Light House Bistro was featured on ABC news...2 Good 2 Be True!
Light House Bistro, the restaurant in Annapolis that serves as a training program for homeless people, is shifting its hours.
Six months after the Light House shelter opened the restaurant in its former location on West Street, restaurant director Elizabeth Kinney said the shift comes in response to customers.
The program, which has trained 40 people in restaurant job skills, will now be open for breakfast and lunch daily. The dining room will be closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights for private events and cooking classes.
“Have a meal or a meeting with us and help sustain our social enterprise that trains and employs people determined to move from homelessness to stability and a promising future,” Kinney wrote in an email Friday.
The restaurant opened in March after three years of planning after the shelter moved to Hudson Street. The Light House determined the hospitality and culinary industry provides the best "second chances" to its residents.
Check us out in the September issue of The Business Monthly!
"Dining at Light House Bistro is a value-added proposition: Customers not only enjoy fine food in the state capital’s arts and entertainment district, they support a social enterprise effort to provide living-wage employment to 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.)."
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - There are so many fun things to do when visiting Annapolis it's hard to keep count! Here are THE 5 MUST STOPS that you just can't miss when taking your own Zip Trip!
GREAT FROGS WINERY: This winery calls an old tobacco barn home. Stop by and enjoy an experience tailored for wine lovers to learn more about reds, whites, roses and more.
LIGHTHOUSE BISTRO: Changing lives one meal at a time. Come in, enjoy a delicious meal, and give back a little - as all proceeds from this restaurant are reinvested back into the mission of Lighthouse, a homeless prevention support center.
BANNEKER-DOUGLASS MUSEUM: The state of Maryland's official museum of African-American heritage! Serving to document, interpret and promote African-American history and culture through exhibits, programs and projects!
THE UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY: You can visit the undergraduate college of our country's naval service. There is no shortage of history or beauty here! Check out views of the water, a mock dorm room, the school's unofficial and official mascots and the academy's rich history.
MAIN STREET: Take a scenic stroll from the state capital on down to the docks. Hitch a ride on a boat or enjoy ice cream seaside. Do some shopping or enjoy a meal at historic Chick & Ruth's Delly!!
If you were out-and-about during our FOX 5 ZIP TRIP fun and took a photo - post it online using #fox5ziptrip.
Any restaurant opening is a big deal: a hopeful, creative and occasionally chaotic attempt to invent a place that nourishes the community. But the stakes feel higher for the team behind the Light House Bistro, the newest arrival to Annapolis’ downtown dining scene. The launch of the 50-seat eatery at 202 West Street is a bold brick-and-mortar commitment to both second chances and second helpings.
The Bistro, which opened in February, is more than a restaurant. It’s a visionary social enterprise operated by the city’s Light House shelter for the homeless, which provides culinary training and job opportunities for those who need them most. Its goal is to break the cycle of poverty by giving clients the skills they need for employment, enabling them to support themselves and their families.
That backstory isn’t apparent from the front of the house. The space, set in the midst of the capital’s Arts District, features tables fashioned out of old barn wood, Navy Academy plebe chairs from the 1950s and pendulum lights from an old Pepco plant, all chosen to reflect this second-chance theme. In one corner, a coffee bar proffers grab-and-go pastries and sandwiches; a sleek open kitchen serves lunch, brunch and dinner for those with time to sit. Though it fits seamlessly among the neighborhood’s art galleries, oyster bar and hotel, the Bistro’s beginnings were far humbler; the 1889 building was the site of an earlier Light House shelter, which moved to a larger facility in 2012.
As the organization considered possibilities for its West Street property, the concept of a restaurant and training center emerged. Elizabeth Kinney, then executive director of the shelter, championed the project, believing it presented a novel way to expand an existing job-training program while creating a sustainable funding source. “Nonprofits are looking at models like this that can provide opportunity and create a revenue stream,” she notes. “What sets us apart is that our bottom line isn’t profit—it’s employment. We’re hiring people to change their lives.”
When a survey showed that 98 percent said they’d willingly support such a venture, Kinney plunged into a three-year $2.4 million capital campaign and persuaded businesses and food industry leaders to donate their expertise. Baltimore’s Cho Benn Holback and Associates contributed preconstruction plans and project oversight. Next Step Design worked provided pro bono oversight on design and installation. And TriMark Gill Group arranged deep discounts so Light House could purchase equipment. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development restructured an existing loan for transitional housing and transferred it to the new entity, which also features low-income residential units.
