Being one of several restaurants in the nation owned and operated by members of one of Afghanistan’s most prominent families, The Helmand has helped introduce and popularize Afghan Cuisine in America within the last decade. The Helmand was named after the owner’s first born son, as well as in honor of the famed Helmand River that runs through the predominantly dry country of Afghanistan, bringing vitality and nourishment to it’s people. Much like this river, The Helmand of Baltimore provides their guests with enjoyment in the form of exquisite food prepared with care and dedication. First established in the autumn of 1989, The Helmand is proudly celebrating 20 years!
Co-owners Ephrem Abebe, Steve Chu, and Nick Yesupriya met while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity during undergrad at UMBC, and instantly bonded over their mutual love of food.
“We used to have these things called ‘cook nights,’” Yesupriya says. “Throughout the second half of college, we’d all come together a couple of nights per month and cook for our friends. UMBC is such a diverse school, so it was a great place to experiment like that.”
The Ekiben concept dates back to 2014, when Chu, a seasoned chef who previously worked at Petit Louis, pitched the Asian-fusion idea. After a few months of testing flavors in the kitchen, the guys were ready for a summer launch at the Fells Point Farmers’ Market.
“That first season was a great learning experience for us,” Yesupriya says. “We were still testing the waters and perfecting the recipes, but the Fells Point community really gathered behind us. The food seemed to resonate with a lot of folks in the area, and their opinions formed the menu. If people liked it, we kept it.”
Yesupriya says that in searching for a permanent home, it only felt right to settle in the neighborhood that had supported the business from the beginning.
While the new shop will emphasize Ekiben’s signature steamed buns and rice bowls filled with slow-cooked fillings (think braised pork, Thai chicken meatballs, and Japanese tofu), it will also debut new recipes like pork spare ribs, Taiwanese fried chicken, and specialty tater tots.
“We’ll have our regular menu that won’t change much, but also a special menu based off of whatever we feel like cooking that day,” Yesupriya says. “We want to take advantage of the opportunity to experiment, so if we want to do a ramen or a fish dish one day, we can.”
Although details about the interior of the cozy, 10-seat shop are still being solidified, the owners know that they want it to feel like a community hub. In keeping with this idea, the space will have a wall showcasing information about local artists, events, and nonprofits.
Looking ahead, Yesupriya says that Ekiben will continue its farmers’ market presence even after unveiling its new digs, and that he’s excited for it become an even bigger part of the tight-knit local dining scene.
“Our food is an expression of ourselves,” he says. “It’s made out of love, and people can taste that.”
ABOUT THE CREATORS
I was born to eat healthy. Chef Gregory Brown is almost strange to me. I had no intentions to become a chef. I fell into it by necessity. I’ve always had the vision to own a restaurant that catered to the health conscious crowd, but early on never really know how it would manifest. I became a vegetarian in the late 90’s…cold turkey…pardon the pun. I found a cook book on vegetarianism and decided to clean out my refrigerator and cabinets of all animal products and be a vegan. The only issue was I had never cooked like this before and some of the foods in the book were completely new to me. I was always taught that you can learn anything and with that mentality, I began to teach myself how to cook. After several years, a friend called me and asked if I knew any vegetarian chefs. She was part of a marketing group that was putting on an event in Baltimore called Jazzy Summer Nights; which consisted of a free jazz concert every first Thursday throughout the summer. She stated that there was a request for vegetarian options for some of the patrons and musicians. I agreed to ask around however after speaking to a couple of chefs, they felt as though there was not enough of a vegetarian market. As I called her back to relay the news, I thought to myself, let me give it a try. At the time, I had never cooked for more than two people. I called it The Vegetarian Kitchen. We were a success and sold out of food every night. No matter how much food we brought out, we sold out every time. I then saw this as a great opportunity to market my own restaurant idea. I took a couple of years to research and put together a business plan and we returned with The Land of Kush. I study the history of the African Diaspora from time to time and Kush itself is an ancient African civilization. I wanted to bring ancient and natural concepts to our modern society. I felt as though the name Kush fit and added the “The Land” to invoke a sense of community. Baltimore is the ultimate community city; a city of neighborhoods. I wanted the restaurant to have its roots in a city of community. Our next task was to expand the idea to larger festivals, so starting in 2008 we began cooking at the African American Heritage Festival and ArtScape. After receiving even more positive feedback and creating some name brand recognition, we found a location in the Mount Vernon Community.
