and register. The woman behind the counter refers to regulars and first-timers alike with a friendly “sweetness” or “darling.”
Of course, the coffee menu at Canéla, which is Spanish for cinnamon, is vast, with drip coffee, espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, red eye, and some standouts, including a delicious dirty chai and Zeke’s nitro cold brew on tap. There’s also a smoothie bar for an alternative pick-me-up and a full bar with three local beers on tap for an afternoon wind-down.
But what really sets Canéla apart is its unexpected food menu. The cafe’s partners, Michele Mavias and KC Catalan, bring their respective Italian and Israeli influences to the table. And the Middle Eastern heritage is especially strong in dishes like the za’atar sandwich with pan-fried eggplant, roasted red peppers, red onions, tomatoes, goat cheese, and a hard-boiled egg on toasted, soft ciabatta. Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar seasoning—oregano, sumac, cumin, and sesame seeds—the sandwich is hearty and flavorful.
If you want to stick with a more traditional American route, there is a delicious breakfast option (optimal after a night out) in the avocado BLT sandwich with thick, crispy bacon and mayo on a toasted asiago bagel, which comes from Towson Hot Bagels just down the street in Canton. Depending on your mood, there’s also a satisfying lox bagel sandwich with thinly sliced salmon and capers or a prosciutto baguette with mozzarella and olive oil.
Word to the wise: Always ask about the specials. You’ll soon find out that Canéla offers a 2-for-1 happy hour or, as on the day we visited, a pot of sweet-potato-and-black-bean chili that Mavais had just put on the stove. And she’ll serve it with a grilled cheese on the side because that’s just the kind of place this is. Though the menu features flavors from around the world, the staff and ambiance make every patron feel right at home.
›› Canéla 1801 E. Lombard St., 443-708-2562. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-4 p.m.