FIRST LOOK: Kindred
This is not your hippie friend's vegan restaurant.
Death metal vegan has arrived in San Diego. That actually doesn’t mean anything. But it’s catchy. And a traditionally “soft” word like “vegan” does well with a buddy descriptor like “death metal” to make people realize this isn’t your acoustic-guitaring, meditative vegan friend's restaurant.
Kindred is about to open. The guiding light of the project is Kory Stetina, who ran the vegan pop-up dinner series, LOVELIKEBEER. His partners are two of San Diego’s best—Arsalun Tafazoli and Paul Basile, the strange fellows behind Craft & Commerce, Neighborhood, Noble Experiment, Ironside, Polite Provisions, Soda and Swine, yadayada. It's not part of Tafazoli's group, Consortium Holdings, but it's got a similar, highly creative feel to it.
Kindred's arrival makes 2015 the official Year of the Vegan in San Diego, what with the opening of Café Gratitude in Little Italy. Perk up, leaf eaters. This is your time to not wallow in your lack of options.
The "badass cocktail bar that serves vegan food," as Stetina describes it, takes over the 2,800 square-foot space on 30th and Beech (1503 30th Street), formerly occupied by the well-loved Alchemy and across the street from the city’s best pizzeria, Buona Forchetta.
Stetina has tapped chef Jeremy Scullin, who has a pretty hefty resume in the meatless food world. Scullin started NYC at Blossom on Carmine, then went to Philadelphia to create plant fare for James Beard-nominated Rich Landau at Vedge. Scullin will bring the vegan fare, focusing on "rich, filling, decadent, high value dishes in terms of portion sizes—with really wild and loud flavors," says Stetina.
The menu is heavy on bar snacks. They're going to launch a cheese program, aging and fermenting cashew cheeses in house. There will be an epic veggie "charcuterie" board with red chiles, orange fennel, smoked golden beets, miso-cashew ball (a play on the cheese ball) with a kale pesto, horseradish, etc. They'll have seitan skewers in horseradish aioli and chimichurri. Decadent, rich sandwiches like "The Memphis Barbecue Jackfruit Sandwich," with soy curl, green chile aoili and pickled onions on sourdough. And then a few entrees that are more elegant.
Tafazoli and designer Paul Basile will do what they do best—cocktails and art. Their speakeasy Noble Experiment was one of the spots that sparked the craft cocktail renaissance in San Diego, and they haven’t slowed down since. David Kinsey (ex-Sycamore Den) is the bar manager. Expect Amari-focused drinks, liqueurs, etc. For example, the "Cosmic Key," with Amaro Montenegro, rosé, grapefruit, cucumber and Peychaud's bitters. There’ll be kombucha on tap, and nine craft beer handles.
As for the design? Holy crap, just look at this place. It looks like a church. It looks like a satanic church. It looks like a basilica for goths. It’s feminine, yet humorously stricken with testosterone (skulls, demon wolf mascot, bare-chested shock rocker art). It's one part vintage bank (when they looked like cathedrals), one part "elegant cocktail bar, when manners, sophistication and politeness reigned," and one part "villainous demon lair where evil plots to overthrow the universe were made whilst holding horned and jeweled scepters, or petting cute and sinister cats."
Y'know, the usual.
Basile says it's French gothic in inspiration, with a mirrored, back-lit coffered ceiling and a large marble facade. Inside, the tufted seats, ornate brass scones and custom pink illustrated wallpaper insert a little Georgia O'Keefe into the Alice Kooper vibe. There's an oversized glass and brass spirit chandelier, and Gothic floor-to-ceiling windows that flip up to create an indoor-outdoor space.
There will be psychedelic metal playing on the sound system.
As San Diego Magazine's own badass vegetarian web designer, Sanna Coates, says: "I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about a restaurant opening in San Diego before. It looks amazing!"
Enough words. Check out the first known photos in the universe of Kindred. It opens sometime in the next week. I won't say exactly, because they don't really know, and they're kind of hoping they can quietly soft open to get their feet wet. So, just keep an eye open.