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INCOMING: Underbelly II

Consortium's ramen project to reach "full potential" in North Park

By Troy Johnson

Underbelly is doing exceptionally well in Little Italy. But the owners know the 900 square-foot ramen joint is a cramped, mini version of what it could be. That’s why Arsalun Tafazoli and the rest of Consortium Holdings plan to flesh it out in North Park.

“We love the building, and I’m proud of what our people are able to do with it,” he says of the Little Italy space, formerly Red Velvet Wine Bar. “But we can only do two ramen broths, because broth is a space-consuming process.”

At the North Park space, they’ll also get to do yakitori (Japanese charcoal grilling). The 2,300 square-foot spot at the corner of 30th and Upas will be part of North Parker Lofts—a project by top SD architect Jonathan Segal, who also owns the building that houses the original Underbelly. The 8,000 square-foot mixed-use development (retail plus 27 apartments) is slated to open in December. (As usual, add three months for a more accurate prediction after delays related to the city, licensing, humans, harsh gods, etc.) Influx Cafe is also signed on for the space, which is across from The Smoking Goat, Blue Foot Bar & Lounge and Cardamom Cafe.

Consortium is one of SD’s top restaurant/bar groups, with Neighborhood, Noble Experiment, El Dorado, Craft & Commerce, Underbelly, Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine. The second installment of Underbelly marks their first repeat concept. As most restaurateurs will tell you, it’s a special form of insanity to build a successful concept and then not repeat it.

Winners are rare. So once you do lock into one, get profitable systems and organizations in place—why reinvent the wheel every time?

“It’s a huge pain in the a**,” says Tafazoli. “But I’d be bored otherwise.”

Does the Underbelly repeat suggest a change in tact?

“Not unless Segal plans on doing a bunch of other really awesome buildings like this,” he says. “We’ve turned down a lot of profitable offers to repeat Craft & Commerce. We just loved the building, we heard Influx was in, and we saw this as an opportunity to build Underbelly to its full potential.”

Tafazoli predicts a January open. Add three months, bate breath.

INCOMING: Underbelly II

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