Monday, April 25, 2011

Beans in the Belfry

     All independent cafés have a style all their own and I am a great fan and frequenter of many in the area, but Beans in the Belfry in downtown Brunswick, MD is altogether a unique creature upon the earth, not to mention Brunswick.  Set in a former church, the interior of the café is defined by a large open area filled with eclectic vintage furniture.  Instead of regular tables and chairs right up front, there are these three little areas set up like a living room or parlor, with couches and arm chairs centered around little coffee tables.  None of the couches and chairs match at all, but they all carry an older aesthetic value and just feel like they go well with each other.  Think of an elegant Victorian sitting room thrown in with rustic chic decor.

     Behind the little parlor areas are what pass for "regular" tables and chairs in this place, but even they are persistent misfits.  One of the tables is painted with a chess board on top, another table with fading green paint looks to have been pulled out of a nineteenth-century farmhouse kitchen, while another looks like it might have been a formal dining-room table.  Two old wooden pews from when this place was a working church serve as benches for two of the longer tables.

     The walls are dominated by pretty stained-glass windows that change color as the sun moves from one side of the building to the other throughout the day.  Between the windows are prints and other photos that are as eclectic as the furniture, and just as appropriate and interesting.  I see images of old-time Europe and Brunswick alike.

     I like coming in here for my lunch break on the days when I substitute teach at the local middle school and high school because if I've forgotten to bring a book, I can borrow one off the shelf here.  And if I've forgotten to bring a lunch, it's the best place in town to grab a hot delicious sandwich.
     The drinks, of course, are amazing,  Unfortunately for my poor readers, I have never gotten into coffee, so you'll have to stop by and figure that one out for yourselves, but if it's anything like their chai or hot cocoa, you won't be disappointed.  I love that they serve the chai in these enormous mugs and steam the milk to a point where it is all frothy on top.  Whenever I order chai from other places I specify that I want a touch of vanilla added, but here it comes as part of their normal mix.
     The shop is also heavy on the arts and several groups meet there to practice and perform.  As I'm writing this article this very moment, I'm also listening to an Appalachian folk music band that just started playing live over in the children's play area.  While we were sitting here, we were visited by my friend, Ty Unglebower, who told us about a time he and some friends preformed a reading of a play back in the same area where the bands play.
     The Belfry (as I like to affectionately call it) is amazing enough all by itself to serve as an excuse for driving to Brunswick, but if you find yourself there on a nice day, you might also want to take a relaxing walk along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, which runs almost right behind the coffee shop.  Personally, I think it's especially scenic in the Spring and Fall.  If you'd like to pick up a little about the history, stop in the Brunswick Railroad Museum/C&O Visitor Center just down the street from the Belfry.

122 W Potomac st
Brunswick, MD 21716-1113
(301) 834-7178

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