Owner of The Mantu in Carytown buys into Short Pump for fast-casual expansion

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Hamid Noori at the Carytown Mantu location. (BizSense file photo)

Local restaurateur Hamid Noori continues his westward expansion.

Last week he purchased Two Guys Pizza at 11636 W. Broad St. in Short Pump with plans to convert it into The Mantu Express, a fast-casual version of his Carytown restaurant The Mantu. 

The deal, which closed for an undisclosed amount, gives Noori control of the 13-year-old pizzeria near the Regal Short Pump movie theater. 

After a long, winding journey that brought him from Afghanistan to Richmond, Noori opened The Mantu in Carytown in 2019, offering Afghan and Pakistani dishes in a sit-down restaurant setting. In 2022 he opened The Mantu Market, a grab-and-go version of The Mantu complete with a grocery area and bakery in western Henrico, at 7510 W. Broad St.

With the move into Short Pump, Noori said Mantu Express will be set up like fast-casual restaurants such as Cava and Mezeh. 

“It’s dine-in grab-and-go. You’ll see all the foods buffet-style but the servers will serve you, and you can pick and choose from the food we have,” Noori said. “We’ll have plenty of salads, vegan options and kebabs.”

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The restaurant’s space is a few doors down from Regal Cinemas in Short Pump. (Mike Platania photo)

Noori’s purchase of Two Guys included the pizza shop’s business assets, equipment and lease on the roughly 1,700-square-foot space. Noori said even though the name and much of the menu will be derived from Mantu, Two Guys’ pizzas will remain on the menu. 

“We don’t want to lose customers, we’ll still have pizza as well once we change the concept,” he said. “(And) my kids always want pizza. Why not get it from our own place?”

Noori said he expects it’ll take a few months to convert the space from Two Guys to The Mantu Express. The restaurant remains open in the meantime, and Noori said he doesn’t plan to close temporarily during the transition. 

Though each of Noori’s eateries shares The Mantu name, he’s enjoyed creating variations on the theme, from The Mantu in Carytown’s fine-dining slant to the market’s grocery and bakery components, to now a fast-casual concept with The Mantu Express. 

“I was thinking about this concept for a while, but I think this was the right time,” he said. “I like to get in and do something different every time.”

Noori said that all of the roughly dozen people working at The Mantu and The Mantu Market are refugees from Afghanistan and that he often works alongside nonprofits including Commonwealth Catholic Charities and the International Rescue Committee to help arrivals start new lives in the Richmond area. The idea, Noori said, is the more people he serves in the restaurants, the more he can help those in need. 

Noori also has ambitions beyond The Mantu Express. He said he wants to continue adding locations. 

“I mean, the sky’s the limit. I’m thinking about worldwide,” he said, laughing. “This is just the beginning. We have the ability, so why not?”

POSTED IN Restaurants

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