If you’ve ever felt like the guy in the “Halal. Is it Meat You’re Looking For?” song, read on.
For those readers who, like me, have on occasion found themselves craving for a superbly done New Zealand lamb chop in tandoori seasoning while driving home from work, check out RJ’s Cafe, located in Beltsville, Maryland.
Conveniently nestled in an otherwise nondescript corporate center, RJ’s Cafe is a family operation run by two culinary veterans and brothers: Abdul Hameed and Chef Abdul Basit Khan.
Established in 2008 as the culmination of many years of experience in the culinary industry, RJ’s is not your run of the mill desi restaurant. RJ’s, named after Abdul Basit and Abdul Hameed’s parents, Rashid and Jamila, is run by people who are experts in good food.
Chef Abdul Basit has been cooking professionally for over 15 years and is a self-described “foodie.” Chef Abdul Basit Khan has experience working for many years as an executive chef at the Grand Hyatt Park Hyatt and at other upscale restaurants.
The menu at RJ’s has something for everyone. From rib eyed steak to tandoori pizza and everything between. If you don’t see what your palate fancies, however, don’t fret. Chef Basit, an expert in American, Indo-Pak and Chinese cuisine aims to please and is always trying new things in the kitchen. Regarding his broad range of cooking interest, he explains “Recipes just pop in my head and I like experimenting.” His favorite dish: the rib eyed steak with sauteed onion and mushroom with garlic and herb.
You can often find Chef Basit’s sons Muhammad Zed, who became a hafiz at age 14, Danial and Attar Khan or one of his two daughters assisting at the restaurant. As Chef Abdul Basit says:
You really have to know the food… By smell… I can tell the salt content and the seasoning I’ve put in there… [the customer's] reaction tells me whether its good or bad… and thats the secret of my cooking.
The other half of this dynamic duo is Abdul Hameed Khan, who manages the business. Abdul Hameed has been working in the culinary industry since 1977. He has worked in a management role at Chris Fields, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Whole Foods. According to Abdul Hameed:
What drives us is the passion. What drives the passion is the quality service and cleanliness. Our motto is “quality is our recipe.” Thats what drives us.
When you enter RJ’s, you will most likely be greeted by a smiling Abdul Hameed. Always cheery and welcoming, Abdul Hameed truly makes the customer feel at home. Abdul Hameed will have the answer to any question you may have. When asked what his favorite dish is, his reply was quick: Hawaiian style rib-eyed steak. Abdul Hameed’s son, Muhammad Shafiq, is also an upcoming chef who works with the family at RJ’s. He recently placed third out of a 24 school competition at a Maryland state level cooking competition. Out of the four top placing contestents Shafiq was the only junior.
Another reason to like the folks at RJ’s Cafe is because they care about the community. When one enters, they will see letters from the local school board and Police expressing gratitude for RJ’s commitment to service. One such example of this commitment is RJ Cafe’s involvement with a program at the nearby High Road School whereby two students come in to RJ’s to learn cooking.
So next time you’re in the mood for a good halal steak, burger, or tandoori pizza with a side of hospitality and good conversation, give RJ’s Cafe a try. You can also see more reviews of RJ’s Cafe at Sameer’s Eats and zabibah.com.