Posted on | July 22, 2015
Written by | Alia Akkam
Set in a circa-1914 building that once housed the town pharmacy, Kindred is a three-story restaurant that illuminates seasonal cooking in a Southern college town 20 minutes north of Charlotte. The libations spawned at the intimate bar are just as compelling as what Joe Kindred turns out in the kitchen.
Blake Pope, Kindred, Davidson, NC
The Beverage Network: The South has become a mecca for food and drink, and Kindred is now a part of that Have you noticed an evolution of Charlotte?
Blake Pope: I think there’s been a slower resurgence in Charlotte since it’s a commuter city and there are many transplants, but the farm-to-table movement has taken hold here. All these chefs and bartenders coming together to form a community is awesome—and a complete 180 in thinking.
TBN: Kindred is known for its food. How do you run a bar that both complements that star power and stands on its own?
BP: Chef Joe has a very classic and simplistic approach to his cooking, and the ingredients speak for themselves instead of relying on flashy techniques and foams. When developing the cocktail program I took into consideration his style and put the emphasis on spirit-driven drinks. Just like with food, ingredients should first and foremost be celebrated, never masked.
TBN: Do you and Chef collaborate?
BP: We always work hand in hand in terms of what’s in season. What they’re using in the back of the house often makes its way to the front of the house, but Joe is also really helpful in lending his palate and telling us what needs to be tweaked. We revamp our menu about every two months and go through a pretty heavy series of testing.
TBN: For a restaurant in a small town you have quite the ambitious cocktail list. The Velvet Elvis for instance, with rum, banana and lime, features peanut orgeat; and the Fashionable Bird is spiked with Calabrian chiles. Were you nervous something this geeky wouldn’t fly with your guests?
BP: I was uncertain of the response, but we wanted to truly express ourselves so we decided we should just stick to our guns and go for it. I’ve been surprised by how well received it all is. While there are some folks who just want a Moscow Mule, our customers are typically well traveled and they go out to eat and drink a lot. They have seen what we are doing before. With some guests it takes a bit of extra time, and for them I’m happy to open a bottle so they can check out something new.
TBN: They probably get excited about such an introduction.
BP: Absolutely. They realize nothing is too esoteric. We’re in the midst of our summer menu now and the Pimm’s Cup is especially popular. So is the Star Daisy with gin, Calvados, lemon and a Muscadine that we actually use as our house grenadine. We always want our guests to feel comfortable so there are favorites like a Manhattan variation at all times.
TBN: With customers having a predilection to order the familiar, I imagine bar staff are well trained to encourage them to explore a little more.
BP: We’ve got a tight-knit crew here and everyone knows the ingredients inside and out so they can sell these drinks very well. At Saturday training sessions we’ll take it from the bottom and go through all the menu’s progressions and changes, but we also talk about our interactions with guests. What are you enjoying about this drink? What’s interesting about it to you? How would you sell this? These are all important questions.