A local couple is serving up a Himalayan twist on American foods in their Poolesville café.
Nichole and Ashar Abbasi, owners of K2 Café at 17610 W. Willard Road, opened their business in April 2021 offering Himalayan fusion meals.
“South Asian food is not complete without any spices and without any flavors, it’s not just white eggs and toast, it’s curries, it’s kabobs, it’s things that have cooked for hours and hours, it’s marinated in a lot of spices,” said Ashar, who hails from Pakistan. “The Himalayan flair is, basically, we’re taking traditional American recipes and adding our own flair to it. We give it our own twist.”
The couple made additions to their menu last month, adding curries and their take on pizza, called N’izza, which is traditional pizza toppings on naan, a flatbread.
“We used to do curry every Thursday but now we do it every day. Who knows, when we go bigger, we might be adding more and we only have two curry items right now, we might add more curry items,” Ashar said.
Popular menu items include the K2 Spicy Select wrap, which includes Tandoori chicken, cheddar, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and spicy Ranch on a jalapeno cheddar wrap, and a spicy breakfast wrap, which includes jalapenos, eggs, cilantro, cheddar cheese and a splash of hot sauce on a jalapeno cheddar wrap, Ashar said.
Other menu items are the K2 Veggie Bowl with spiced chickpeas, potatoes, rice, tomatoes, red onion, lettuce, yogurt, a tamarind chutney sauce, and Namak Para, which is a crunchy topping; and a K2 Café Salad, which includes marinated Tandoori chicken, lettuce, cucumbers, red onion and cheddar cheese served with a yogurt mint chutney dressing.
Nichole said the couple wanted to open a place where anyone could come in for a meal.
“My husband is a Muslim, so he eats halal food, and he doesn’t eat things that have gelatin, he has to be aware of the things when we go out to eat so we’re like, that’s it, when we have a place, we want to have something for everyone,” she said. “We have gluten-free options, we have vegan options, we don’t use pork … we wanted there to be something for everyone because I know how much it sucks to go somewhere” and not be able to eat the food.
Ashar said the opening of K2 Café was part of his version of the American dream.
“One of the reasons I really wanted to start it is because when you come to America, there is a saying about [the] American Dream and everyone has a different definition of the American dream,” he said. “Some people want to go to school and get the best education in one of the best universities in the U.S. and that’s their American dream. My American dream was to have my own small business and this business gives me the opportunity to at least look towards a bigger dream.”
Ashar said the name of the restaurant originates from the Himalayan mountain in Pakistan.
“K2, as not everyone knows, is the second-largest mountain in the world that is located in Pakistan,” he said. “It is also the most savage in the world, meaning [a] 25% of casualty rate from people trying to climb it. It creates a huge challenge to reach the summit, and when we started this café during the pandemic, to me, [that] was a symbol of challenge.”
The name of the café is also a nod to the fusion of Pakistani and American cuisine, according to Ashar.
“The Himalayas are part of our pride in Pakistan, and we live in Poolesville, we’re close to Sugarloaf Mountain and we’re trying to bring both mountains together,” he said.
According to Nichole, business has been strong and the couple is hoping it will continue to grow.
“We don’t want this to be our only spot, we want to be able to grow. We think we have something special and the community’s noticing it,” Nichole said.
“I always wanted to have my own business, I always wanted to be my own boss and this gave me the opportunity to do that,” Ashar added. “To me this is a base, this is our base camp of K2. It’s a foothill of K2 so we started here but we’re going to grow. The sky’s the limit – who knows where we go from here.”