A native New Yorker, I was born in Manhattan’s lower east side (LES) and raised in the South Bronx. As a youth enrolled in a program called The Fresh Air Fund, I was introduced to gardening, farming, environmentalism, sustainability and the basics of healthy eating while spending summers in the Berkshires (Massachusetts). I am a people-person, with over 20 years of customer relations experience. I have held managerial, technical and administrative positions at Verizon Wireless, Dow Jones Markets, Credit Suisse First Boston, and the former Chemical Private Bank. I hold a Masters degree in Business Adminstration from the University of Phoenix. Past business ventures include independent contracting for Nu Skin International and launching an entertainment company called Now Dat’s Comedy! The thought of owning a restaurant never crossed my mind until I relocated to Baltimore and met Greg. That is when we birthed the “vegan soul food” concept for The Land of Kush. It’s not just the food, it’s the overall experience! We are VeganSoul!
Born in Newark New Jersey, Darius has over 20 years in the field of real estate. He began his career in 1985 working for CT Management as a porter. In 1986 he was part of Telesis $21 million rehab of Paradise at Parkside located in Washington DC which has 653 units. From the year 1988-1993 he worked in the corporate office of CT Management performing a wide range of duties (accounts payable, accounts receivable, receptionists). From 1994-1995 he worked as a personal assistant to the president and founder of CT Management, Charlie Tini. That later landed him in Homestead Florida were he managed over 90 units. He was a one man rental office, handling all the day to day duties as well as all the other extra curriculum actives that CT Management provided for the community. He also spear headed a program called the Neighborhood Network were they offered computer classes and interviewing training skills for the tenants of the complex. In 1997 he went to work for MCI WorldCom as a customer service supervisor were he ranked in the top 5% in production nationally for four years in a row. A couple years later he reunited with his childhood friend Ricardo Rowe and they formed what is now known as Overstanding Development LLP. He is a graduate of Ferrum College were he received a BA in Business Management.
Best desert, coffee, cocktail combo in town!
Flanders Gallery : Founded 2006, Raleigh, North Carolina. Flanders Gallery is committed to cultivating the careers of emerging artists. Through its rigorous exhibition program, the gallery continues to explore new concepts in contemporary art using various media. Flanders Gallery is dedicated to exhibiting provocative and innovative contemporary art, producing 14-18 exhibits each year both in the gallery and in alternative exhibit spaces. In October 2014, the gallery moved to a new space, located next to LUMP. The new space will function as a project space for emerging artists of all backgrounds who seek to experiment with concepts in contemporary art and culture, using a wide range of media.
Although the location had previously housed several bars, Catrina set out to build an interior and environment unique to the space and to Raleigh. With the re-emergence of cocktail culture being embraced in many mid-sized cities around the U.S., a cocktail driven bar in the heart of Raleigh, NC seemed a logical next step for the establishment’s conceptual evolution. C. Grace evokes memories of classic jazz clubs where the lights are low, the jazz is hot, the drinks are strong and the nights, full of merriment.
Matthew Bettinger joined the team and brought a beverage program centered around classic cocktails, and a style of service designed to create a welcoming and neighborly environment. The music plays five nights a week, the drink menu continues to change and grow and there is always a friendly face behind the bar.
Built between 1929 and 1930, the Capital Club Building is a registered historic property located at 16 West Martin Street in downtown Raleigh.
For years the building was home to a men’s social and literary club. On the building’s 12th floor, the original ballroom’s master craftsmanship in the moldings and columns, 14 foot ceilings and hardwood floors still remains.
From the reclaimed wood to salvaged pieces to vintage subway tile, Capital Club 16’s décor is inspired by the building’s history and time period.
The restaurant’s chairs are from one of NYC’s Horn & Hardart automats. The tables are made of old growth heart pine lumber salvaged from various NC mills dating back to the 1800s.
The bar and backbar are handmade out of reclaimed wood from one of Manhattan’s landmarks – Luchow’s restaurant, open for 100 years, from 1882-1982, in the heart of Union Square. The bar top is milled from old growth heart pine reclaimed from 19th century Neuse River docks. Family pictures and other things special to us are hanging on the walls as well.
btw…there is a killer brunch!!!
Vida Manda is a thoughtful dining experience with a cool twist on the food and culture of Laos. The fusion in trendy atmosphere and authentic roots are emblematic in the name which honors the “Father and Mother” (Bida Manda) of the owners back in Laos. Bida Manda is known “go to” by all the local professionals. They have a couple great plates that are not represented on the menu, so make sure you ask the waiter.
