Tag Archives: Ika

#OmahaMunchMadness 2018

July 6, 2018 by and
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

For the main feature article (read it here) in Omaha Magazine’s July/August issue, we determined there are 49 zip codes in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. 

We worked with a freelance food writer and a team of foodie-influencers on Instagram to assemble a list of one dish for every zip code.

Once we compiled the list, writer Sara Locke, editors, and the Instagrammers collaborated on narrowing the list down to the 32 most popular dishes in the zip code guide. 

Why did we narrow the field to 32?

Because it is time for Munch Madness! 

Munch Madness is Omaha Magazine’s take on March Madness (but with dishes representing zip codes). And instead of one month, this contest will span July and August.

We will announce the date pairings in this initial Round of 32 zip code picks at our July/August magazine launch at the Florence Mill on July 8. Zip codes will be randomly paired for the Round of 32. The subsequent round of Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, and Championship will be determined by polls on Facebook.

Come back to this page for updates on the bracket and times. We will update the bracket as Munch Madness progresses. Each pairing will have 24 hours before a winner is declared.

Voting will take place on Facebook at @OmahaMagazine. We will tag each poll with the hashtag #OmahaMunchMadness to make the polls easier to find on Facebook.

Do you disagree with our team’s selections for each zip code? If you disagree with any zip code picks, let us know on Instagram at @OmahaMagazine by following these steps; we will repost your alternate zip code pick to spread the love:

  • Upload a photo of the dish you think is more worthy to Instagram.
  • Check in at the restaurant.
  • Write the name of the dish along with the hashtag #OmahaMunchMadness in the caption of the Instagram post.
  • Tag us at @OmahaMagazine

Most of all, we hope Munch Madness makes you hungry. Whether you agree or disagree with our zip code picks, don’t forget to vote in the Best of Omaha contest here: http://omahamagazine.com/best-of-omaha/.

Updates

Round of 32

July 9th
Azteca Burrito Supreme (68138) vs. Crispy Mushroom Sandwich (68028)
WINNER: Azteca Burrito Supreme (68138)

July 10th
Bolognese Bianco (68132) vs. Whole Catfish Dinner (68110)
WINNER: Bolognese Bianco (68132)

July 11
Oven-Fried Chicken (68111) vs. Hummus with Beef Shawarma (68114)
WINNER: Oven-Fried Chicken (68111)

July 12
Stuffed Eggplant Papoutsakia (68134) vs. Barbacoa Short Ribs (68106)
WINNER: Barbacoa Short Ribs (68106)

July 13
Negi Hamachi Roll (68164) vs. The Mia (68118)
WINNER: Negi Hamachi Roll (68164)

July 15
Pan-Seared Salmon (68046) vs. Pizza Rosso (68122)
WINNER: Pizza Rosso (68122)

July 16
Beef Bulgogi (68127) vs. Diavolo (68131)
WINNER: Diavolo (68131)

July 17
Thai Salmon Salad (68154) vs. Omakase (68005)
WINNER: Omakase (68005)

July 18
Wings with Habanero Sauce (68007) vs. Chicken Tikka Madras (68144)
WINNER: Chicken Tikka Madras (68144)

July 19
Classic Gyro (68130) vs. Flaming Saganaki (68105)
WINNER: Flaming Saganaki (68105)

July 20
Tonkotsu Ramen (68104) vs. Whiskey Steak Sirloin (68124)
WINNER: Whiskey Steak Sirloin (68124)

July 23
Croque Garcon Burger (68102) vs. Menudo (68107)
WINNER: Croque Garcon Burger (68102)

July 24
Tacos (51510) vs. Fried Ice Cream (68069)
WINNER: Fried Ice Cream (68069)

July 25
Pop Tarts (68135) vs. Country Sunrise (68137)
WINNER: Country Sunrise (68137)

July 26
Prime Rib (51526) vs. Egg Yolk Raviolo (68108)
WINNER: Prime Rib (51526)

