HEARTY HELPING: A new bistro in Annapolis combines good food with good works

Light House Bistro employees (from left) Alex Tingler, Damon Blake and Brandi Kelley all graduated from the Light House training program.

Light House Bistro employees (from left) Alex Tingler, Damon Blake and Brandi Kelley all graduated from the Light House training program.

By: Carol Denny

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. Read more!

Light House Bistro Aims to Battle Homelessness.

By Mona Kazour - Annapolis Patch

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… Read the full article here!

Light House Bistro: A Gathering Spot with History

Light House Bistro: A Gathering Spot with History

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



Helene Sachs

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.

Thank you Eye On Annapolis!

Thank you Eye On Annapolis!

Light House Bistro–I want to say skip it so I can keep it all to myself…but I can’t. Go!

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:

  • Advanced Culinary Training Center
    Full Teaching Kitchen • Real-Work Opportunities for graduates of our culinary arts job training program, Building Employment Success Training (B.E.S.T.)
    B.E.S.T. Catering Kitchen
    Custom Catering • Lunch Contracts • Prepared Meals • Signature Items
    The Light House Bistro
    50 Seats • Coffee Bar • Open to the public for lunch and dinner
    Permanent Supportive Housing
    Four apartments for former residents of The Light House on the second floor

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!


End The Cycle

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. 

Employment Track Options  

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.


Soft Skills Training 

  • Workforce Preparation Skills – attitude, work ethic, employer expectations, resume writing, interview preparation, dressing for success.
  • Communication Skills – listening essentials, body language, conflict resolution, networking
  • Interpersonal Skills – working as part of a team, developing and maintaining good working relationships, valuing and respecting differences, responding to feedback
  • Competencies/Challenges – time management, using good judgment, solving problems, making good decisions, sanitation/safety requirements. Culinary students attend ServSafe classes that are taught and tested on-site.
  • Participants receive job search assistance from case managers and a full time employment specialist, career closet consulting, and interview preparation while working at their internship. At the conclusion of each session, the students are recognized for their hard work with a graduation ceremony and certificate of completion in the BEST program.


Thank You To All Who Support the B.E.S.T. Program!

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.