Bolton Hill is one of my favorite residential pockets in Baltimore. Close enough to North Avenue to give people pause, but it is within walking distance to some of the best culture in the city and has a very diverse population. However, in order to retain the residential quality, dining out options are few and far between.
My children go to nursery school in that neighborhood, and a friend of mine and I decided to go to On the Hill Café for lunch after we picked up the kids one Friday afternoon.
On the Hill, located at the corner of John and Mosher Streets, is quite a hidden gem. Delicious and reasonably priced sandwiches, salads, and a coffee bar are perfect for catering to the MICA students as well as the families in the neighborhood. The inside is small and, while not kid adverse, is not really kid friendly. Just a handful of tables, mostly two seaters, and a counter that gets incredibly crowded during peak hours, though the service is very efficient. There are a few tables on the sidewalk, but they were full, which was no surprise considering the beautiful weather!
Luckily, we were Bolton-Hill-savvy enough to know that eating at the café was not the only option. Hidden between John and Mt. Royal, right behind the restaurant, is a small, brick-paved park called Rutter’s Mill. There are shade trees, picnic tables, benches and plenty of space for the kids to run around while one of us went to brave the somewhat long line at the counter.
One of my favorite features in the park is the small collection of fairy houses found under a tree and maintained by some of the residents.
As far as the food goes, there is no kids’ menu, but there is plenty to order for them. Grilled cheese and fries tend to be a staple for my kids so if a restaurant has them, we’re set, and theirs is very good. One warning about the fries, however – they normally top them with paprika and can, on occasion, get a little heavy handed with it, so be sure to order them without if your kids prefer them plain.
On my friend’s recommendation, we decided to split the Tamale Cakes with Pork and I have to say that this might be my newest food addiction. One of my kids would very happily eat it, though the other isn’t nearly as adventurous with her palate. Hence the grilled cheese and fries standard. Personally, I think this is a highlight of their menu and would highly recommend it! A slight spice from the pico de gallo blends beautifully with the sweetness of the corn cake and saltiness of the pork. It has replaced my previous favorite menu item, the spinach salad with sweet pecans and pomegranate dressing, but is definitely more indulgent and definitely something you want to split!
GETTING THERE: Because of two hour parking limits, it isn’t usually that hard to find parking within a block. It’s located on John and Mosher Streets, near both Mt. Royal Elementary School and Midtown Academy.
COST: The Tamale Cakes with Pork was around $10, Sandwiches run between $7-$9 and come with chips; fries are an additional $3.50.
FAMILY ACCESSIBILITY: I do not recommend bringing a stroller inside. There is no room and no ramp. However, I think I’d feel comfortable leaving mine outside for a few minutes while I got my food. Dining in can be tough and cramped, depending on how crowded it was..
KEEP THEM HAPPY: Get it to go and eat at Rutter’s Mill Park!
On the Hill Cafe
1431 John St
Baltimore, MD 21217
Open Monday–Friday 7am–9pm, Saturday 8am–9pm, Sunday 9am–9pm