Cheap Eats: Cheerful Perk’s Cafe fills a downtown lunchtime niche

Perk’s Café is a cheerful space that fills a lunchtime niche for us downtown worker bees with limited time and budgets.

The original location is on Broadway. A smaller, second café just opened at 529 Main St. (856-0840). Parking is limited around the Broadway location. Both are accessible via Metro Rail.

We hopped off at Fountain Plaza and walked to the attractive triangular building Perk’s occupies at the corner of Broadway and Ellicott streets. The space features high ceilings, exposed brick and interesting artwork.

The menu is basic, perfect for lunchers on a tight schedule. Any specials are posted on Perk’s Facebook page as well as on site. Soups change daily.

We ordered off the regular menu at the counter and found a table. After a short wait, a worker delivered our meals. No fuss, no muss.

Italian Wedding Soup and a gluten-free Stuffed Baked Potato Soup were outstanding. The Italian Wedding was a rich, chicken broth with tender meatballs and that teeny acini di pepe pasta. The creamy and cheesy potato had hunks of bacon. Despite the higher price, at $3.19, the large bowl with bread could be enough for a meal.

Sandwiches or wraps come with a side of field greens or a featured side (like pasta salad).

Sandwiches range from simple, like a deli sandwich ($6.99) and Grilled Cheese and Tomato ($6.99) to those with a more gourmet touch, like a Honey Dijon Ham and Swiss ($7.99) or a Black and Bleu Beef ($7.99) with Cajun spiced roast beef, caramelized onions, arugula and a blue cheese spread. A Turkey Cheddar BLT and Turkey Reuben are $7.99 and Homemade Pulled Pork is $6.99.

Wraps are basic, too. The Hummus Wrap ($6.99) and a Mediterranean Chicken ($7.99) both come with greens, cukes, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and Greek dressing. My Mediterranean was fantastic. Tender grilled chicken, fresh fillings with just enough Greek dressing came in a whole-wheat wrap (white and spinach also available). My side salad was perfectly dressed with balsamic. A Cranberry Chicken Salad ($7.99) and a Tuna Salad ($7.99) round out wrap choices.

The co-worker’s Greek Salad ($6.99) with added chicken ($2) had the same ingredients as my wrap but with a heavenly grilled ciabatta roll on the side. Also on the menu: a Mesclun and Goat Cheese Salad ($6.99) with cranberries and pecans and a Cobb Salad ($7.99) with ham, turkey, cheddar and hardboiled egg.

Perk’s opens at 7 a.m. and serves coffee along with breakfast items all day – bagels ($1.59), oatmeal ($1.59), fruit bowl ($3.49), a breakfast sandwich ($3.99) and a breakfast burrito ($3.99). Add bacon, ham, sausage or turkey for $1. Teas, iced beverages (coffee and chai latte among them) and smoothies ($3.99) round out the menu.

On the way out we couldn’t resist a humongous oatmeal cookie ($1.99) in the baked goods case. Sweet and simple. Just how a weekday lunch outing should end.

Perk’s Café

3½ pennies

Where: 36 Broadway (856-0709)

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Extra: Gluten-free soups. Broadway location has mini necessities, like over-the-counter medicines and office supplies. Credit cards accepted. Call ahead ordering and take-out available.