7 N. Calvert St., (443) 869-2942, argosycafe.com
As far as lunch options go in downtown Baltimore, you could certainly do worse than Argosy Cafe, located in what used to be a bank in the first floor of the Munsey building. The space has retained many of the lovely marble features of the bank, though with wood-topped tables and Edison light bulbs, which seems to be the required decor these days for any space that wants to appeal to "young professionals." Named after one of the pulp magazines printed by the building's namesake, publisher Frank Munsey, the cafe has a full bar and offers a lunch menu of mostly standard American salads and sandwiches that are satisfying, though the quality is a bit uneven.
The Munsey burger ($8) featured sweet, thick-cut pickles, tomatoes, and a juicy hamburger patty (plus cheese, if you pay extra) all sandwiched between toasted challah-style bread that had an onion swirl—an interesting alternative to having onion on the sandwiches, though the flavor of it was nearly imperceptible. While the bread held up well with the burger, it appeared to have been un- or undertoasted on a later visit when I ordered the roasted turkey sandwich ($10), as the bread struggled to hold up to the moisture of the mayo on the sandwich. The bacon on the sandwich was deliciously crispy, though, and made for a good complement to the juicy slices of turkey. Both sandwiches came with matchstick-style fries, and while I personally prefer thicker-cut fries, these were still crunchy and not too greasy. (Sorry, readers, I have an aversion to salads, so I didn't try any of Argosy's, but it offers the usual—chicken Cobb [$8], Greek [$7], Caesar [$7]—plus a Munsey salad [$7] and a Portobello salad [$8].)
Argosy serves a daily soup special ($5 for 8 ounces, $8 for 12 ounces) that changes every day. On one visit, the cafe was offering a shrimp bisque that featured a velvety smooth broth with a subtly shrimp-y flavor and impressively huge chunks of well-cooked shrimp. But the warm noodles ($8), with vegetables, a soft-boiled egg, and noodles in vegetable broth, were unfortunately just that: warm. The dish lacked both temperature heat and spice heat, making for a pretty bland take on a noodle bowl.
The service, too, was uneven. The staffers were all wonderfully friendly, but the kitchen seemed to get flustered whenever it hit peak lunch hour. The staffer at the cash register gave everyone a placard with an order number on it, but on my first visit, that seemed to be utterly meaningless: While my order came out promptly and correctly, other customers who had ordered before me waited much longer for their food. Some were brought the wrong order, only to be approached by an apologetic staffer a few minutes later to take the wrong order away, while other customers were asked, after waiting a while for their food, what exactly they had ordered. The service was less muddled on subsequent visits, but I was still asked at one point what I had ordered.
Argosy offers breakfast and dinner options too, plus happy-hour specials. Based on my experiences with the lunch menu, I don't know if I'd seek Argosy out as a dinner location, but I can see it serving the same role at happy hour that it serves at lunch: a reasonably good place to grab a bite when you're ready to get away from your office.