Canteen opens in Station North
Dane Nester is as much an artist as he is cook or restaurateur. As he did with his last venture, Cafe Sage (which still exists but has nothing to do with Nester any longer) Nester brings poetry and a deep sense of experimentation to the newly opened Canteen (1821 N. Charles), which took over the location that used to house Bohemian. Where Bohemian always felt a bit stuffy and cluttered, Canteen is bright, luminous, airy. The window is full of the micro-greens that Nester grows for salads and behind the bar you spy all sorts of coffee apparatus and jars of various herbs and teas–including yerba mate, which they sell both in the (relatively) traditional way, with a filtered straw (though in a glass beaker instead of a gourd), and as club mate, where the super energetic South American herb is carbonated. We are huge mate fans and ordered both forms of the tea and a coffee. (Nester says that Dan Deacon brought them the straws back from a recent trip to South America).
The menu at Canteen is adventurous and yet still somewhat limited. Gerri Mack, who was recently cooking up great pork-belly tacos and ox-tail stew at Bohemian, will be making dinner, while Australian-transplant Christian Best, of the band Smoke Bellow makes lunch (Full disclosure: Smoke Bellow used to share a practice space with this writer). We ordered the duck, pickle, and coconut melt ($6.95), which sounds insane but was absolutely divine. Seriously, the bread was perfectly crisp with thinly-sliced, pastrami-like duck and layers of thin pickle and onion. The flavors were bold, intense, and yet also comforting.
Canteen is the kind of place you could sit and while away the day engrossed in the gorgeous atmosphere, delicious food, and pleasant conversation. As we were about to leave, Best asked if we wanted to try a Szechuan fruit, a crazy little fruit that makes your mouth numb and tingly with a super intense taste. It was the wildest thing I’d ever put in my mouth. Nester grows them himself (he also makes honey) just for experimenting.
And speaking of experimenting, we got a club mate to go because we couldn’t wait to see how it would go with Pikesville. We’ve got to say that every bar in the country ought to throw away your Red Bull crap and get this stuff. But, in the meantime, I think we’ll be hanging out at Canteen quite often, working our way through the still-evolving menu.
Tour Canteen in our photo gallery.