Michael Tabrizi was driving home late one night when he spotted a homeless person at a traffic light. The man held a sign reading: “I am hungry. I can work for food.”
After offering some money and handing him a business card, the owner of the Baltimore-based Tabrizi’s Restaurant came up with an idea: Instead of preparing a prix fixe menu for the masses during this year’s Restaurant Week, he would close his doors for a cause.
“My goal was not to inspire anyone or seek fame; I have been on Baltimore Magazine cover in the 1990s,” he says. “All I wanted is to make the homeless people feel some dignity, hope, and believe that there is still much good in the world.”
Tabrizi’s, which he says cleared around 1,000 covers at an average of $45 per check during Restaurant Week in the past, won’t be open to the public this time around. Instead, the goal is to serve 1,000 homeless people in six days, starting July 20. Diners will be bused in from shelters in groups of 50. They’ll arrive at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m., driven by volunteers and served by volunteers.
Tabrizi says his staff has refused payment, a fact that still makes him emotional.
“I (have) never done anything like this before, other than buying a meal on occasion for homeless people,” he says.
The Mediterranean restaurant typically serves Middle Eastern food, specializing in items like hummus, falafel, and tabbouleh. It’s located on Harborview Drive with a water view, making it a popular wedding venue.
Tabrizi says he can seat 200 people outdoors, 100 indoors, and 230 on the second floor, which is dedicated to weddings, and is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner only. One of his signature dishes is Chilean sea bass encrusted with sesame seeds, pan-seared, and served with Indian harvest couscous, asparagus, and rosemary beurre blanc.
For what he’s calling “Homeless Week,” Tabirizi plans to make Cordon Bleu in a sage cream sauce with a garden salad, and paired with apple cider in champagne flutes. A desert of chocolate and vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone will finish the meal.
He also plans to provide a nice setting, serving the food on china with fine silverware, glassware, and table clothes with flowers.
“The homeless feel forgotten; not acknowledged as a person, a life, a human being, and that is very sad,” he says. “I hope this will restore some respect and dignity. I owe that to them.”
By Danny Klein