Sitting on a shaded, grassy knoll while enjoying excellent food and live music is something people haven’t been able to experience a lot of since the onset of the pandemic, but the owners of KIN have come up with a way for people to get back out to safely enjoy live music and performances.
“Seeing live music is maybe something we took for granted in the past, but not anymore,” said KIN Co-owner Remi McManus. “It’s been so much fun planning, and to see the response is heartwarming. People’s eyes light up; it’s so great to see people enjoying themselves.”
KIN’s “PiKINic” series features entertainment from local and touring artists complete with an upscale, pre-made dinner complete with cocktail. Space is limited to accommodate physical distancing, but this enables KIN to offer a dining and entertainment experience that’s almost completely contact-free.
Outside the restaurant is a hillock reminiscent of an amphitheater, and was, in fact, the original location of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. The acoustics are amazing. The concrete building works as a backdrop with the band playing at the bottom and the seating winding upwards to the corner of Ninth and Main streets.
And if people couldn't afford a ticket—prices vary across performances—there was ample space left available outside of KIN’s roped-off area for them to sit and enjoy the show. McManus said he hopes those passing by will feel as if they can enjoy the show as well: “The idea was always that people can still see and listen even if they can’t afford a ticket.”
On Saturday, Aug. 29, the musical guest was Mr. Grant Olsen, followed by Jan Reed and The Simplots. Grant Olsen described the sound of his group as “a modular family band,” which has a funky, electronic, move-your-booty sound, and several people danced through the set. Jan Reed has a more folkish sound that was a nice second act and The Simplots, also a bit funky and rocking, ended the evening.
The picnic was already set at the reserved space and consisted of a snack of garden spiced popcorn; watermelon salad with tomato; smoked beets and a bit of spice with the addition of an ancho vinaigrette; shrimp succotash with red pepper and a jalapeño salsa verde; and for dessert a lime curd, strawberry with meringue pie. The cocktail was gin-based with crabapple, linden flower, plum and lemon. McManus said the menu changes with every event and they’re just trying to adapt and figure out what works the best. People can indicate dietary restrictions or preferences when ordering on the website.
“We had to figure out the confines of this kind of production,” said McManus. “It’s not like a restaurant and with picnic style food we’ve had to figure out what works best in this situation so the food quality doesn’t diminish.”
McManus added that as KIN moves forward with these events—the restaurant hopes to host them through October—it will start incorporating food themes that pair with the artists; but for now the focus is on working with the freshest local food available as the staff irons out any kinks.
However, there didn’t appear to be many kinks to iron out. Cocktails can be ordered via text and delivered to a table outside, and the food was just as fresh as if a waiter had delivered it to the table.
McManus said KIN's goal is to not only keep the restaurant open but to go above and beyond in regards to safety precautions so that people can begin to enjoy these kind of events again in a responsible way. He said that there’s a reason the restaurant is called KIN, and that’s because the staff is like a family, and events must be safe for them as well as patrons. He added that he believes about 98% of restaurants downtown are suffering, and community support is imperative to their survival.
“Boise is an incredible city and community, and everyone’s been so supportive,” said McManus. “We want nothing more than to see downtown Boise thriving again, and we have some fun and unique acts coming up that people should really enjoy.”