At Kin Southern Kitchen, Black Girl Magic and Biscuits Reign Supreme
The opening of Kin in Providence marks a return to gastronomic intimacy.
In a year that drove people into isolation, the opening of Kin — propelled by Kickstarter and dogged determination — marks a return to gastronomic intimacy. Julia Broome has brought family forward in a space on the corner of Washington and Union that’s defined not only by its Southern roots but also by its soul. The two are so often intertwined but there’s a noteworthy difference between the food of a region — mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, collard greens — and the manner in which that food is rendered, passed down and offered. Take Broome’s biscuits ($12), for example. These are not high-rise and fluffy. They are folded, dense, chewy and sweet — less like a stroll and more like a long hike to a glorious view. Slathered with honey butter and what hits you in a single bite is the struggle and celebration of one resilient American experience.
If the spotlight on Black-owned businesses has been resurgent in the past year, it’s particularly resonant when it comes to food. There’s a truth-telling at the dinner table, an honesty that offers not only a glimpse of the present but a long look into the past. Broome is both vigilant and joyous in how she tells her story. Diners walk through the bar into the dining room, a preamble of pride and celebration in liquid form that simply goes by “drank.” Cocktails are fruit forward and lush: blackberry, pineapple, mango, lemon, all add punch to the back notes of whiskey and cognac. And though there’s celebratory humor in each name (Auntie’s Kool Aid mixes Stoli and a revolving flavor of, yep, Kool Aid), there is deep pride in being a woman in this world that emanates not only in artwork but in libations. Black Girl Magic (peach vodka and lemonade) and Darker the Berry (gin and blackberry) remind everyone seated of the force of female energy — and there is no place at the table for those who forget it.
But the party expands exponentially once the food orders go in. Fried chicken ($18), cornmeal-dusted catfish ($19) and sirloin steak ($32) come paired with the best of the South: the sides. Crocks of creamy macaroni topped with shredded cheddar are everything home should be, and candied shoestring sweet potatoes are — according to a rapturous twenty-year-old drinking sweet tea — “a Christmas miracle.” But the highest notes are hit by green things. Kin’s collard greens are nothing short of an epiphany. Cooked with smoked turkey and potlicker (a.k.a. potlikker, a.k.a. potliquor), these are lean, sturdy and fragrant with vinegar and spice. They’re not untraditional, they’re just blindingly delicious. In fact, the only dish that can steal their thunder is a plate of fried green tomatoes ($10) that, dunked in Cajun buttermilk ranch, hits every note between tart and smooth, a sharp translation of the American South in a single, perfect bite.
Dressed in deep blue and earthy browns, Kin is both casual and profound in everything it offers. There’s room to revel but also, always, to reminisce. (“We’re going to start with four shots of Patron and lime,” says a foursome, out to enjoy the weekend. “And then we’re going to eat.”) Splurge for banana pudding or ice cream topped shortcake ($7) if the epic fried chicken sandwich ($16) hasn’t paralyzed you. Kin is a story that offers culinary history in its most thorough, most reverberating and most gratifying form.
71 Washington St., Providence, 537-7470, kinpvd.com.
Open Tues.–Sat. for lunch and dinner. Wheelchair accessible. Street parking.
Cuisine Soul food.
Must get Bucket o’ biscuits, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken with collard greens.