Stepping into Smith Canteen is a little like stepping into a European cafe. Beautiful marble countertops wait to be covered in saucers and newspapers, pastries on display behind clean glass fill the air with sweetness and the whirr of the coffee machine is downright calming.
And that's just what the owners intended. The Canteen is "Inspired by the prepared food shops on Rue des Martyrs in Paris and the coffee bars of Vienna," they wrote in a release on the opening of the restaurant.
Brought to you by the foodie power-couple team of Kerry Diamond and Chef Rob Newton of , Smith Canteen is sure to delight and charm you in much the same way as the Southern-influenced restaurant just a few doors down the block.
"We want these places to be the same but different," said Newton.
And indeed, while Seersucker is classically trained Southern cuisine, Smith Canteen is more all encompassing. If there's one thing they both are, it's hyper about local foods.
On the blackboard behind the counter, there's a section you've likely never seen on a menu before: "From the Carroll Street Green Market."
"I'm proud to be the guy who has two business that hinge on the farmer's market," he said. "Having all that there is such a resource."
Everything listed under that header will be sourced from the Green Market, where every Sunday for the whole year local farmers from the region proudly sell their produce.
Furthering Newton's committment to seasonal foods, Smith Canteen serves Counter Culture Coffee, from Durham, North Carolina, which only sells beans based on seasonal availibility.
Pastries will be made in house by newly hired pastry chef Christine Ha, who will also be making desserts for Seersucker. Look for Ha's macarons in flavors like candied bacon with maple cream cheese, peanut butter cup, red velvet and caramel fleur de sel.
"We're trying to do everything homemade," said Newton.
Newton hopes that the opening of Smith Canteen will help free him up a bit, while also clarifying the concept of Seersucker, which has been open for coffee and breakfast during the week, but will now only open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to their regular dinner schedule.
At The Canteen, people can pick up a coffee and a pastry or foods to go on their way to work, sit or stand while enjoying a croissant and an espresso or dine-in for lunch.
"It's a cafe," said Newton.
Only pastries, coffee and tea were available on opening day, but Newton says the kitchen will be up and running by next week. Some sample menu items include:
- Long Island duck confit banh mi with cucumber, carrot and cilantro
- Whole wheat penne with pea shoot pesto and housemade mozzarella
- Local wheatberry salad with fresh herbs, shaved radishes, asparagus, peas and
- Sweet pea quiche
Smith Canteen is located at the corner of Smith and Carroll streets, in what was once a pharmacy. The space, though it needed restoration, was largely in tact when Newton and Diamond first toured it. The tin cielings, woodwork complete with mirrors and shelves and a tile floor were all in place. The marble counters and service areas were added. A small scale kitchen is on the premises.
"I still think it's insane to do this before we're even a year old" at Seersucker, said Newton, who added that when he and Diamond saw the space, they knew it was a good idea.
"And whenever we get on board together..." he said, his voice trailing off.
Big things can clearly happen.
Smith Canteen is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday.