For a change of pace, try dining ‘On the Hill’

By RENEE SCAVONE | November 9, 2017


COURTESY OF RENEE SCAVONE Located near the cafe, this little park is the perfect place to eat lunch.

While daylight saving time may have granted us an extra hour in our sleep schedules, there’s little to be done about the dwindling number of daylight hours here in Baltimore.

The same goes for the dropping temperatures. One of my favorite ways of dealing with this seasonal change is flat out ignoring it and pretending that the balmy days of September are more than just a distant memory.

In my opinion, the best way to wrap yourself inside a warm blanket of denial is to keep doing the things that you would do in a different situation. For me lately, that’s meant going to some of the cafés I’ve frequented during my two summers here in Baltimore and spending as much time outside in the sun as possible.

These two schemes collide in the perfection that is On the Hill Cafe. During the summer I often ventured to this tiny spot in Bolton Hill after a stressful week to grab a sandwich and find my zen.

Since it’s located just north of Station North, I jogged through Mount Vernon to get there from Peabody, on what was a mostly picturesque route up N. Charles Street and past the University of Baltimore.

And no, it’s not too chilly yet; I can still make the run with leggings on. If you’re going to delude yourself, you have to commit.

If you’re not willing to go that extra (literal) mile, the quickest way to get there is to take the JHMI to Penn Station and then head west down Mount Royal.

However, once you arrive at On the Hill, you’ll be glad you made the trip. The place is no-frills, with a menu up on a chalkboard behind the counter and walls full of posters advertising local events. If I were to compare it to cafés at Hopkins, it would be a solid Alkimia: hip-looking workers, quick service, not a ton of seating.

Even if you have to wrestle for a chair, the food is more than worth it. The Laurens, their tuna melt, is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Plus, that same opinion has been expressed by many a friend I’ve taken there.

They also offer tamale cakes, which are quite good, in addition to the numerous baked goods that they offer (which are, admittedly, hit-or-miss).

I also need to give a shout out to their Neapolitan, my go-to order for when I’ve had a particularly rough day. A combination of coffee, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors, it may be the delicious drink that finally tips the scales and sends me into a sugar-induced coma.

Though the Neapolitan is good, I view it as being a little overpriced, but it is under $5. So if you’re from literally any major city, you’ll probably be okay.

If you’re the type to care about ethics, you can rest assured knowing that a lot of the food at On the Hill is farm-to-table.

They also get their electricity from wind turbines, and they almost always compost. If you’re the type to revel in the hedonistic lifestyle of the new millennium, just know that the rest of their menu is great too.

One of their two major downfalls is the fact that On the Hill is, as I’ve mentioned, incredibly tiny. I only go at the weirdest of times (3 p.m. dinner anyone?), but I imagine that if you eat food at normal times, your chances of finding a seat are slim.

The other downfall is that their sandwiches no longer come with chips, an assault on both my taste buds and my wallet.

While the latter issue may not be resolved any time soon, the former has a quick solution. Simply head south from On the Hill’s location on John Street. Within minutes you’ll arrive at a small green space, literally: A part of the street that’s been sectioned off and transformed into a garden, with bench seating and a cute fountain.

In the summertime, this adorable enclave was the perfect place to sit in the sun and enjoy the artfully planted flowers. In the autumn, it’s nice to look at the changing trees. Either way, the homeowners that line either side of the mini-park have a lot of dogs, and that’s an obvious plus.

While we may have had the last warm spell of the year, there are certain places that can keep the carefree, happy feeling of the start of the semester alive. For me, On the Hill is that place, and its good food and cozy atmosphere is sure to bring a smile to your face too.

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