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Hampden: Don’t freak out, but Ekiben opens next week

Expect favorites like the neighborhood Bird sandwich at Ekiben in Hampden.
Expect favorites like the neighborhood Bird sandwich at Ekiben in Hampden.(Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Ekiben’s second branch is set to open next week in Hampden, said owner Steve Chu. The new location is in an alleyway storefront to the rear of the Avenue. It was formerly home to TigerStyle, which closed last year.

Guests can expect to feel a familiar Ekiben vibe — albeit with a new layout — at the Hampden location, though Chu said the new location has a significantly larger kitchen.

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The new location’s opening is scheduled for Tuesday, with a soft opening Monday.

“We’re super excited,” Chu said. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this opening."

It’s the second branch for the Fells Point based sandwich shop, known for its neighborhood bird, a chicken sandwich on bao. Buzzfeed has named Ekiben “best budget restaurant” and “best sandwich spot," while Travel & Leisure labeled it the best sandwich place in the state.

Founders Chu, Ephrem Abebe and Nikhil Yesupriya met while students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and started their business as a hot dog cart selling at the city’s farmer’s markets.

Talk of the new spot has garnered intense excitement on social media. When the city issued a stop work order on the building last year — the contractors had yet to secure the necessary permits — a Facebook commenter only half jokingly volunteered to start a GoFundMe to pay their fees. Chu said he was grateful for the patience of neighbors, including an upstairs yoga studio that he said was disrupted by the noise during construction. “We did not realize that they’re doing acupuncture upstairs,” he said.

Chu said he’s looking forward to being a part of the Hampden neighborhood, and plans to participate in the next toilet bowl race.

No other new locations are currently in the works, he said. “We gotta take care of Hampden,” he said.

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