Downtown Austin Japanese grocer Ni-Kome is permanently closed in Fareground at 111 Congress Avenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a very difficult decision,” co-owner Kayo Asazu wrote in an email, “but due to COVID-related circumstances, we think it is best to complete this project for now.”
The stand served a combination menu from Ni-Kome’s sibling restaurants: Kome sushi and broth-based ramen from the now closed Daruma. She noticed that sushi and ramen are still available at the Kome, which is open for takeout only.
This is not Asazu and co-owner Takehiro Asazu’s first pandemic-related restaurant closure. The couple closed their Daruma ramen restaurant in downtown Austin last June. They couldn’t foresee a sure path for a safe reopening, but they want to reopen the noodle soup shop somewhere in a new location at some point.
Fareground, which is operated by Austin restaurant group ELM, announced it would temporarily close in March (along with most businesses in the city) to ease the novel coronavirus pandemic. Ni-Kome, one of the original vendors, is the first and so far only vendor to announce that it will not reopen.
Israeli street food stand TLV reopened in Fareground in early June, although it is only open for takeout orders via roadside pickups and third party deliveries. While Henbit’s location is closed to the public for fast-casual, its famous monster biscuits are shipped across the country, prepared in the grocery hall.
The Contigo satellite location, Dai Due’s taco focus, ELM’s Italian restaurant Italic (the original location in West Sixth is also temporarily closed) and both bars, including the Ellis at street level, are still temporarily closed.
Since the opening of the food hall in January 2018, there have been numerous Switcheroos throughout the food hall. Originally, it had debuted with subsidiary locations of the Antonelli cheese business and Easy Tiger bakery (which originated in ELM but broke the same one month later).
The Asazus drove the Sushi-A-Go-Go food truck before opening Kome in 2011. Daruma followed in 2013. Kayo Asazu opened the Japanese-inspired Sa-Ten in 2015 with Moto Utsunomiya from East Side King. Then, in 2019, Asazus opened the Uroko restaurant with a casual hand roll and omakase.