Arts District

Ekiben Headlining Food Lineup at Firefly Music Festival

Asian fusion joint serving steamed buns alongside Shake Shack and Eminem's food pop-up.

We can think of no better food to carry around a festival than a steamed bun stuffed with curry fried chicken, spicy slaw, and flavor-packed sauces. This weekend at Firefly Music Festival, our very own Asian fusion spot Ekiben will give music lovers just that.

Ekiben is delivering a bite of Baltimore to the Delaware festival, as they head the food lineup for the first time. After serving at big events like Artscape and Moonrise, this might be their biggest break.

Since its start in 2014, the Fells Point joint has been serving up specialty buns and bowls unique to the area. At Firefly, their stand will be all their signature sandwiches, so that festival go-ers will get to taste their most popular items.

“It’s a great honor, and we’re super happy that we’re able to put Baltimore in a more positive spotlight,” co-founder Steve Chu said. “We’re all about loving Baltimore.”

Catering is well inside Ekiben’s comfort zone. Customers will be able to get fan favorites including the Neighborhood Bird, iced Vietnamese coffee, and Tofu Brah (for the vegetarians!).

With just one location in Baltimore, the company expands its brand through its food trucks and catering business. When they started out, their low funds had them serving out of a hot dog cart, Chu said, and then they had a spot at the Fells Point Farmers’ Market before opening a brick and mortar location.

“The city really supported us in our endeavor,” he said. “We have so much gratitude, we don’t take it for granted.”

And just like that, four years later, Ekiben was “hit up” by Firefly, according to Chu.

“One day I woke up, I looked at my phone, and they had tagged us in a post,” he said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, we’re headlining this?’”

Their food stands will be alongside some other “really great talent,” Chu said. Beloved burger chain Shake Shack and Eminem’s pop-up Mom’s Spaghetti are up top with Ekiben, as must-have meals.

Partnering with Chu are managers and chefs Ephrem Abebe and Nikhil Yesupriya, making a young, fun trio of co-owners. It’s easy to tell the guys are doing what they love, with so much enthusiasm. Across their various social media accounts, they stick to caps-locked messages, like they’re shouting out everything out with joy.

“YO EKIBEN IS HEADLINING FIREFLY FESTIVAL ALONGSIDE KENDRICK LAMAR, EMINEM, AND THE ARCTIC MONKEYS,” they wrote on Instagram. And their post was met with similarly excited comments.

For the early eaters, Chu is giving out a limited amount of Ekiben-branded EDM masks to wear around the festival. They will be located in the food tent cluster a stone’s throw away from the main stage.

Wherever they land, they’ll be the place to be for snack breaks in between bands. And remember them when you get back to Baltimore, because they will be around no matter what.

“We never asked for any of this,” Chu said happily. “We just make sandwiches.”