“This is just nerve wracking,” says Katy Kindred, of her new restaurant. One half of the duo behind one of the South’s best restaurants, Kindred, she says even though it’s her and her husband, chef Joe Kindred’s, second time opening a restaurant together, some things just don’t get easier.
Opening a second restaurant is especially fraught, and the Kindreds are not playing it safe when it comes to theirs, the gorgeous and eagerly awaited Hello Sailor. “You put so much work into something, and you put yourself out there, and you just hope people like it.”
The Kindreds are one of many restaurant owners who have decided to focus their energy on America’s smaller cities. Their debut restaurant Kindred revived a beautiful downtown space in Davidson, NC, a college town 20 miles from Charlotte with fewer than 15,000 residents as of the last census. Hello Sailor occupies a 4,000-square-foot, marina-adjacent property in nearby Cornelius, a lake town that Joe Kindred says is popular with Charlotte-dwellers looking for weekend recreation.
“We’re probably going to get a lot of people passing through, heading to Charleston or going to Asheville. I think it’s just an added bonus that it’s off a lake,” says Joe Kindred. Katy Kindred adds that over in Davidson, many of their guests are stopping by on drives between Asheville and Charleston, and even travelers heading to Florida from the Midwest. Still, Kindred has a solid local following, and the couple is hoping their second restaurant will, too.
Hello Sailor is “a modern play on a fish camp that still focuses on ‘chef-driven dishes’ — you know, whatever people call that nowadays,” says Joe Kindred. While the couple estimates that they ate “at probably 70 percent of the fish camps in North Carolina” (and plenty in South Carolina), the restaurant’s menu speaks to a bigger ambitions. While fish camps in the South tend to be small mom-and-pops dedicated to all manner of fresh fried fish and other Southern fixings, Hello Sailor is big, beautiful, and with serious culinary firepower.
The Kindreds tapped big-name Charleston chef Craig Deihl to lead the kitchen. “I’m pretty pumped about what Craig brings to the table,” says Joe Kindred. Deihl is best known for his work at the now-closed Cypress, and developed a reputation for being a “meat guy,” as Joe Kindred puts it, but the two chefs are keeping their focus largely on fish here. Both Joe Kindred and Craig Deihl have been James Beard Award semifinalists; Deihl was also a two-time regional best chef nominee.
The plates and platter sections of the menu pay homage to the fried foods of the fish, but Joe Kindred sees the classic Carolina fish camp as more of an inspiration than a literal end goal. Take the whole fried flounder, which they saw a lot of in South Carolina; at Hello Sailor Kindred and Deihl amp things up with Anson Mills masa flour, creating a “corn on corn on corn” flavored crust. Elsewhere the menu strays even further afield. Keep an eye for a lobster roll on a split-top milk bread bun (a nod to the signature milk bread at Kindred), crab Louis, and plenty of raw bar options. For dessert, there’s an of-the-moment soft-serve menu, plus hand pies. If anything, Joe Kindred says, “it's going be like fish camp 2.0.”
Katy Kindred took lead on designing the project, which she started by vaulting the building’s roof and leaning hard into midcentury details like a slate floor and a stacked stone wall. While the natural materials connect Hello Sailor visually to the rustic fish camps of the Carolinas, her goal was to also bring a Palm Springs vibe to North Carolina’s Lake Norman. Come warmer weather, guests can get those retro vibes on the restaurant’s massive deck. There’s merch, too, and, not surprisingly, the restaurant’s Instagram is already Very Good.
It’s one of the year’s most anticipated new restaurants, and it opens for business this weekend. Check out more photos of the space and the menu below.
• Hello Sailor [Official]