Sun Da, who has four places to manage now (hence the phone) shows off the new little chicken kabob shop on Second Street.
Nicola's Chicken Kabobs: A little spicy, a little sweet, and real tender.
Photo by Dave McNair
On a recent stroll around the Downtown Mall we were struck by all the new restaurant activity: four new places have either opened or are in the works.
On Second Street, in the tiny space where Marco & Luca's dumplings got started, owner Sun Da has opened Nicola's Chicken Kabobs, which was known for a short time as Nicola's Veggies. Tender chicken on skewers is served with hot pepper, curry, and sesame seeds on a bed of lettuce for a quick hot bite to eat. That makes the fourth eatery that Da and his wife, Dragana Katalina-Sun, have opened, including the Mall location in York Place, a place on Elliewood Avenue on the Corner, in the Seminole Square Shopping Center, and now a return to Second Street.
Farther up the Mall, renovation progresses on the Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar, which has involved an extensive makeover of the old A&N building, where landlord Gabe Silverman had trouble finding a longtime tenant.
Back in February, Alex George, former owner of Just Curry and former partner in Cinema Taco, who is opening the place with four other investors, predicted a June opening. But with that deadline long past, George now says September or early October is the target.
It's quite a space. There will basically be a glass wall and corner on the Mall side of the building with a formal entrance, as well as a side entrance on Fifth Street. Two huge 12-foot sliding-glass windows on the Fifth Street side can be opened to turn the dining room on the first floor into a semi open-air affair. Through a big window on the Fifth Street side, passersby can peer into the kitchen, a feature George calls a "quality of life" addition for the kitchen staff, who won't have to spend a 12-hour shift in a space without natural light.
Bathrooms, walk-ins, and employee quarters are in the basement, but the real gem is on the roof: an open-air restaurant and bar overlooking Fifth Street and the Mall. George says radiant heat up there will mean folks will be able to enjoy the space year-round.
The menu, says George, who will be the executive chef, will feature what he's calling "new American cuisine with a South American influence."
Just down the street, Tempo, an Asian-fusion style restaurant that was supposed to open in the old Ventana space in March, appears to be close to opening, as evidenced by a peek through the paper on the windows.
Meanwhile, who should we find across the street behind a glass window that said, "The Downtown Deli," but Carmello's owner Bill Hedges. Turns out Hedges, who recently relocated Carmello's to Fontaine Avenue, and added a Bistro Bar, plans to open a New York-style delicatessen on Fifth Street after Labor Day. What's more, Hedges says he also has plans to open an authentic French and Italian pastry shop and espresso bar on the Mall, but he's keeping mum about the location for now.