It’s tempting to say that the story of B & A Street Kitchen started with a vision that included a burning desire to open a restaurant.
But if Jim and Norma Kerns are being honest, it’s because there were so few options to grab a quick meal where they could talk about their urban plans—which definitely did not include opening a restaurant. The unavailability of virtually any kind of fast, casual food in their new Over-the-Rhine neighborhood was eye opening for the pair, who moved to OTR in 2012. Soon after moving to OTR they purchased a building built in 1895. It needed a lot of work but was in a great location just one block north of Washington Park and two blocks south of Findlay Market. Their plan was to renovate the upper floors for living space (one floor for them; one to rent out) and they would develop the street level space for retail.
It was a fine plan.
But somewhere between not being able to grab a quick bite and the concept sketches for the space, another idea started to take shape. Jim and Norma both grew up with mothers who cooked exceptionally well. Norma spent many years working at her family’s taco concession business in Northwest Ohio (to this day, the family still owns it) and Jim—who is originally from Eastern Kentucky—never stopped loving (and cooking) the comfort food he came from. A thought bubbled up: what if they brought the delicious food they grew up on to their bustling corner of OTR?
They looked around and noticed there were already plenty of upscale restaurants. Definitely plenty of bars and nightlife options. But what this thriving neighborhood needed was a local hangout for fast, casual, delicious food.
A place where empty nesters, young professionals, and families alike could grab an amazing breakfast or brunch, get a quick sandwich, taco, or bowl of soup for lunch, or bring home some really fantastic take-out. The food trucks came during events. But there was no home base for this kind of delicious and fast, made-to-order dining.
And that’s when the vision truly crystallized. They saw an urban corner restaurant that was something like a cross between a fast-casual restaurant, a diner, a food truck, and a coffee shop — All-American comfort food with Southern and Tex-Mex options. A place featuring the modern sensibilities people in the neighborhood care about, like local ingredients and using organic when possible. A space that’s urban in look and feel, but opts for comfort and warmth over pretension.
But what to call this special place? Jim and Norma wanted the name of the restaurant to reflect their respective culinary heritages and influences, as well as to evoke what they held most dear. As it turns out, they didn’t have to look far for inspiration. They decided to name their endeavor B&A Street Kitchen, in honor of their mothers. The “B” stands for Jim’s mother, Barbara, and the “A” for Norma’s mother, Aurora.
Naming the restaurant for their two favorite cooks is a big responsibility. But Jim and Norma are ready for the challenge. It is their hope that B & A Street Kitchen will become a fixture of the neighborhood. That the diner’s delicious smells will spill onto the street, invite people in, and make them feel right at home. Because, the truth is, once people walk in the door, they will be home. And they’ll know it from the first bite.