On a beautiful March afternoon in 2011 - Kaia Wine Bar opened her doors on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This labor of love is the brainchild of Owner, Suzaan Hauptfleisch - a native 'Vrystater' and obsessive wine lover.
Born and raised on a farm in the Freestate province of South Africa, Suzaan bought a plane ticket the morning of September 11, 2001 and undettered of what would unfold later that horrible day, she decided to take flight on a dream and a whim and come to New York. 10 years later - Kaia was born.
Missing South Africa and not quite feeling at 'home', Suzaan decided to create one for herself and found likeminded people with a love and dedication to everything South African. Not wanting to just be traditional, exploitative of one culture or another - as Suzaan firmly believes that South Africa is much more than the sum of its parts, she embarked on creating a fresh, modern, seasonal approach to South African food where the menu changes often and the wines are all by the glass.
This idea quickly proved successful and Kaia quickly took shape into what it is today and growing..
Finding a name for her 'home' was easy. Being an Afrikaans girl from the Freestate, Suzaan did not want to come accross as a white person exploiting anything black South African. A Sotho speaker herself (the local black language of her region) - she always loved the word 'kgae' as it brought back good memories of her childhood on the farm. 'Kgae' meaning home, house, place of gathering etc in Sotho and its Zulu equivalent - eKhaya - Suzaan decided on a phonetic version instead - and Kaia was chosen.
With very little money and LOTS and LOTS of generous help from Suzaan's friends and plenty blood sweat & tears, Kaia's build began in October 2010. Kaia finally managed to fling her doors open to the public on March 15, 2011 and they have not looked back since. Industrial chic with imprints of Suzaan's father and mother in almost every detail, Kaia exudes intimacy and warmth with a lot of homey personality.
Serving over 50 South African wines & her mother's recipes, Kaia took on another project early Summer 2014 serving up fresh cocktails and Kaia Wine Bar - evolved into Kaia Upper East.
Apart from really tasty South African food, Kaia also serves meats and cheese from local US farmsteads and a craft beer selection bar none, bringing a little bit of 'downtown' 'uptown' - but more so.. bringing a small piece of Suzaan's South African home to her beloved Upper East Side community.