Quality carryout food in Columbia has taken a quantum leap with the arrival of Maiwand Kabob, a 2-month-old Afghan eating place in Harper's Choice Village Center.
This no-frills restaurant is small and informal -- plastic forks, plates and cups are the norm. But the restaurant's cuisine is far more upscale than the decor, and restaurant co-owners Anwar Hamidi and Nasseem Rafiq have taken care to capture the many tastes of their homeland.
Natives of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Hamidi and Rafiq now live with their families in Columbia.
Maiwand Kabob's minimalist, yet elegant, menu specializes in Afghan-style kebab, large chunks of lamb, chicken or beef marinated in garlic and other spices and grilled to perfection.
While kebabs make up the bulk of the entree selection list, appetizers include leek-filled ravioli, pan-friend eggplant served with yogurt and mint, baked baby pumpkin in yogurt garlic sauce, and sauted okra. Afghan baklava and rice pudding round out the dining experience.
Portions are generous and prices are reasonable -- $3.95 for appetizers, and entrees top off at $10.95 for a rack of lamb.
Fresh bread is baked daily in the restaurant's tandoor oven, and a spicy serving of cilantro chutney accompanies each dish.
Hamidi perfected his take on Afghan cuisine after working in the San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass., locations of the famed Helmand restaurant chain. (Baltimore's Helmand restaurant, on North Charles Street, consistently scores high marks on the city's yearly Zagat dining guide books.)
While Columbia has seen the number of restaurants skyrocket over the past few years, ethnic cuisine has tended toward the flavors of the Asian continent. Maiwand Kabob is the only Afghan restaurant in the area, a fact Hamidi hopes won't go unnoticed.
He also hopes Columbia will embrace carryout food that has a slightly exotic bent.
"In Columbia, people want to go out; they don't have time to eat at home," Hamidi says. "We wanted the same concept -- fast food, but really good. People have no time for fine dining."
Hamidi would like to expand the take-out business, but finding part-timers who are willing to deliver has been difficult. "We are the only kebab place in the area, and delivery would be good for business."
Where: 5467 Harpers Farm Road, Columbia; 410-992-7754.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Prices: Appetizers, $3.95; entrees, $5.96 to $10.95.
Credit cards: Currently cash only, but credit cards will be accepted in the future.