ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND – Individuals who want to help end homelessness can do so by enjoying a great meal at the new Light House Bistro that opened at 202 West Street in Annapolis’s Arts and Entertainment District on February 27. Owned and operated by the Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center and located in the Center’s one-time home, the 50-seat social enterprise restaurant and coffee bar is on a mission to provide living wage employment for individuals experiencing homelessness.
Light House Bistro houses an Advanced Culinary Training Center with a full teaching kitchen and real-work opportunities for graduates of the Light House’s culinary arts job training program – Building Employment Success Training (B.E.S.T.). More than 250 students have graduated from the program since its 2012 launch. A B.E.S.T. catering kitchen located in the newly created basement of the 202 West Street Bistro offers custom catering, lunch contracts, prepared meals and signature items. The second floor features four new apartments for former Light House Shelter residents.
The President of the Light House Social Enterprise LLC Board, Elizabeth Kinney, says the organization’s mission is training. “You can’t have sustainable housing without sustainable employment. Our goal is to increase our clients’ income by increasing their opportunities for promotions. The greater the skill, the greater the income.” Adding to the marketability of the Light House’s B.E.S.T training program culinary graduates is the fact that they’ve already received the Serve Safe certification. The majority of the Bistro front-of-the house employees continue on to get their alcohol awareness certification through the TIPS (training for intervention procedures) program.
Future Bistro employees participate in a 14-week B.E.S.T. training program at Light House’s 10 Hudson Street headquarters. Kinney says about 30-percent of students enrolled in the B.E.S.T. program are Light House residents. As Kinney sees it, “It’s a community service that brings in individuals who are at risk, or who need a second skill set to help them get back to work. Our mission is jobs. We’re not in this to make a profit. We want our employees to make a living wage. Any additional revenues go back to Light House to fund our programs.”
The Light House Bistro offers patrons service with a smile seven days a week. The restaurant serves lunch from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Dinner is served from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until 11:00 p.m. on Sunday. The Bistro’s grab and go coffee shop is open daily from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., serving homemade muffins and croissants along with a wide range of coffees, teas and juices.
Foodies may want to start their lunch with the Bistro’s seasonal roast squash bisque soup, followed by arugula, spinach, pulled chicken or Bistro salad topped with salmon, chicken, shrimp or steak. Main luncheon and dinner courses include: the pulled chicken B.E.S.T.wich, Bistro burger, crab cake with fried green tomatoes, flat-iron steak, cauliflower “mac” and cheese, braised pork or seared salmon with caramelized shallots, leeks and fennel, haricot verts, herbed quinoa and avocado butter. Individuals in the mood for breakfast foods can choose from a Mexican-themed Chef’s Scramble, Meatloaf Hash and eggs, flatbreads, avocado toast and granola cereal.
Beyond providing tasty food and gracious hospitality, the Bistro exudes a comfortable, inviting atmosphere that invites patrons to feel at home. Because Light House is in the business of reclaiming lives, Light House Bistro is furnished with reclaimed and repurposed materials. The restaurant’s chairs were used by U.S. Naval Academy Plebes in the 1950s. The lights are from an old Potomac Electric Power Company plant. Previously incarcerated individuals built the tables and bar stools from reclaimed barn wood. When builders gutted the 1889 building to create the restaurant, they salvaged floor joists that now serve as restaurant walls. A wall-length church pew came from St. Anne’s church on Church Circle. The pew harkens back to a time when St. Anne’s served as the shelter’s first home in 1988. The following year, Annapolis Area Ministries (comprised of 13 different churches) purchased the 202 West Street location. In 2010, the organization rebranded, changing its name to Light House.
The Light House Bistro is filled with eye candy. The donated hostess stand is the original cash box from Bowen’s Farm Supplies in Annapolis. The donated mirror behind the bar is made of old Venetian glass. The base of the bar was made from reclaimed wood topped with a beautiful piece of walnut. Kinney says the restaurant is decorated with finds from antiques shops throughout Annapolis and Maryland. Outside, the Light House’s story is beautifully captured by a 7’ x 19’ mural on the Madison Street side of the Bistro. The work was funded by the nonprofit community public art project, ArtWalk, whose mission is to bring grand scale art to the walls of exterior buildings in historic Annapolis.
Individuals who wish to support the Light House’s mission are invited to enjoy many a meal at the Light House Bistro. Naming opportunities are still available as well. Benefactors can have a chair named in their honor for $1,000. Tables go for $5,000, and quotes on the Bistro’s wall are priced at $2,500. Individuals who choose to do this have the satisfaction of knowing their money is going to a sustainable cause that gives back to the community. According to Kinney, “We’re working to surprise and exceed community expectations. We’ve retained a high standard for individuals enrolled in the Light House program. We’ve trained them in a way that will make them sought after employees in the hospitality industry.”