Tour Eats with Wet & Reckless: Baltimore's Helmand Afghan restaurant
My night job involves playing bass in an all-girl rock band called Wet & Reckless. My bandmates, Deanna DeVries (drums), Whitney Blank (guitar) and Emily Wilder (vocals, guitar), are as crazy about food as I am. For the next week, we'll be on tour on the East Coast, digging up satisfying meals wherever we can find them. And we'll be writing it down here! Two of us are vegan and two of us will eat just about anything, so we'll bring you a variety of culinary options for your next rock tour.
-- Jessica Gelt
The nice lady in charge of helping us find our lost luggage had a good hour to tell us all about Baltimore. One of the things she mentioned was that blue lights flashing in a neighborhood meant that the neighborhood was dangerous and that caution was in order. While blue lights twinkle brightly around the street that harbors Helmand Afghan Cuisine -- the restaurant is by no means risky.
On Saturday night, Baltimore bustled for ArtScape, which Baltimoreans say is the largest three-day art festival in the States. After playing a sidewalk show at Cyclops -- an awesome independent bookstore/art space located across from the art college MICA -- we left our gear and rushed to Helmand five minutes before the kitchen closed.
We learned of Helmand during a previous trip to Baltimore, when we were told it was owned by a relative of Afghan President Hamid Karzai (we weren't able to verify that independently). And although we've never been to Afghanistan (is there an Afghani booking agent who'd like to sign us?), the atmosphere and fresh, wholesome food felt authentic.
The dark wood furniture and elegant table linens had us scared for a second (W&R's on-the-road wallet is slender), but we were happy to discover that the prices are surprisingly affordable. Must-try items include the kaddo borwani -- a sweetly seasoned pumpkin dish that would be equally at home in both the appetizer and dessert sections of the menu. There is also a lovely dish of naan laced with cilantro vinaigrette that we called the "Chips & Salsa of Afghanistan."
There were plenty of vegan and vegetarian options for the kinder, gentler band members, while the carnivores dug into a plate of rich aushak. The aromatic dish of housemade ravioli is stuffed with leeks, served on top of a tart Afghan yogurt and liberally topped with savory ground beef and mint.
We took that dish to go and sat on a street corner, eating it using naan for forks while watching a band called McTell Brothers play sweet, melancholy boy rock under a full Baltimore moon.
Come back soon, we're going to tell you all about the Galaxy Hut in Arlington, Va., which serves up some stellar tater tots.
-- Wet & Reckless
Photo: Emily Wilder (left) and Jessica Gelt, the band's carnivores, eating aushak on a street corner. Credit: Deanna DeVries.