Over the course of her life, Katya Suh has been a college basketball player, a news anchor, a real estate agent, a sales and events coordinator, a bartender. But after she had her kids, she wasn’t sure what was next. “I was going, ‘Gosh, what am I doing?’” she says. During her courtship with her husband, NFL football player and restaurateur Ndamukong Suh, the two often traveled, wine tasting through Europe and seeking out nice restaurants and bars around the world. And when she was hosting friends at home, she often mixed drinks, making up cocktails and elaborate shots for guests. “I’ve always loved the social aspect of people coming together over drink,” she says.
So she came up with an idea: What if she started a YouTube series combining her love cocktails and her identity as a sneakerhead? Thus, in 2022, she started “Kicks and Cocktails,” her series pairing drink recipes with specific sneakers. Some highlighted cocktails at Portland bars like Fools and Horses and River Pig; others involved original drinks she developed with consulting bartender Kyle Sanders.
Now, Suh is preparing to open her own cocktail bar. Kaya, opening in December on Alberta Street, will feature drinks designed by Suh and Sanders, servers in sneakers, and bowls of truffle mac and cheese.
The space itself, with its black marble bartop and bronze mirror backbar, is meant to evoke a sleek sense of style, without feeling stuffy. ’80s and ’90s R&B will thump on the speakers while a TV plays sports during game nights. Portraits by Boston-based artist Jordan Barros will line the walls, depicting “famous people that have influenced the culture” of Suh and people she loves — Run-DMC, Tupac Shakur. “These are people who made an impact on my personal perspective,” she says. “For me, being a Black woman, I want to bring some of that culture back here, bring back some of the amazing things we as a community can do.”
Suh is hesitant to reveal too many of the drinks on the menu, but Kicks and Cocktails fans will see a few drinks from that series, as well as some new entrants. The bar will serve several drinks incorporating tequila — a favorite spirit of Suh’s — including her tequila-centric take on an espresso martini with Baileys, chocolate liqueur, and Kahlúa. “It’s more of a dessert espresso martini,” she says. “It’s a delight.” The food menu leans heavily on “elevated bar food,” in Suh’s words; the menu has yet to be solidified, but expect dishes like truffle mac and cheese, oysters, and escargot.
For Suh, however, the atmosphere feels like perhaps the most crucial part of Kaya. “This space is elevated but it’s open to everyone,” she says. “I want people to amplify who they are, in their fashion or however else. I want it to be welcoming space.”
Kaya will open at 3003 NE Alberta Street.