KINGSTON — It’s a familiar setting with fresh scenery.
More than 100 guests gathered at Kevin’s Bar & Restaurant Thursday afternoon to celebrate the Wyoming Avenue eatery’s extensive upgrade under new ownership.
Amid soft lighting, warm earth tones and a cozy post-industrial feel, fashionably dressed diners sampled food and drink from a menu that offers some creative noshes not so common on the Wyoming Valley restaurant scene.
No detail was too small for Robert Friedman, who purchased the restaurant in July and immediately set to work planning what he called “a much needed face-lift” to the upscale space that boasts a chic warehouse feel and a hometown clientele.
“With the help of an architect, I designed the carpeting, flooring and all the booths,” Friedman said.
Longtime restaurant manager John Lahr said the renovations have provided the perfect space for everything from stopping with friends for a drink after work to an intimate dinner date.
“You can have a full meal, a small plate or just stop in for a drink,” Lahr said. “Last week we re-opened the kitchen because Wyoming Seminary had an event and they came by.”
Its location near Kingston Corners makes Kevin’s convenient to Wilkes-Barre, Kingston and the West Side, he added.
To Gary and Debbie Mack, however, Kevin’s is much more than simply a corner eatery serving great food; the restaurant is a testament to love, friendship and healing for the Edwardsville couple.
Shortly after the couple were married in 2014, Debbie was diagnosed with cancer and sought treatment in the Philadelphia area.
In May 2015, the night before the Debbie was to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center for stem cell treatment, the couple made it a point to go to Kevin’s for oysters.
“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to eat oysters for a while,” said Debbie. “So, we came here for the Tuesday night oyster special.”
As Gary Mack looks back on that night, tears comes to his eyes, “The only thing was it was Monday night. John (Lahr) said he picks a special couple every Monday night for the Tuesday special. That was us that night.”
One year later, in remission and with treatment behind her, the couple again returned to the restaurant with a friend for Debbie’s first time eating oysters since her treatment.
“John had a special table, with candlelight and champagne and oysters,” said Gary Mack. “It was beautiful.”
The Macks are thrilled with the changes that Friedman has brought to the eatery and come often for a variety of occasions.
“We come for dinner,” said Gary Mack. “But we also come if we want to stop for drinks after we go to the Kirby (Center).”
Across the way, CeCe McCarthy and Ann Evans were enjoying a girls night out in one of the business’ new booths.
The two, friends for about four years, said they have always enjoyed coming to the restaurant, but appreciate the recent changes.
“I mean where else could you find a booth for two,” said McCarthy. “We love having dinner here. Our favorites are crab cakes and the salmon.”
Chef Matt Gilbert, who heads the culinary team, said he appreciates Friedman’s encouragement to be both creative and traditional.
“For example, our Kentucky fried quail,” he said. “It’s a classic with a twist.”
The menu, Gilbert said, makes Kevin’s the perfect spot for a sit down dinner, a date or a drink.
“This is a contemporary atmosphere with a variety of food and drinks that you can’t find anywhere else,” he said.