Vegan cafe hopes to help revitalize Cottontown

By Tom Garzilli
July 10, 2013

Business is slow around the historic Cottontown-Bellevue neighborhood, but the Lamb’s Bread Vegan Cafe is looking to draw new people to the area.

Owned by King Khurhu, the cafe offers an eclectic combination of modern vegan menu items, traditional herbal remedies and cultural decor. It also hosts guest speakers and open-mic nights every Friday evening.

Khurhu, who also recently opened the Ankh Life International Vegan Cafe near Irmo, said he was too busy to talk. But manager Katie Gantt said she thinks the cafe and its mix of culture and cuisine will bring in crowds of customers, which can revitalize the area and begin transforming it into a hub for Columbia youth.

“Something’s going on, an influx of youth,” she said. “When I started working here, I realized there is a subculture that is more progressive than what I expected.”

Customers admire the religious icons and cultural artworks on the tables and walls The open-mic nights feature local poets and storytellers eager to share themselves.

The menu features dishes like “Spare no Rib,” a tofu sandwich, a “mock BLT” and a “tempeh reuben” that typically cost  $10 to $13. Khurhu prepares most of the food, while the desserts are from a local vegan baker.

With a North Main Street location that’s easy to find, and as one of the few all-vegan restaurants in Columbia, among those it is attracting are some University of South Carolina students. Freshman Stephen Hill is a vegan who said he recently learned about the cafe.

“It was some of the best vegan food I’ve ever eaten,” he said. “The service was great, and the atmosphere was really nice.”

The cafe also sells a small selection of herbal teas and other organic products such as shampoo and conditioner that are mostly made by Khurhu himself. The assistant chef, who goes mostly by only his first name, Rakachi, said most of the products are meant to promote good health.

“Our teas and incense are meant to calm the mind and spirit,” he said. There is also traditional religious jewelry for sale, following the cafe’s cultural atmosphere. The artwork on display is all authentic, originating mostly from African tribes.

“There is a lot of spirit in these artifacts,” Gantt says, pointing to an old African statue. Ultimately, Gantt says the cafe is a welcoming place where customers can go to relax.

“We just want to keep it positive,” she says.

Ray Lee, the cafe’s short-order cook, stops to give a piece of traditional jewelry to a young girl who was curious about it, and Gantt takes a moment to chat with customers who come into the shop. “We want it to be like you’re at home,” she says.

“It’s nothing but love,” Rakachi says. “That explains this whole shop.”

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