Remi McManus and Kris Komori realize they might create brief, misguided excitement in Downtown Boise.
When scuttlebutt spreads that State & Lemp restaurant’s former co-owner and ex-chef are opening speakeasy-style bars in November, confused foodie heads might even explode.
It was only three months ago when the men exited State & Lemp, where Komori earned a reputation as Boise’s most creative culinary explorer. In August, they announced plans in 2019 to open Kin, a new restaurant revitalizing the former Sav-On Cafe and Baldwin Lock & Key space at 102 S. 16th St.
So let’s clear things up. Before hungry Idahoans start stampeding the adjoined Ampersand Bar and Art Haus Bar at 999 W. Main St. Before they attempt to order stylish mixed drinks or mind-blowing hors d’oeuvres in the history-filled Angell’s Bar and Grill space.
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Hifalutin craft cocktails will not be served. Neither will food.
“Not even a beer nut,” McManus says. “It’s not going to be a fancy bar like you would expect from the previous owner of State & Lemp, or the soon-to-be owners of Kin.”
What Ampersand and Art Haus will offer are no-frills beer, wine and liquor. Limited seating. In a relatively bare-bones environment.
“We’re going to leave the whole place as is,” Komori says. “Then we’ll slowly adapt into the space.”
Until Kin opens, the building at 9th and Main streets will headquarter Komori’s and McManus’ catering operation. There’s still a commercial kitchen left over from Angell’s, which closed in 2017 after decades of upscale dining.
Running a bar also will allow Komori and McManus to utilize a liquor license secured for Kin. Idaho law stipulates that you either use it or lose it.
When remodeling at Kin is finished, and it’s ready to open — by late spring or early summer — McManus and Komori will need to make a decision.
Do they transfer the liquor license to Kin? Or do they keep Ampersand and Art Haus open?
“If it turns out to be the most wildly successful bars in Downtown Boise,” McManus says, “then there would be no reason to shut them down.”
Stranger things have happened.
What won’t happen is for the side project to become a distraction.
“If too many people come in, we’re going to start charging Icelandic prices,” jokes McManus, who recently returned from a two-week trip to the Nordic island country. “I can tell you a beer there is $18 and a cocktail is about $25.”
I’ll take a Natty Ice. Happy hour price, please?
Komori, a three-time James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award nominee, does not intend to hone his mixology skills. “I mean, I can make a drink, but I’m not necessarily going to be the one making drinks,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not making very good drinks. I can pour you a whiskey neat, I’ll tell you that.”
He does plan to enjoy the ride, though, wherever it leads. Ampersand and Art Haus could host private events or offer theme nights, he suggests.
“We could say it’s karaoke this night, it’s a tiki bar this night — it’s a food-related movie,” Komori says. “There’s a lot of things we can do, as long as people don’t expect craft cocktails or high-end plates. Because that’s nowhere near what we’re going to be doing.”
“These bars are not really a reflection of what I do,” McManus reiterates, “or what Kris does, or what Kin is about.”
“We will have fun, though,” Komori promises.