The Kitchen, which is part restaurant and part cooking school, opened on Friday in German Village, adding new twists to the area’s restaurant lineup.
Owners Anne Boninsegna and Jen Lindsey have dubbed it a “participatory dining and event space,” Boninsegna said. “It’s about food, with seasonal cooking and as many local ingredients as possible, but it’s also about the social experience you have breaking bread with people.”
It’s a concept they hope will catch on. The Kitchen will be open to the public — like a traditional restaurant — on Tuesdays for a taco night, and on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch. The brunch menus will change every week. On other nights, it will be home to reservation-only cooking classes, in which guests prepare and eat themed meals.
The events are grouped into categories such as Book Club, with menus inspired by popular novels such as The Help; Art Series, which highlights paintings, artists, musicians and other artistic works; Secret Wine Club, which pairs seasonal wines with an accompanying meal; and cooking produce in community-supported agriculture farms.
The first event was on Friday, and it featured meals inspired by the painting American Gothic. The menu included a lemonade cocktail, eggplant Napoleon, smoky tomato soup with candied bacon, sage-rubbed pork chops with pickled peach relish, salt-crusted roasted fingerling potatoes, skillet lima beans and buttermilk cake.
In August, a Bob Marley-themed dinner is scheduled, with a menu of rum punch; curried mince pastie; avocado, orange and jicama salad; tangy jerk chicken; curry eggplant, rice and peas; and bruleed banana with rum sauce. Private events range in price from $38 to $75 per person.
Boninsegna and Lindsey are longtime friends — they lived across the street from each other as children. Though they have catered weddings and birthdays for friends, this is their first official business venture together.
“We’ve been cooking together for about 20 years,” Boninsegna said. Every Tuesday, the pair would make tacos together at home, a tradition they are continuing at The Kitchen. “We were experimenting with a lot of fresh, nontraditional salsa and taco recipes, like adding Latin flavor to an Italian taco with bolognese, and kale and white beans.”
That is when the idea of opening their own place began. Boninsegna had several years of experience in catering and events, most recently at the Franklin Park Conservatory, and Lindsey was finishing culinary school. “We originally joked around about doing a salsa shack on the beach somewhere, so people wouldn’t have to leave the beach to eat,” Boninsegna said.
But a bigger, more-ambitious plan formed when they saw the empty building in their German Village neighborhood at 231 E. Livingston Ave. “I’d drive by the building all the time, and it’s like it was calling to me. I thought maybe I should take a look,” she said. “It was such a great space, and I have no idea why, but I felt we needed to be in this building.”
They had the space rezoned from retail to restaurant and completely gutted it, redoing the electrical, plumbing and fire-suppression systems. The two existing bathrooms were unusable. “In some ways it was great to start from nothing, but in some ways if it had already had more, it would have helped,” Boninsegna said.
They removed plaster from the walls to expose the underlying brick, and removed, refinished and rehung the original tin ceiling. They outfitted the kitchen with used equipment and cleaned the original hardwood floors, for a “rustic, industrial look.”
They have created cozy seating areas with reclaimed barn-wood tables arranged in communal-style seating. “We wanted it to feel comfortable, like going to a friend’s house,” Boninsegna said. They expect to accommodate 30 to 40 guests for each reservation-only event.
Ultimately, The Kitchen is more than a restaurant and caters to the emerging “experience economy,” Boninsegna said. “People aren’t satisfied to work, come home and sleep anymore. They want more memories and experiences, and to have things to do and talk about with their friends.”
Off the menu
Graeter’s is celebrating 143 years in business on National Ice Cream Day. On Sunday, the ice cream shop is selling scoops for $1.43 all day, to “thank our customers for their loyalty and support for 143 years,” said Chip Graeter, fourth-generation owner.