Baltimore, authentic town that it is, has a good local food scene. Sunny and I were marching down Charles St. looking for food when we saw a big wooden sign with an arrow on it pointing to Jack & Zach’s. It’s situated in a room with Americana-style knickknacks on the wall, like an American flag, a guitar, and sketches. My favorite sketch was of a guy squatting on the beach across from a pelican while (unknowingly?) growing a big feathered white bump on his back. There’s Appalachian music on the radio. You sit at the homey counter to eat, and people will be happy to make conversation with you. It’s open for breakfast and lunch.
Jack and Zach are recent college graduates. They started their business by selling veggie burgers and other vegetarian offerings at farmer’s markets. They wholesale veggie burgers to local restaurants. They opened their own restaurant on October 18, 2011. They cook and make everything themselves except bacon and bread. They were happy about being interviewed, and they say blogs and Yelp are good for their business.
First I ordered a cucumber water, which was green and dressed up and served with a striped straw like an alcoholic drink, except the straw was made of some kind of paper. The only other time I had cucumber water it was with lemon and clear-colored. This cucumber water was more flavorful, though. I was tempted to take a picture of it, but taking pictures of my food during a civil meal to later post on the Internet is too much for me.
They make their veggie burgers with sweet potato, onion, and broccoli. It doesn’t come in a whipped and congealed form: you can see the components of each vegetable you’re eating, which I think is a reassuring quality in food. You can order one with curry or black beans. We got (very) sharp cheddar on top, and it came with a side of pink pickled onions. You can put homemade mustard on it, but the mustard is so spicy it will cancel out the rest of the flavor. The side chips are very flat and flaky, with a satisfying amount of grease. Being natural, the food tastes good but some of it has a more subtle flavor than diner food. You have to pay attention.
Also available is homemade oatmeal, and sausage. The sausage comes in artisanal flavors like red wine fennel and Baltimore (Old Bay and Natty Boh I am not a native so I had to look it up.) Maybe the most interesting dish was the ice cream. They have chocolate and vanilla. It has a grainy and flaky texture. I really liked it.
Jack and Zach’s business does not feel like it has an agenda (some local food enthusiasts make waves as counterculture heroes when they take it upon themselves to be the world’s premier purveyors of, say, organic mayonnaise. See New York Magazine for details.) Local food is unarguably better for the environment and small business alike. I appreciate the streamlining of corporate food and the ethics of local ones. But it’s a great thing when you can go into a cool-looking restaurant, eat a good meal with good ethics, and not have either image pushed on you.
My Rating: 9
Chefs: Jack Neill and Zach Schoettler
Recommended Dish: Curry Veggie Burger
Atmosphere: Casual, breakfast and lunch
Price Range: $5-$15 per person
Clientele: Local food enthusiasts, vegetarians, young people.
333 North Charles Street, Pleasant St. Entrance
Baltimore, MD 21201
Here’s a well-written review from Baltimore City Paper.