Kiki College Hill, a neighborhood izakaya ramen spot, has opened up a market inside the restaurant where guests can buy Japanese food, drinks and Kiki swag.
The room in which the market is located was originally reserved for private dining, but Kiki co-owner and chef Hideki Harada said that he made the decision to open the small grocery there about a month ago for the safety of his customers.
“The room itself to me just felt a little congested,” he says. “And, for people that are dining in this space, I feel like they would be really putting their safety at risk, and I figured the best call for it would be to just nullify the space and just take it away.”
To help offset the potential loss of revenue, Harada decided to repurpose the room as a market for Japanese goods.
Guests can buy Japanese sodas, beer, tea and sake or, if they’re hungry, the market also carries Japanese chips, rice crackers and assorted candy.
Harada said he is working on packaging so that Kiki can also sell its housemade desserts, sandwiches and bento. The first meal he plans to showcase is the tomago sando, an egg salad sandwich. He estimates that those items will debut “in the next week or so.”
But the market isn’t limited to consumables. The shop also sells Kiki swag and merchandise.
Like many businesses, Kiki has taken steps to keep customers and employees safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, and has spaced out tables and added sanitizer stations in the dining room. The restaurant is open from noon-8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, but its dine-in hours are limited to 4-8 p.m., according to its website.
Hideki said that it's been tough because the restaurant was counting on dine-in service, but he said Kiki’s carry-out business has been steady. (You can order online here.)
“People are still fearful of going out to eat,” he added.
Kiki, which opened in the fall 2019 after two years of fundraising, is owned by Hideki and Yuko Harada. The establishment’s name comes from Hideki’s nickname from kindergarten to college, “Kiki,” and serves two types of ramen, with options for vegetarians and meat-eaters, plus gluten-free noodles. Look for hot and cold shareables, including favorites like the curry pan (a sort of fried dumpling) and karaage chicken. You can also order a DIY sushi kit online.
Kiki College Hill, 5932 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, kikicincinnati.com.