By Frank Sabatini Jr.
The long-vacant, two-story building at the corner of Ninth and University avenues in Hillcrest that was rumored to become a Japanese restaurant has been fully leased instead to Better Buzz Coffee Roasters.
The Vista-based company is currently working with designers and architects to transform the house-like structure into a full-production roasting facility and café that will feature a “ring of seating” for customers to view the roasting process, said Daniel Greig, director of coffee production.
At the center of the operation will be a restored Probat roaster dating to the early 1900s.
“We’ll also have a large tap tower for cold-brew coffee drinks and with the possibility of serving wine and beer,” he said, adding that the still-unnamed project “might possibly open in the summer, but no guarantee.”
The upper floor of the building will be designated as offices for the company’s management team as well as for public rental.
Better Buzz has branched into seven locations in San Diego County through a mix of cafes, drive-throughs and a kiosk in Fashion Valley Mall. The Hillcrest project will be its biggest and offer an expanded menu compared to the other branches. 801 University Ave. betterbuzzcoffee.com.
Bangkok native Vijit Pipatkhajonchai has opened 55 Thai Kitchen in the back of an unassuming liquor store in Golden Hill called San Diego Market Beer & Wine.
His specialty is massaman chicken curry, although the menu also includes tom kha noodles, ginger stir-fry, Thai fried rice and other classic dishes he mastered when operating restaurants in Thailand.
The small, sleekly designed space features a to-go counter and limited indoor-outdoor seating.
Pipatkhajonchai, who also owns J&T Thai Street Food in Linda Vista, plans to earmark a portion of his profits for children’s meals in both the local community and his homeland. 2601 Broadway, 619-955-5501, 55thaikitchen.com.
Artisan Bento in Mission Hills has quietly transitioned to become Hachi Ramen, which recently held its soft opening to showcase a variety of classic and contemporary ramen that was added to an established menu of bowls, bento boxes and sushi rolls.
Owner Shihomi Borillo, who also runs the nearby Azuki Sushi, redesigned the space to include extra seating and a ramen bar. She also expanded the drink menu with sochu cocktails, craft beers and a variety of Baja wines by Villa Montefiori, Monte Xanic and other producers. 2505 Fifth Ave., 619-231-0700, artisanbento.com.
Christian Gomez, the owner of Wet Stone Wine Bar & Café in Bankers Hill, is aiming for a May opening of Fools and Kings in the space previously occupied by Mission Hills Coffee Company.
The restaurant will showcase a bevy of globally inspired plates served within an Old World environment he’s tailoring after his travels to such cities as Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Lima and San Sebastian.
In addition to a bar and tables made of live edge wood, customers can expect to see in the offing his house-made sangrias that have become famous at Wet Stone over the years. 4015 Goldfinch St.
The new Kouch Lounge in Hillcrest doesn’t have any couches.
But it offers a relaxed, modern atmosphere for socializing over handcrafted lattes, espressos, cold nitro brews and a variety of unique noshes such as Brazilian cheese bread balls, ginger-chicken samosas, and rugulach and hamentashen pastries.
The family-run café also offers beer on tap and wines from France, Portugal and Argentina. 3852 Fourth Ave., 619-255-4817, thekounchlounge.com.
If you’ve never eaten skinless ground beef sausages from Bucharest, known as mititei, or Transylvanian chimney cakes called kurtos, the new International Deli and Café in Linda Vista offers them in abundance.
The deli, located in The Presidio plaza, specializes in a host of Hungarian and Romanian sausages made mostly in-house. It also stocks imported Eastern European cold cuts and groceries such as Estonaka kielbasa, Sweet Ann goulash cream and Univer paprika paste.
The owners have a similar shop in Orange County and source their breads and pastries from a Romanian bakery for both locations. Made-to-order sandwiches and assorted fried flat breads are also available. 5201 Linda Vista Road, 619-294-5755, intlmeatanddeli.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.