The last remaining hurdle was finding the right person to run the Bistro. “We needed someone special who was motivated to work with our people,” Kinney explains. Enter chef Beth Rocca, an Annapolis émigré who was living in San Diego when she learned of the venture. Intrigued, she sent a resume, met with Kinney and signed on in August of 2016. She began by heading the shelter’s catering program and two satellite enterprises: a cafe at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and an omelet station at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Soon, she assumed responsibility for the Bistro, too.
The L’Academie de Cuisine grad now manages a staff of 47, including managers, alumni of the shelter’s culinary training program and other shelter grads. “There’s a lot of patience required,” Kinney observes. “Beth makes it all work.”
Rocca, who comes from a family of teachers, deems it “a perfect job for me.” The menu of “American with a twist,” she says, complements the West Street dining scene. “We fit in so nicely with what’s available nearby—Asian, oysters, hotel restaurants.” Sandwiches are served on ciabatta, challah or pretzel rolls, for example, and desserts, like the chocolate meringue brownies with sea salt, are made from scratch. There are a handful of seafood options on the menu, including a crab cake, says Rocca. After all, “it’s Annapolis!”
Bistro designer and creative consultant David Iatesta has assembled a style that bridges traditional and contemporary. Iatesta says he was in the process of reinventing himself after the sale of his furniture business last year when Kinney asked for his help. She reeled him in with a cherished find: a wooden pew salvaged from the city’s historic St. Anne’s Church. “It was in so many pieces that it was like a puzzle. It took four people half an hour to bring it all in,” he says. The pew is now fastened to one wall of the restaurant. Iatesta also installed two of his original chandeliers, and is especially proud of another only-in-Annapolis touch: dining chairs from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Staff members, too, embody the sense of renewal. Only last fall, sous chef Dylan McMillion, 42, was living in the Light House Shelter and struggling to make a fresh start. “I didn’t realize places like this existed,” he says. McMillion, who says he’d needed help for a long time, learned of the Light House project from a friend who told him, “These people will hold you up.” Sure enough, “Everyone bent over backwards to get me back up on my feet.” McMillion, who’d worked in restaurants before, was hired by the Bistro team in December and now lives in an apartment on the building’s upper level. “It’s an opportunity I probably never would have gotten on my own,” he says. “So I want to give back as much as they’ve given me.” He plans to help train other employees, and “help them with their issues.”
Personal transformations like McMillion’s are the heart of the bistro’s mission. Kinney, who now serves as president of the Light House Social Enterprises board, is optimistic about the future. “We like to say everyone will come in for our story, and come back for our food,” she says. After all, she wonders, “Who doesn’t want to give someone a chance for a better life?”
From Light House Bistro: 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.”
West Street is abuzz with excitement surrounding the opening of the Light House Bistro! This new cafe and eatery serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with a grab-n-go that includes coffee and the most heavenly pastries (the trio of beignets…OMG).
Illustration by Lindsay Bolin
It is a gathering place with a mission everyone can get behind. The Light House, a Homeless Prevention Support Center, moved from their original site on West Street to a larger facility on Hudson Street, where the organization had room to expand their services to occupational training. One track offered is the culinary arts field, from which their renowned B.E.S.T. Catering services were born. Their catering quickly gained a reputation for their savory foods and attentive service, and so the idea of a Bistro formed. After years of work and a renovation at their original West Street location that started from the ground up, the Bistro opened its doors at the end of February to a warm, welcoming crowd.
Levy’s Grocery Store and Capitol Drugs
Long before Light House called it home, the building’s history had always been rooted in bringing the community together. The Levy Family owned and operated Levy’s Grocery Store and Capitol Drugs in the early twentieth century, where you would find people of all walks of life sitting next to each other at the soda fountain.
“It brought all kinds of people together,” says Helene Sachs, whose grandmother Rebecca Levy started the grocery store in the 1930’s. Rebecca was a widow, and could be seen in the store seven days a week serving up the best quality food to support her family.
Mural on the side of Light House Bistro
“She put three children through college,” says Sachs, who still resides in Annapolis today with her family. She is shown above as a child at the store.
You can also find Helene, her mother Sadie, and grandmother Rebecca on the side of the Bistro, depicted in a new piece of public art illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. The latest piece produced by ArtWalk, a 501-c3 public art initiative, pays tribute to the former store owners and other figures of Annapolis, past and present. The piece includes the President Hill street’s namesake, President & First Lady Madison, hometown hero and honorary Navy Admiral Marcellus Hall, local artists and musicians representing the surrounding Arts District, and the Bistro’s own skilled chefs.