A Chinese dumpling shop; limited, affordable, unique. The dumplings are very good. It is one of those spots that are truly unique and maintain their culture by not trying hard to show everyone that they are maintaining their Chinese immigrant roots. They have one bulletin board that showcases their accomplishments from local newspapers and businesses that capture the founders inspiring story that sits behind a couple of weird oriental trinkets. Other than that, it looks like a humble shop with a bell counter where you pick up your food and drop off your money. If you want water, you can grab it from a plastic trey on the counter where they fill up plastic cups from the sink. You can take it back to your tiny space at your tiny table where you listen to pop music played from a chintzy radio that is made to look like a record turntable. Marco & Luca is looking to impress no-one! They simply let their dumplings speak for themselves. Its nice to see an honest mom and pop without any gimmicks. I mean…they don’t even have a website. Additionally, because M&L refrains from adopting a trendy brand, they are often passed over by the bougie college crowd looking for something more along the lines of the Sky Bar down the street, usually just stopping in as a preventative recovery srtategy after a night of binge drinking. However, M&L just opened a second shop in the mall. So check it out before they become mainstream and will most likely be forced to sacrifice their genuine identity for the sake of scalability.
Good spot to bring coworkers or someone you want to impressive with your street knowledge of the local area. If you didn’t know where Alley Light was located, you would walk right passed it. The door to the place is down a crappy little alley under a crappy little light (hence the name). But once you go in, it is a small, up scale restaurant with a sweet bar. I especially love it because the bourbon selection is awesome. However, Virginia has some weird laws where they can’t get select brands such as Willett. The only thing that would make it better is if they snuck in the restricted labels and served it out of another bottle… then they can be a real speak easy!
Beautiful, impressive, intriguing, controversal. Thomas Jefferson’s estate is as brilliant and curious as he was. The visit is a delightful twist of beauty, (a creative and unique date spot), history (intriguing insight to the life and thoughts of a founding father and author of our country’s constitution), and controversy (the awe and intrigue manifested while walking through those corridors was ironically built upon the backs of slaves owned by the man that penned “all men are created equal”). This really is a pretty legit spot where you can spend anywhere from an hour to a day. Also, James Madison’s digs is near by along with some other sweet historic sites if you want to get yourself some more ‘Merca!
A hidden gem that ironically manifests the best of the unwitting Red Neck Riviera. Joe Patti is a fish market located directly on the docks, delivering a plethora of sea food fresh off the boat (literally)! When I move, this is the only place I will truly miss. Embedded in the market is a beignet truck, sushi bar, and little stores offering delicious spreads, oils, sauces and seafood delights to be eaten on a park bench in Pensacola or the picnic benches out back. If you are in the area, go!!!
Flanders Gallery : Founded 2006, Raleigh, North Carolina. Flanders Gallery is committed to cultivating the careers of emerging artists. Through its rigorous exhibition program, the gallery continues to explore new concepts in contemporary art using various media. Flanders Gallery is dedicated to exhibiting provocative and innovative contemporary art, producing 14-18 exhibits each year both in the gallery and in alternative exhibit spaces.
In October 2014, the gallery moved to a new space, located next to LUMP. The new space will function as a project space for emerging artists of all backgrounds who seek to experiment with concepts in contemporary art and culture, using a wide range of media.
Crab Island is a shallow spot of water where everyone and their mom anchors their boat and watches each other get hammered. It stays pretty family friendly until the Billy Bowlegs festival. Then you want to send the kids home and make sure you aren’t wearing a white bathing suit, unless you really meant to buy a brown one. There isn’t much you won’t see..crab people at their finest.
Soup Nazi of bbq! Get in line and order either ribs or a burger, thats all the options you’re gonna get. Grab a bag of chips on the way out if you’re still hungry. So if you want to “have it your way”…head on over to the golden arches. Additionally, good luck getting in, and don’t get tricked by the schedule on the door. The hours are whatever the owner feels like! Call beforehand…but even that isn’t a sure thing (true story). But if you do succeed, oh man…it is worth it. Btw…its not worth asking around…no one seems to know about Blue Dot unless they live within a few blocks.
An interesting liberal oasis in a sea of “Roll Tide!”…and I’m a conservative. Slug’s is a hip little vegetarian restaurant and safe haven to the artsy fartsy vagabond type from Pensacola College. Parked next door to a gay bar where you can eat awesome vegetarian food in one room and dance to some heartfelt, slightly off key indie band in the next. Ideal to experience weird art/music/beer/people and great food.
Freakin Amazing Burgers. Established by a local family with a mission to provide the Crab People with a blessing that will forever be underappreciated. They are the best I have ever had….and I’m a burger snob from In-N-Out territory. However, the few that do know share my sentiment. The rest are too busy driving through Whataburger (not being sarcastic).
This little burrito truck brings San Diego burrito style with the Red Neck Riviera culture. I can’t go to this spot without seeing someone I know and chatting it up with the owners. The owner operator, retired Navy Seal, will most likely learn your name right off the bat and ensure you are having a good time, a refreshing change in an area with TERRIBLE customer service. The stay open till they sell out, and they usually do, so make sure to call in advance.