Towson cafe offers great atmosphere, good buns, but disappointing coffee

By: Alexander Ehasz, Columnist

On the ground floor of a dull brick office building across from a construction site, the ornate gold filigree spilling across the window of The Bun Shop is striking. Equally striking is the inventive interior composed of such disparate elements as modern turquoise glass panels, industrial black and gold lighting fixtures, and art deco marble tables. The effect is quite unique and improbably successful. The Bun Shop in Towson is a newer location for The Bun Shop in Mount Vernon. Like the original, they feature a range of teas, coffee drinks, and internationally-inspired buns on the menu.

Upon arrival, I browsed the selection of sweet and savory pastries (the eponymous buns) in the display case, and placed my order. The first bun, a savory chicken pasty, was flavored with a robust and balanced range of herbs and spices. The vegetables were tender and quite pleasant, but the quantity of chicken was severely lacking. As well, the filling was somewhat cold in the middle. The rotiboy, a sweet Malaysian bun filled with a thick cream, was simple and enjoyable, featuring a crisp outer giving way to fluffy pastry inside, and a rich buttery flavor throughout. The vanilla in the cream and the espresso in the crust mentioned on the menu were not particularly noticeable, although I would not call this bun bland by any means. 

The drip coffee and espresso were both rather disappointing. The espresso was astringent and bitter in an almost chemical-like way. The drip coffee was acidic to the point of being almost undrinkable, tasting like it was brewed with diluted lemon juice. Even with half and half added, it was still extremely sour. The Hong Kong coffee, a coffee with milk, tea, and sugar, was a much better drink. The tea had an earthy smokiness to it that complemented the bright coffee and rich cream well. Here, the acidity of the coffee worked substantially better, although it was still excessive. 

Given the location, long hours, large seating area, and generous number of outlets, this is a perfect spot to study. The music was interesting but mellow and certainly not obtrusive. The service was decent. I really wanted to like this place more than I do. The atmosphere and unique pastries make for an intriguing and special cafe. Unfortunately, the quality of the coffee and lack of attention to details like proper bun reheating does not allow this place to live up to its potential.

3.5/5.

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