Kevin Kelley and Chicago’s Kitchen and Kocktails

Kevin Kelley, owner of the popular Dallas restaurant Kitchen + Kocktails, recently opened up a spot in River North. The upscale restaurant serves up Southern dishes like pork chops and blackened fish alongside gumbo and crab cakes. The huge space has plenty of giant booths and Instagrammable features like an elaborate flower wall and neon angel wings.

But the opening weekend wasn’t without controversy. When a video of Kelley berating his customers at the original K+K went viral, it set off a fierce debate in Black media about what constitutes appropriate restaurant behavior and dress. The TRiiBE had a chance to chat with Kelley to get his thoughts about the incident and what Chicagoans can expect from his second location.

“Chicago has been an amazing place to bring this concept to,” he said. “People love the food and they want to have experiences like this.”

While the restaurant is a lot different than the Dallas location, there are some similarities. Kelley plans to pay tribute to the city’s Black community with references to Rev. Jesse Jackson and the late Mayor Harold Washington, as well as photos of Black celebrities and politicians. He also plans to honor Chicago’s rich jazz history with an array of classic hits.

He says the music is meant to be an eclectic mix that’s as authentic as possible. But most importantly, Kelley wants the people of Chicago to have fun. And he thinks they will. In a city where de facto segregation often discourages Black people from going to nightclubs, restaurants, and other entertainment venues, he hopes his new spot can offer an experience that isn’t tainted by covert racism.

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