Just behind the Bistro you’ll find another piece of public art: Jeff Huntington’s take on the same Founding Father, Madison, accompanied by Teddy Roosevelt and honest Abe – a mini-Mount Rushmore for Annapolis, so to speak. Jeff brought in a team of student artists, Jovenes Artistas, to collaborate with him and his wife Julia for their public art nonprofit, Future History Now.
In this cross-section of arts, history, and culture, the Light House Bistro is the perfect setting for Annapolis’s great personalities to coincide as they did all those years ago.
Photography courtesy of Maryland State Archives, Helene Sachs, and Lindsay Bolin. Illustration by Lindsay Bolin.
John Frenaye | May 8, 2017
Few restaurants hit a home run out of the gate. The new Light House Bistro did just that. I hesitate to write this review because sometimes I get selfish and just want to keep a place to myself. But the backstory is too much to not share!
First off, it is not expensive. It is not cheap either, but the quality of the food belies the price. This afternoon, I had a lunch meeting there and the place was packed. The menu intriguing.
I had one of the best flatbreads I have ever had (paraphrasing but…sausage, mozzarella, fennel and something else) at $14, and my dining partner for the day had a hunk of swordfish that he claimed was fantastic as well at $16.
Service was very attentive all around and you could tell that everyone seemed to be empowered to make sure everyone was enjoying their meal. Our server came by often, we were visited by the general manager, and I believe the executive chef. Spot on.
But even if the food was mediocre…which it is not….the selling point of the Light House Bistro is the people. Ninety percent of the people working in the restaurant have been touched by and benefitted from the Light House at some point. Some employees are graduates of their B.E.S.T. program, some employees are residents, others have received counseling and are now employed in a thriving, bustling restaurant. Maybe that is why the service was so spot on. I know for me, it is probably the biggest attraction. I know that when I spend my $15 for a lunch, I am getting a decent meal, but I also know that my patronage is helping folks that have fallen on hard times get back on their feet–and that is a great feeling.
Located at 202 West Street, the Light House Bistro is a social enterprise. Social enterprises are businesses that tackle social problems, benefiting an underserved population by delivering outcomes based on a specific mission. They create revenue from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into their programs and the local community.
The Light House mission is rebuilding lives in order to break the cycle of homelessness. Their Social Enterprise bottom line is providing living wage employment for those experiencing homelessness. You cannot have sustainable housing without sustainable employment.
The Light House Bistro actually is the original Light House shelter and serves multiple purposes:
One surprise to me was that they have a full bar. Residents of the Light House are required to be clean and sober, so this was a bit of a surprise; but in keeping with their mission of providing jobs, a bar makes all the sense in the world. So yes, you can have a beer with your lunch or a drink with your dinner.
The Light House Bistro opens at 7am and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week (closed on Tuesdays). You can check out their menus here. For the daily specials, you need to go and check it out.
Parking is convenient–the Knighton garage is a few steps away.
So my recommendation is to go. Enjoy. You will not regret it. What a welcome addition to the dining scene in Annapolis!
The Light House recognizes that to end the cycle of homelessness, people need to have sustainable employment skills that will allow them to make a living wage so they can afford permanent housing. To reach that goal The Light House developed a 16 week employment curriculum, Building Employment Success Training (B.E.S.T.), a paid internship training program that includes soft skills training and hands-on training in Culinary Arts and Facilities Maintenance and Landscaping. The program also includes a volunteer component.
Culinary Arts which includes all aspects of food preparation, nutrition, actual meal preparation, and catering. Taught by Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Arts at the Light House, Linda Vogler.
Facilities Maintenance and Landscaping – general maintenance, facilities management and landscaping. Taught by Willis Day, Facilities Manager at The Light House.
Thanks to our community employer partners, graduates of the BEST program have found employment at: Brio’s, Macaroni Grill, Shopper’s Food Warehouse, U.S. Naval Academy, Anne Arundel Medical Center, Anne Arundel County Schools, Target, and Cirque de Soleil.
We are grateful to our corporate and foundation partners, First Annapolis Consulting, Annapolis Rotary Club, Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County: Ladders to SUCCESS, Costco Wholesale, Nationwide Foundation, Walmart Foundation, Nordstrom, Inc, Phase Foundation, PNC Foundation, State Farm, Davidsonville Ruritan Foundation, Inc., City of Annapolis, Friends of The Light House, Hussman Foundation, Severn Savings Bank, Paul and Maxine Frohring Foundation, TD Bank, and Friends of the Light House for their support of the BEST program.