At Seamless, we’re pretty obsessed with knowing everything about popular NYC restaurants—including the people who run them. With our Couch Convo series, we sit down with the people behind the most delicious local spots. Next up: Ria and Kev, owners of Kokomo.
Seamless: Let’s jump right in! You opened at the beginning of the pandemic. That had to have been difficult. What was going through your mind?
Ria and Kev: Much like many other businesses, we had no idea what to expect. COVID-19 was a game-changer that leveled the playing field. Whether you’ve been in business for 10 years or 10 days, we all had no clue what to do. The keys to surviving became the ability to be flexible and stay nimble. Those allow us to be innovative and adapt quickly in an ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.
Seamless: Why is Caribbean cuisine important to you?
Ria and Kev: As 2nd generation immigrants, we straddled two seemingly different worlds: to be Americans and New Yorkers, while staying deeply rooted in my family’s Caribbean culture and heritage.
Seamless: What inspired your restaurant’s name?
Ria and Kev: The core of our inspiration for Kokomo is what it means to be of Caribbean descent. Since the 1960s, our Caribbean people have left an indelible mark on NYC. Kokomo is a homecoming, of sorts, to highlight the unity of our cultures expressed through food, music and the Kokomo experience.
Seamless: We read in Chilled Magazine that the community support from the Black Lives Matter movement played a key role in your opening success. Do you continue to see that support today?
Ria and Kev: The Black Lives Matter movement opened up the eyes of many Americans. What was so special about it was that it didn’t stop at police brutality. It highlighted that our families and businesses need support as well. For the first time, our nation recognized that Black businesses matter too. Thankfully, that support still strongly exists and we embrace it!
Seamless: How do you feel Kokomo impacts the Brooklyn community?
Ria and Kev: Kokomo brings a fresh vibrant feel to Brooklyn. We created an escape that transports you to the islands. We fill a void by giving New Yorkers a chance to get away without traveling.
Seamless: Let’s pretend it’s our first time ordering, what should we get?
Ria and Kev: Hands down, you should start with one of our signature Caribbean Flatbreads that are made to share.
Seamless: If it’s date night, what’s a good food and drink pairing?
Ria and Kev: If your date’s really hungry, our two-pound Escovitch Snapper topped with tamarind sauce is a big crowd-pleaser. We like to pair it with our Blouse and Skirt Cocktail—muddled watermelon, fresh squeezed lemon, agave and tequila.
Seamless: With the impact of the coronavirus, how has your team persevered through it all?
Ria and Kev: Our team has held up very well, all things considered. We’re happy that we have the opportunity to employ so many people during this time. Our team is amazing!
Seamless: How do you hope people feel when Kokomo arrives at their door?
Ria and Kev: When our food arrives at their door, we want them to feel a sense of excitement. Our cuisine is our culture and we want our guests to feel like they are transported to the Caribbean with every bite.
Seamless: Random question: If your Rum Raisin Bread Pudding and Passion Fruit Peach Cobbler were in a modeling competition, which would come out on top?
Ria and Kev: The Rum Raisin Bread Pudding looks more delicious but both desserts will exceed your expectations!
Seamless: How are you staying positive during this time?
Ria and Kev: Spending time with family is a great escape from the pressures of the restaurant industry. Spending quality time with each other and our children grounds us. It’s a constant reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing. We also keep a strong connection to God. We know that whatever happens, our restaurant is in God’s hands.
Seamless: Three words that describe your loyal fans. 1, 2, 3…go!
Ria and Kev: Adventurous, foodies and lovers. We appreciate all of our guests and we’re very thankful for the love they’ve shown us.
Craving Kokomo? Yeah, us too.