Kelly Whitaker, the Denver chef behind highly acclaimed restaurants like The Wolf’s Tailor, Basta, Bruto and Cart-Driver, has a new project simmering in the Berkeley neighborhood.
His growing hospitality group, Id Est, plans to open Hey Kiddo on the third floor of The Asher boutique hotel, at 4337 Tennyson St. Although the menu is not yet fully fleshed out, Whitaker said the style will be New American. But he’s also collaborating with Chef Deuki Hong, a San Francisco chef who is the author of cookbook “Koreatown,” on some Korean-inspired dishes.
“We want to tell the stories of different genres of food without having a stark label on the menu,” Whitaker said. “When it comes to a lot of the work that we do in food, we don’t typically just throw flavors of something that we don’t fully wrap our head around just because it’s delicious, so we like to work with people who have that type of background, upbringing and experience.”
Like The Wolf’s Tailor, which Bon Appetit named one of the best new restaurants in the country in 2019, Hey Kiddo will mill its own flour and ferment foods in-house.
There will be 45 seats indoors and a nearly 60-seat rooftop with fire pits and a daily rotating menu. In the back, guests will find a separate, 16-seat cocktail lounge called Ok Yeah.
“After taking a couple of trips to Japan, and there are these groups of food villages called yaitais, which means shop stand, and I really like this idea of going to these places, being able to see all these different businesses form a sort of collective, which is kind of what I want to do with Hey Kiddo,” said Whitaker, who has also been a James Beard award semifinalist.
Hey Kiddo’s name was inspired by Whitaker’s travels to Japan, although it won’t be a Japanese restaurant.
“Coming out of a lockdown and what our community’s been through, people are so excited to be back out, and we’re excited to cook and serve food again,” Whitaker said. “So, Hey Kiddo is a nod to fun and playfulness. We’re not a Japanese restaurant, but after visiting Hokkaido in Japan, someone suggested the name Hey Kiddo because it sounded similar, and we fell in love with it.”
“At Ok Yeah, there is no cocktail menu, so [the name] is a general answer when our team give you ideas about what to drink,” he added.
Id Est Hospitality has hired Kevin Nguyen with Regular Architecture to design Hey Kiddo and Ok Yeah’s space, which Whitaker said he wants to be funky and playful with an open-concept kitchen.
GM Development, which built and owns The Asher, approached Whitaker more than a year ago about opening something in the hotel. The firm is also a partner with Id Est Hospitality.
“The Hey Kiddo concept came along as an amenity space to The Asher building which is a boutique hotel as well as shared office space,” said GM Development principal Ben Gearhart. “In addition Tennyson, the Berkeley Neighborhood needed a rooftop concept that was complemented by the creative talents of Kelly and his team. We are privileged to have such a talented team to be able to partner with on an amazing space. ”
Id Est Hospitality opened Basta Italian restaurant in Boulder in 2010, followed by The Wolf’s Tailor in 2018, Dry Storage bakeshop in Boulder and Brutø in 2019.
Whitaker would like to open Hey Kiddo and Ok Yeah by the end of the year, but construction and permitting delays may push that out into early 2023, he said.
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