By Frank Sabatini Jr.
HiroNori Craft Ramen has opened in Hillcrest in the cozy space where Espettos Brazilian Skewers operated for a short time. Founded in Orange County by chefs Tadanori Akasakao and Hiromichi Igarashi, the pair adheres to traditional ramen techniques using house-made noodles in thick or thin cuts, plus broths that are gently boiled for 24 hours.
This is the company’s fourth location and the first in San Diego. The others are in Irvine, Long Beach and Santa Clara, with another opening next month in Pasadena. Aside from the ramen choices, top sellers include pork rice bowls, crispy chicken and salmon poke. The menus at all locations are the same. 3803 Fifth Ave., 619-241-2856, hironoricraftramen.com.
A taste of Cajun Country has arrived to North Park with the recent opening of Shrimp Heads, where customers employ bibs and lots of napkins for digging into foods best eaten by hand.
The menu offers everything from fried catfish and breaded shrimp to crawfish, king crab legs and bivalves. The “finger lickin’ deals” feature platters and buckets filled with various combinations of the seafood along with corn, sausage and potatoes. Beer and wine are available, along with sake cocktails served in shark-shaped porcelain vessels.
Owner Shirley Ng describes Shrimp Heads as a place where patrons “get down and dirty with their food.” She also runs Uncle John’s Cafe in Los Angeles, which specializes in Cantonese fare during the day, and Cajun cuisine at night. 2832 El Cajon Blvd., 619-738-8184, shrimpheadssd.com.
The newish Little Italy Food Hall will see its first vendor replacement in March in the wake of Single Fin Kitchen’s abrupt exit from the original tenant lineup. The Japanese seafood station is being replaced by Bobboi Natural Gelato, a gelateria from La Jolla that uses locally sourced organic ingredients for its seasonal sorbets and gelato. Bobboi’s ever-changing flavor options include matcha tea with chocolate chips; rosewater with honey; pistachio; dark chocolate and more. 550 West Date St., 619-269-7187, bobboi.com.
A fusion of flavors from Baja and Northern Africa will set the stage at Medina — Moroccan Baja Kitchen, a modernly designed North Park eatery due to soft open in mid-February. Its grand opening is scheduled for March 1.
Owned and conceived by chef Alia Jaziri, the venture began as a food truck in San Francisco and later expanded to farmers markets in San Diego.
Jaziri’s menu melds together traditional North African dishes that she grew up cooking alongside her father with influences and ingredients from Baja. 2850 El Cajon Blvd., Suite 4, medinakitchen.com.
Homemade ice creams, ice pops and milkshakes in crafty flavors have churned in to Mission Hills via DixiePops, a retail shop that recently moved from Little Italy and caters to both traditionalists and those with adventurous palates. For the ice cream selection, some are vegan and most are gluten free. In addition, most of the ice pops are dairy and gluten-free. None of them contain artificial ingredients or high fructose corn syrup. The offerings also extend to “dog pops” for canines.
Among the flavors applied to the various frozen treats are coffee-and-donuts, strawberry-goat cheese, apple pie, grapefruit mojito, pineapple-basil and more. 915 West Washington St., 619-255-5473,
After a six-week shutdown, the Point Loma location of Phil’s BBQ has reopened. The restaurant had temporarily closed for a remodel, which resulted in a fresh paint job, expanded dining and bar areas, and the addition of television screens. A spokesperson for the company said the modernized look is more in line with most of the seven other locations throughout San Diego County, adding that there were no changes to the menu. 3750 Sports Arena Blvd., 619-226-6333, philsbbq.net.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com