Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 26, 2024

CharMar’s newest Bun Shop experience doesn’t disappoint!

By MINGYUAN SONG | February 6, 2024

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I love going back to The Bun Shop for its unique environment and late hours. 

Through the years, CharMar has gone through multiple evolutions of vendors. When I came in as a freshman in 2021, it was the fan-favorite Crepe Studio with the “Nutty Blue Jay” and Daniel the Crepe Guy. A year later, a sandwich station moved in, and I frequented for their chipotle ham sandwiches with apple slices, which were both filling and cheap. Now that I am no longer on a meal plan, I haven’t gone back to CharMar, and I didn’t catch news of The Bun Shop addition until I saw a friend with their classic “Granny Turnover” on campus. Of course, I had to review it, but first, I needed to return to their original spot. 

I arrived at their Mount Vernon cafe (conveniently within the Blue Jay Shuttle range) at 7 p.m. That’s usually when most cafes close, but The Bun Shop is an exception. Their whole business model is that they are open until 3 a.m., reopening the next morning at 8 a.m. It’s perfect for the night owls who need their evening fix of caffeine. I, however, do not belong in that niche, so I opted for a hot cocoa with oat milk and a ham and gruyère. Service was fast, and I chose a table near the counter to wait for my friend to arrive.

The ham and gruyère was amazing. Its buttered and delicate crust gives a similar consistency to a toasted croissant, which is a personal favorite. The savory ham complimented the gruyère cheese perfectly and pleasantly overwhelmed the taste. My only complaint with the pastry is that it’s not nearly filling enough to be dinner on its own, but perhaps it was my mistake to assume that in the first place. 

COURTESY OF MINGYUAN SONG

The hot cocoa, however, was a complete disaster. First, the presentation was not ideal; there were no dine-in options at The Bun Shop, so everything was served to you in paper cups, as you would expect at Brody Cafe. The hot cocoa itself was disappointing, too. It was obviously blended with oat milk from a preordered mix and intentionally watered down so it tasted bland. The only saving grace was that it was at least steaming hot, which is quite comforting on a winter night. 

Before I left for the night, I ordered their signature dessert, the “Granny Turnover,” to satiate my hunger. The presentation, again, was great — merely wrapped in parchment paper. That didn’t take away from the taste, though. The sugar-covered crust was toasted just right so that the brown sugar melted into the buttery dough, and the apple filling was a perfect blend of sour and sweet. Combined, those two pastries (plus the hot cocoa for $15 total) were enough for me for the night. 

What kept drawing me back to The Bun Shop wasn’t the pastry but its environment. Well, to be fair, I eat to live, so very few food items can truly “wow” me. While the food is decent, The Bun Shop’s dark academia vibe is unique to the other cafes out there. Most cafes adopt a bright and green-dominated style, sometimes accompanied by books and display plants — Bird in Hand and Good Neighbor come to mind. While I enjoy going to those two coffee shops, they get a bit old. The Bun Shop feels refreshing with low-lit lamps, long metal tables and few green decors. It at least made me hyper-focused on my work. 

With a standard in mind, I went to the CharMar version of The Bun Shop the next day. The first thing that popped into my vision was an ordering machine, which conveniently listed out all the available items with a small picture next to each. This wasn’t available at the cafe, and I had to look at the display of pastries to decide my pick. The glass display also exists at CharMar. I decided to go with just the Granny Turnover and refused to waste money on another hot cocoa. 

COURTESY OF MINGYUAN SONG

The service was again quick (I suspect that they just toast the premade pastries from the cafe in a toaster oven). The same parchment paper delivery felt cheap, but the pastry itself did not disappoint. The apples tasted fresh and the croissant-textured crust was soft and meshed well with the syrupy sweetness. It was filling as an afternoon treat and gave me enough energy to power through classes for the rest of the day. 

I would certainly return to The Bun Shop for a change of environment and to feel productive for a few hours. While I don’t exactly crave the pastries, the menu is diverse enough that I can explore something new on most visits. To me, the study space is the main draw. However, if you are looking for a quick fix of sweet pastries or have dining dollars to burn, the CharMar stop will give you a satisfying answer. I just hope that they serve better drinks.


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