March 12, 2015
Kindred is a great name for a restaurant. The connotations of family, gathering and like-mindedness make for a welcoming sign on the outside of the 19th century restored brick building on Davidson’s Main Street. It also suits the team that made this dream a reality, husband and wife Joe and Katy Kindred.
Katy estimates it was about ten years ago that they first uttered the words “We should open a restaurant and it should be called Kindred.” At the time, they were in Chicago, where Joe had moved to stretch his culinary boundaries and discovered the perfect partner in Katy, a Windy City native. With her travel bug as inspiration, they collected another decade of far-flung influences, from their engagement in Italy, wedding in Chicago and growing careers in San Francisco.
Yet when the time arrived to make their dream come true, it was Joe’s hometown that called to them. “We’ve always wanted to be in Davidson,” says Katy. “We really believe in this community. I think that the DNA for this being a food town is there.” With a dynamic college community and a notable farmers market just up the street, the Kindreds saw a plethora of resources for a restaurant focused on the best ingredients served in a relaxed atmosphere.
“When I go out to eat,” says Joe, sitting in the upstairs main dining room on a bright afternoon, “I want to be comfortable. I want to bring my kids.” It’s easy to picture happy families dining here, where tall windows and ceiling flood the space with clear light, highlighting the contrast between sleek white marble tabletops and the rough texture of original brick walls. Downstairs, a stately marble-topped bar greets guests with vintage-flavored details of subway tile, stained wood and warm lighting. Soon to come are a 10-seat chef’s table in the basement kitchen and plenty of seating on the brick-tiled patio, surrounded by garden beds and food-producing trees. As families go, this is going to be a big, well-fed one.
As with any family gathering, the food really draws you in, and part of the appeal here is its eclecticism. “A lot of our food is different interpretations of places we’ve traveled,” says Joe. In spite of a pantry of locally sourced ingredients and deepening relationships with nearby farmers, he says, “We don’t want to be labeled a farm-to-table restaurant, we just want to be a chef-driven restaurant.” And what exactly does that mean? As Katy explains it, “We’ve worked in so many different places and traveled to so many different places. All of that influences Kindred’s atmosphere, this food and the wine menu. It’s our story, on a plate.”
The couple’s time in Italy and Italian-style restaurants plays a strong part in that story, evident in a selection of house-made pastas and menu vocabulary like olio nuovo and guanciale. But in the five courses Joe’s kitchen prepared for our CLTure tasting, we encountered influences from Morocco, Korea, France and Latin America. The oh-so-Italian sounding tagliolini with braised venison and richly flavorful guanciale is also spiced with cumin, chocolate, adobo and cocoa. It’s a prime example of how Joe doesn’t simply reproduce classic dishes from other cultures, instead, he uses them as a launching pad for his own inspiration.
So it’s not surprising that the plainly named “Fried egg with crispy rice” turns out to be Joe’s interpretation of the Korean favorite bibimbap. Presented in a miniature cast-iron skillet familiar to any Southern cook, the tender white rice conceals a lightly crunchy crust at the bottom. On top, the deep orange yolk of a Stauber Farms pasture-raised egg nestles among sesame-flavored cubes of housemade seitan, soy pickled mushrooms, fresh cilantro and one of the sweetest radishes you’ll ever sink your teeth into, from New Town Farms.
Squeeze the lime wedge over it all, then pick up your chopsticks and start stirring. From the first bite, recurring flavors hit your palate one after the other: tangy lime, rich egg yolk, savory sesame, acidic mushroom. Meanwhile, your teeth encounter the crunchiness of onion and crisp rice alongside the tender meaty bite of the rich seitan. It’s a playground of flavors and textures, each remaining separate but coordinated.
It’s a fitting symbol of Joe’s and Katy Kinred’s efforts to coalesce their wide-flung adventures into a flavorful experience for their guests. After decades of work and play, the disparate elements of their complementary talents come together in a familiar setting that invites experimentation. In surroundings that feel like home, with hosts that welcome you like family, you can travel to unexpected parts of the world right from downtown Davidson.
131 N Main St.
Davidson, North Carolina 28036