Boheme Cafe, Baltimore
Baltimore is a Bohemian place, still. Quirky and inviting. So it is fitting that in the heart of the Inner Harbor you can find a gem like Boheme Cafe. It is the only independent morning espresso and lunch spots for folks who work around Baltimores' Inner Harbor. When you walk into this small, urban cafe you are met with warmth, fresh coffee brewing, and an artsy flair of the charming, chalk menu. Their staff and the woman who owns Boheme always makes you feel welcome. Every element of their menu is quality: grab-n-go with flavor, homemade soups with pizzazz, and espresso and coffee beans from Counter Culture Coffee. Boheme highly values that Counter Culture reaches out to farmers and steps into their coffee fields to help them grow better coffee beans, transport more efficiently … and they do it sustainably. The farmers are grateful to know each cup is outstanding. So, every cup of coffee tastes great, and the essence behind that is people who are driven to serve the very best!
Owner Martha Lucias answers our questions about Boheme Cafe:
Q: How long have you been open?
For three years, as Boheme Cafe. We were a bagel shop before that! I am proud of the menu we serve now!
Q: What made you want to open a coffeehouse? What was your inspiration?
I love the community that is created by a daily coffee. A good cup is my promise to my customers, and our friendship will naturally follow!
I grew up in Africa and Asia (Tanzania, Thailand, Nigeria, and India). Imagine great street food and a helluva good cup of coffee. We knew one lovely coffee farmer on the slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In those days his market was Europe, where they appreciated a good quality cup! When I first arrived in the US, Americans really didn’t know what a good cup was. It has been Counter Culture Coffee that helped to meet my requirement for sustainable farming that MUST happen everywhere in the world. My customers now know the difference. Now they feel like I do, "I just didn’t want coffee if it wasn’t Counter Cultures’ Coffee."
Q: What did you do before operating this business (career before coffee)?
As a self-taught calligrapher, I made a good living for the 12 years after college. Hand-lettered, illuminated resolutions, handmade books, signage, and GOBS of certificates was how I filled my days. It was a fascinating career because we were at the top of our art form. It was the antithesis of what I do now: quiet, calm, and flexible hours then; busy, interactive always chattering, now.
Q: What kind of establishment is Boheme?
Our menu includes great sandwiches for breakfast and lunch and an outstanding espresso bar with the urban, busy feel of the inner harbor. We make an effort to serve seasonal ingredients on our specials, and have a great relationship with Joan Norman of One Straw Farm to serve locally and seasonally.
Q: Tell us about your customers: what kind of demographic do you cater most to? Are you a destination location or more of a neighborhood establishment? When are your busiest times and why?
Our customers are mostly professionals who are seeking a great meal each and every day. We are a destination for those who want to come to a locally owned and operated establishment—woman-owned to boot! We are the only locally owned and operated establishment in the Inner Harbor. They come because we care: we know their name or the food/espresso/soup they love. We tease, we joke, we laugh together. We are busy from the time we open at 7 a.m. to close at 4 p.m., when we even have to let late-comers in to get their last-minute cappuccino.
Q: Paint us a visual picture of Boheme.
Our space is small, with cheery luminous lighting. Our menu boards have an artsy flair: hand-lettered with lots of deep reds, sienna, and olive greens. We have outside seating only, although people do set their coffee cup on the counter and chat. Our glass-front windows give us a fabulous view of the water, schooners, and clipper ships! Baltimore has charm and character, and we serve every person with a little bit of each.
Q: Tell us about your menu and the quirkiest item on it.
We have a strong following of vegetarians: the Cairo Hummus Sandwich and our Sante Fe Black bean hummus sandwich!
Hmm, our quirkiest item is probably our Ragin’ Cajun, with sausage, egg, peppers, onions, and zesty chipotle spread. Great with a latte! Honestly, food should transport you: Ragin’ Cajun to New Orleans … our Lil’ Italian to Florence, and our espresso drinks always transport you to a piazza in Siena … sometimes to Roma.
Q: We heard you started a "Soup Group" at Boheme Cafe recently. Tell us about it and how it works.
We started the Soup Group in January out of necessity! All morning long we would get calls “what’s your soup today?” Our customers eagerly await our from-scratch soups!!! Made especially for them—not frozen! It warms their hearts as well as their bellies. So we knew we had to broadcast the message. Now a daily email goes out to about 100 people a day, many of them blast it within their offices. Its just one of the ways we treat our customers as friends and family! Examples of some of best-loved: Egyptian Red Lentil, Curried Pumpkin, Chicken Gumbo, and Carrot and Ginger. As the owner I relish each soup, each and every day. My lunch is a latte and a soup!