Vegan food and death metal music may sound like an odd mix, but San Diego’s Kindred restaurant proves it’s one of the best — and most unique — experiences you can get.
Located in the heart of the South Park neighborhood, this upscale vegan eatery blasts death metal tunes that you can hear a block away. Various artwork, uniquely lined tables, and a large wolf’s head give the eye plenty to feast on for itself, and the food is nothing short of spectacular.
On top of that, any restaurant that embroiders the AURYN from The Neverending Story on their menus and serves their checks in old-school paperback books is a restaurant that deserves all the business it gets.
Kindred was originally opened at the end of 2015 by Kory Stetina. He took over the space that used to be Buona Forchetta and brought in Chef Jeremy Scullin due to his hefty resume in the vegan world. Scullin began at Blossom on Carmine in New York City before creating plant fare for James Beard-nominated Rich Landau at Philadelphia’s Vedge.
Stetina also partnered up with Arsalun Tafazoli and Paul Basile of Consortium Holdings, although the restaurant is not part of the hospitality group. Tafazoli and Basile, however, brought the creative edge when it came to the art and the cocktails, both of which are astounding.
Basile utilized a French Gothic inspiration for the design of the place. The mirrored ceilings and pink wallpaper both contrast and compliment the skulls, demon wolf mascot, and shock rocker art. San Diego Magazine called it “one part elegant cocktail bar, when manners sophistication and politeness reigned, and one part villainous demon lair where evil plots to overthrow the universe whilst holding horned and jeweled scepters, or petting cute and sinister cats.”
Stetina and the team value vegan food, but the word isn’t anywhere on the menu or in the marketing. Stetina believes they’re focused more on the aspect of actually taking care of people as opposed to taking the activist approach based on guilt or fear.
The food is also modeled after French cuisine and is geared toward acknowledging that vegetarianism has a place in a more rebellious and punk nature. This also plays into the theme with the music.
As to the giant wolf head, although it was put in to contrast some of the pink lined on the wallpaper, any money that is placed into the wolf’s mouth is donated to the California Wolf Center in Julian. Stetina told Revolver Magazine that the center’s desire to help humans and wolves find a healthy coexistence compels him.
With a focus on neighborhood love, Kindred as a whole plans to keep experimenting with their vegan menu and refine what they do to constantly build new inspirations.
Give me a minute to grow my hair back out, return to my teens, and join a mosh pit. I am a headbanger through, and through to the core, so Kindred had me at “death metal.”
Everything about this place, from the ambiance to the music to the service to the menu, was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had in my life. The design of the place alone is awe-inspiring, and the Gemini in me loved the pink-meets-goth mixture that oddly complimented itself in a strange way.
But, okay, the food, though.
First of all, this restaurant is incredibly affordable, especially considering recent inflation rates. I drank a Honeyed Wilderness with bourbon, apple brandy, amaretto, walnut, salted caramel, lemon, and apple blossom bitters. I need the official recipe, so I can make this a punch-bowl drink at my next party.
On the food side of things, we went wild. We ordered a Wizard Bowl with glazed maple carrots, mixed greens, crispy temiem, beets, candied pecans, tofu crumble, and champagne vinaigrette. Everything on this was great, though there was a little bulk on the mixed greens. Nothing a little extra champagne vinaigrette doesn’t fix!
We also ordered the Grilled Cheese with herbed béchemel, tapioca mozzarella, apple, braised kale, and carmelized onions on sourdough bread. Whoever created this sandwich deserves a medal, and whoever makes the cheese needs to teach me the trick. I’ve never had apple on a grilled cheese before, and that’s a little tip I’m taking with me next time I make one for myself.
We also got the Soul Crush, which is a cornmeal-crusted gardein that tasted just like chicken, parsnip potato mash that I could have taken a bath in, broccolini, homestyle cheesy mac, and tomato lemongrass velouté. I wish they sold this as a frozen meal you could just pop in the microwave and eat whenever you wanted. The velouté sauce especially hit the spot and also made for a good dipping sauce on the Grilled Cheese.
My favorite, however, was the Memphis BBQ Jackfruit sandwich with pulled soy curls, green chili aioli, pickles, onion, and dijon mustard served on sourdough with a side of potato chips. I’d personally never heard of jackfruit before, but it certainly goes well in a Memphis BBQ sandwich, and I am all about this as a meat substitute.
To finish off the meal with what little appetite we had left, we got the S’mores Sliders, which have marshmallow fluff inside of snickerdoodle cookies laced with dark chocolate and topped with some maldon salt. The two s’mores were the perfect size to finish off the meal, and the maldon salt was an unexpectedly pleasant addition.
This place is busy, busy, busy! You can call ahead and ask about wait times, maybe even put your name down, but there’s no real online reservations.
They’re open daily from 4:30 pm-10 pm Sunday-Wednesday. They stay open until 11 pm on Thursdays and 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. They also offer brunch from 10 am-2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The kitchen usually closes either an hour early or around 10 pm.
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