Kalamazoo's Newest BBQ Masterpiece0
There’s a new restaurant in town, Kalamazoo. Prepare your forks.
Wonderfully eclectic with a unique urban flavor (pun very much intended), Kelvin & Co. opened its doors on E. Michigan Ave this Spring and has since provided Kalamazoo with mouthwatering smells and the best fast-serve barbecue the city has to offer. But don’t take my word for it.
Mark Nieuwenhuis, founder of the new barbecue dining establishment, sat down with me last week to talk shop and feed me. The Kalamazoo native discovered his love of food at an early age while working alongside chefs from around the country. He moved to Chicago with his wife and served as the executive chef of Goodwin’s Restaurant in the loop before deciding to make the move back to Kalamazoo.
“I knew I would head back here eventually,” said Nieuwenhuis, who wanted to be closer to his family. “The music and art scene here is excellent. It was just missing one thing ??" a fast-serve barbecue restaurant.”
Once the property became available, the executive chef immediately made plans to lease and relocate. The property was leased on February 1st and, with the help of his Kalamazoo connections and a few family members, was fully renovated and ready to open its doors a mere two months later on March 31st. All it needed was a name.
After throwing out some preliminary ideas, Mark and his wife settled on ‘Kelvin & Co.,’ a tribute to his middle name. Niewenhuis brainstormed the brand identity and opted for an aesthetically simple, urban look. Kelvin & Co. was born, and added a metropolitan flare to the cityscape of downtown Kalamazoo.
The barbecue joint is primarily known for its hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed meats and eco-friendly reputation. The brisket, chicken, and pulled pork are the restaurant’s best sellers, alongside unique offerings like homemade pickles and jalapeno mac and cheese. With a few large projects on the horizon, the restaurant looks to provide authentic barbecue for Kalamazoo before branching out to other cities.
“This is the dream,” Nieuwenhuis said, “I get to come into work and do what I love every day.”
And the secret to his success? He’s a one-man band.
“I do my own ordering, I do food prep, I put orders together, I wash dishes, I pay my own bills. You have to learn everything to make it in this business.”
He wasn’t lying. Five minutes after our conversation, the executive chef disappeared behind the counter to wash dishes with his staff.
It isn’t hard to fall in love with this restaurant. The place is charming, the staff is passionate about food, and each bite makes the words “food coma” seem slightly more obtainable. But the best part? The way this self-starter contributes to the larger Kalamazoo community. A man had a vision about good food served in a responsible way, and a restaurant was born. The food the guests eat is local, high quality, and delicious. Mark and his restaurant staff are also involved in the entire process, which benefits everyone involved.
If you haven’t made your way to Kelvin & Co. yet, it may be time to give it a shot. As a lover of all things delicious, I highly recommend you add it to the (barbe) queue.
Quick connect with Mark
Favorite Season? Fall
Favorite Food? Don’t know if I have a favorite. I like pizza ??" there were a couple good places in Chicago.
Books or movies? Both
Children? Yes, one son ??" currently with my wife in Chicago until they sell the place and move up to Kalamazoo!
Ideal Vacation? In this job, I don’t get a vacation.
Favorite Stress-Relief Activity? Sleep
Favorite Things about Kalamazoo? Besides my restaurant? The music and art scene.