Chef Gregory Brown is a big believer in setting goals. Though he started his career in the telecommunications sector, his overall ambition was to open his own vegan restaurant.
“I didn’t want to be there,” he says. “So I started writing the things that I wanted to do in a vision book. Since I was vegan, I thought, ‘Why not open a vegan restaurant?’”
After serving his dairy-free dishes at big-name events like Artscape and AFRAM, Brown and his wife Naijha Wright-Brown—whom he met at his previous Verizon Wireless job—finally made that dream a reality when they opened vegan soul food spot The Land of Kush on Eutaw Street near the University of Maryland Midtown campus in 2011. Now, Brown is getting ready to cross yet another one of his long-term objectives off of his list.
“The goal has always been to expand,” he says. “It’s something that we’ve wanted to do from the beginning.”
Come fall, the co-owners will unveil a second Land of Kush location at the corner of Madison and Chester streets near the Johns Hopkins Medical campus in East Baltimore. The larger digs will provide the team with more breathing room to serve the spot’s signature vegan fare, including favorites like faux chicken salad, lentil burgers, and meatless crab cakes made with artichoke hearts.
“I like that our approach is a soft one,” Wright-Brown says. “We’re not bullies about promoting veganism. Our whole vegan soul food concept is strong—we have collard greens, mac and cheese, and other comfort dishes on the menu so people are drawn to try it. But you don’t have to worry about us beating you over the head saying, ‘You have to go vegan.’”
The inviting atmosphere, in addition to the food, has caused the restaurant to outgrow its 23-seat flagship location. As they were looking to expand, the owners were introduced to the new East Baltimore space by Harbor Bank CEO Joseph Haskins Jr.
After dining at the restaurant, Haskins pitched the couple the idea of helping him transform the property—a former Chinese food carryout connected to a vacant rowhome—into a restaurant.
Brown estimates that the new eatery will be around 600 square feet larger than the original location, as well as offer nearly 75 seats. The duo is looking forward to developing and designing the space from the ground up—something that wasn’t necessary for the first property, which came equipped with refrigeration, light fixtures, and furniture.
Specifically, they’d like the interior to have an eclectic vibe that incorporates earthy tones and Afro-futuristic pieces by local artists.
“If I had magic hands, I would really create our current space how I see it, and it would look completely different,” Brown says. “Now we get the opportunity to really do that with the second location. We can create what we want it to look like.”
Brown is also excited to get creative in the kitchen. He hopes to experiment with more international dishes inspired by his wife's Spanish heritage.
“We’ll be able to do a lot more,” he says. “We’re looking to add some more innovative things to the menu that can give the community something new to dig into.”
The new restaurant is expected to open its doors in September. Aside from serving their meatless fare, the owners say that they are also looking to build relationships within the East Baltimore community—whether it’s through their all-ages cooking tutorials, job-training assistance, or vegan outreach programs.
“It’s not just a business for us,” Brown says. “We also want to be socially involved in the city. We all know the things that the city is going through, and we want to help to be the facilitators of its change.”