NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Ukrainian flag greeted customers outside Kawai Poke as the smell of kebabs filled the air. Lunch goers flocked to the East Nashville restaurant for a taste of Eastern Europe.
"I know most people have never had any of these kinds of dishes so we want to really introduce ourselves, see it as more than just a conflict on TV, bring it a little closer to home," said owner Yev Mikhailov. He transformed his poke restaurant into a pop-up Ukrainian market to raise money for the place he once called home.
"I was born in Ukraine," said Mikhailov. "My whole family immigrated over here in 1989 during one of the big immigration moves. I first lived in Chicago, then moved down to Nashville about five years ago to go ahead and open this place."
The fundraiser was a family affair- Mikhailov's mother manned the kitchen and his sister grilled outside.
"So today we're featuring shashliki which are shish kebabs," said Mikhailov. "We're featuring some piersohki which are some hand pies."
The restaurant was packed all afternoon. Some customers had ties to Ukraine, while others just wanted to help.
"I think we forget how diverse the community is here and I think it's awesome people are coming out and saying 'this is my community, this is my culture' and owning it," said Cool Springs resident Barbara Puzanovova.
All proceeds benefited World Central Kitchen and Razom- two organizations providing relief in Ukraine.
Mikhailov said, "it's incredible that everybody seems to have loved this cause as much as we do and they're all helping out." He hopes it was a chance for customers to leave with more than just a full belly.