Kelnero in Edmonds: A labor of love | Arts & Appetite

By Maria A. Montalvo | Mar 06, 2019
Courtesy of: Matt Hulbert/Edmonds Downtown Alliance Kali Albright Kelnero and Kris Samp Kelnero are the force behind Kelnero, a cocktail lounge in Edmonds.


Opening a bar or restaurant requires dedication, vision, energy, time, and money.

The romantic ideal of sitting and visiting with friends and neighbors while serving them fantastic food and libations can be a reality, but only with hours and hours of work behind those moments.

Two locals have put in the time and commitment to represent a new generation of business owners in our community: Kali Albright Kelnero and Kris Samp Kelnero conceptualized and created Kelnero cocktails in downtown Edmonds.

We have visited Kelnero on two consecutive Friday nights, coincidentally both at 6:45 p.m., and found a full dining room welcoming us with a din of satisfied conversations mixing with live piano and guitar music.

We were lucky enough to sit at one of the wooden tables across from the bar (all of the tables at Kelnero are made from wood cuts with wild and interesting shapes), so we could take in the activity of the bartenders and appreciate the diversity of clientele.

You will invariably see Kali behind the bar and Kris in the dining room, serving and checking on customers. It is an atmosphere distinctive from anything else in town, and in a very good way.

“Personally, I think what we offer is different from anything else in Edmonds,” Kali said. “At first, I was worried that people would ask for more ‘normal’ food, drinks, or even tables, but I have seen very little of that.

“Our customers have been very open to our menu concept and more adventurous in their eating and drinking than I imagined, and I couldn't be happier about that.”

Kelnero’s Northwest sensibility is ever present, but with a twist.

From the local cuisine to the wooden tables to the modern bar with details that harken back to a Prohibition-era speakeasy (note the piano in the corner, the lighting, and bottle shelves).

The space was designed to be as unique and totally personal as the owners who created it.

It takes several minutes to peruse the many pages of innovative and surprising cocktails on the menu, as well as choices of local beer and wine, and even creative and fun nonalcoholic cocktails.

(My friends who do not drink alcohol say this is a very welcome addition, since the glass of club soda is not always celebratory enough for a wonderful meal and good conversation.)

The cocktail concepts and flavors exceed your expectations.

Each drink is prepared to the right size and finished with often unexpected but perfectly suited garnish. The Kelnero Martini is made with gin or vodka from Edmonds’ Scratch Distillery, and comes with a skewer of three hand-stuffed blue cheese olives and a slice of salami.

The Blue Collar Criminal, as creative as it is clever, combines bourbon, pickled blueberries, basil, lemon, simple syrup, and a splash of soda.

The Scratch Old Fashioned brings out the orange and the deep cherry ,and the whisky perfectly and sipping from the thinnest glass rims makes it taste even better.

The Black Manhattan and Sussex Mule are divine, and the Beets by K will blow your mind since the aquavit, golden beet-coriander shrub, dry vermouth, and lemon mix together to create the sensation that you are drinking a beet.

The food, or victuals, as they call them, are small plates of seasonal cuisine.

The menu features sourced fresh and local ingredients from places like Wobbly Cart, Osprey, or Sauk Farms, the Cottage Bakery, and Lopez Island Creamery, to name a few.

So far we have tried the lavender lemon popcorn ($5), the unbelievably delicious sunchoke dip ($10) with bleu cheese and mizuna greens, a charcuterie plate with cheeses and the fantastic fresh Cottage bread ($26), the beet toast ($8) which offers a perfect balance between fresh beet and tangy goat cheese flavors, and the burrata bread bowl ($15), that is too divine to describe.

Next on our list will be the purple savory clams ($10) for me and the roasted duck ($16) for my husband. And in case you need something sweet to accompany your cocktail, a delectable layered carrot cake from Edmonds’ own Frosted Bakery is the current dessert feature.

With just a few weeks as an operational restaurant, the couple says they are honored to have opened their doors to such a welcoming Edmonds community.

“So far we have been overwhelmed by all the love and support we're receiving at Kelnero,” Kali said.

“We couldn't be happier with how busy we've been, and hope to continue offering the high quality of food, drinks, service, and atmosphere that have resulted in such welcome praise.”

During Prohibition, a speakeasy would serve new, creative cocktails and provide simple finger foods and canapes. Kelnero has added a whole new category to what a bar in Edmonds looks and feels like, offering something truly different.

“We anticipated some slow nights, but we have had customers until our midnight close every night since we opened,” the Kelneros say, and lucky for all of us, it looks like they have years of late nights ahead.

Kelnero is at 545 Main St, Edmonds. It’s open 3 p.m.-midnight Tuesday through Sunday. More information:, 425-967-5867.

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