I tried XS restaurant/bar/café for the first time early on a Sunday morning. To be honest, it wasn’t because I’d heard much about it or because I was even particularly interested in going there. It was because the Starbucks down the street had a very long line.
I’d walked by XS countless times but had never ventured inside or even really thought about what they were selling there. The interior featured a lot of glass and dark wood, and the modern, almost harsh design spoke to the interesting dual nature of the place: It is both a coffee shop and a bar.
There were perhaps one or two other people in there besides the cashier and the other staff. The scene was peaceful: Sunday morning light streamed in through the many windows while the cashier and a woman at a table were chatting about the newspaper. Music was maybe playing somewhere faintly.
They had a good deal on a breakfast sandwich and coffee — about the same as Eddie’s if not cheaper, which charges about $5 for the same thing — and the meal was both filling and delicious.
I noticed that there were other floors (there were stairs in the front going up to a second floor, but there was also a third and fourth floor).
It seems that the third and fourth floor are more the property of the bar/club part of XS and aren’t generally open to the café’s daytime patrons. I did not test this, so it is possible that people are in fact allowed up there during the day. XS is affiliated with Turp’s Sports Bar and Jay’s Deli, neighboring businesses on Charles Street.
Their menu includes everything from wraps and sandwiches to sushi and a variety of desserts. I could see some of them behind the counter, and they looked amazing. I’ll probably grab a piece of cake next time I’m in there.
The sushi is not exactly my thing, but they seem to be playing it up a lot, even though they have such a wide range of fare, so it could be good. They serve alcohol too of course. If you are a cocktail person, their cocktails look tasty to try.
Like many restaurants, XS features some cool art on its walls. Its website is confusing, and I do not remember the names of the currently displayed artists, but in the past they have hosted exhibitions for Baltimore artists like Tanya Ziniewicz, Magdalena Sudnik and others. They have DJs and dancing fairly often on the upper floors as well.
Because I went when it wasn’t very crowded there, it was hard to get a feel for who is coming to this place.
I wasn’t too sure myself that the vibe there was exactly what I wanted out of either a coffee shop or a bar. Mainly I did not see myself settling down to study there, since while the décor is dark like The Bun Shop’s, it lacks the coziness of The Bun Shop (although its menu is in my opinion much better).
I really like the concept of a place that pulls off both functions — bar and coffee shop — and they seem to do it pretty well. I will be very curious to see what it’s like at night there if I ever make it over before I graduate.
You can get to XS by taking the JHMI Shuttle or the Charm City Circulator to Penn Station and walking about a block in the direction of the Monument. While I don’t think that I have discovered a new haunt, I will certainly stop in again.