July 27
Lust (68123) vs. Vermicelli Rice Noodles (68136)
WINNER: Vermicelli Rice Noodles (68136)

Sweet Sixteen

July 31
Azteca Burrito Supreme (68138) vs Bolognese Bianco (68132)
WINNER: Bolognese Bianco (68132)

August 1
Oven-Fried Chicken (68111) vs. Barbacoa Short Ribs (68106)
WINNER: Oven-Fried Chicken (68111)

August 2
Negi Hamachi Roll (68164) vs. Pizza Rosso (68122)
WINNER: Pizza Rosso (68122)

August 3
Beef Bulgogi (68127) vs. Omakase (68005)
WINNER: Beef Bulgogi (68127)

August 7
Chicken Tikka Madras (68144) vs. Flaming Saganaki (68105)
WINNER: Chicken Tikka Madras (68144)

August 8
Whiskey Steak Sirloin (68124) vs. Croque Garcon Burger (68102)
WINNER: Whiskey Steak Sirloin (68124)

August 9
Fried Ice Cream (68069) vs. Country Sunrise (68137)
WINNER: Country Sunrise (68137)

August 10
Prime Rib (51526) vs. Vermicelli Rice Noodle Bowl (68136)
WINNER: Prime Rib (51526)

Elite Eight

August 14
Bolognese Bianco (68132) vs. Oven-Fried Chicken (68111)
WINNER: Bolognese Bianco (68132)

August 15
Pizza Rosso (68122) vs. Beef Bulgogi (68127)
WINNER: Pizza Rosso (68122)

August 16
Chicken Tikka Madras (68144) vs. Whiskey Steak Sirloin (68124)
WINNER: Whiskey Steak Sirloin (68124)

August 17
Prime Rib (51526) vs. Country Sunrise (68137)
WINNER: Prime Rib (51526)

Final Four

August 20
Bolognese Bianco (68132) vs. Pizza Rosso (68122)
WINNER: Pizza Rosso (68122)

August 21
Whiskey Steak Sirloin (68124) vs. Prime Rib (51526)
WINNER: Prime Rib (51526)

Jose Dionicio’s Year of Change

November 4, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

The chef responsible for some of Benson’s hippest eateries had a tumultuous year in 2017.

Taita closed (February); Ika Ramen and Izakaya relocated to the former site of Taita a few blocks east on Maple Street; Taqueria Chingon took the place of Ika (July); in the fall, the relocated Ika debuted a basement sake bar (called “Kaitei,” which translates to “under the sea” in Japanese).

Jose Dionicio’s decision to close Taita after five years was not easy. “We were doing really well down the street [at Ika]; Taita was doing alright, but we thought it would be a good business move to take the ramen shop to Taita’s bigger and more central location,” Dionicio says.

Fans of Taita’s unique fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine—which the chef calls “Nikkei”—will be happy to learn Dionicio is considering reopening Taita at another location. “It’s still in the early stages, but some people are interested,” he says.

The opening of Chingon took inspiration from Dionicio’s girlfriend, originally from Mexico. “We wanted to bring authentic-style Mexican tacos to Benson,” he says, explaining they were motivated by regular trips south of the border to visit family with their son.

Dionicio’s odyssey to becoming an Omaha restaurateur has spanned nearly 20 years and three states. It all started with his long journey from Lima, Peru.

It’s about 4,000 miles from Lima to Omaha. “My father was the first member of my family to come to the United States 30 years ago. I was only 5 when he left. When I turned 19, I decided to follow him,” Dionicio says.

With a population close to 10 million, life in Lima is a bit faster than Omaha. “Lima is a really big place,” Dionico says. “I was used to the lifestyle. It’s so fast. Honestly, my plan was to never stay in Omaha, but I just kept coming back.”

In 2004, after a year in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dionicio moved back to Omaha to care for his daughter. But it was during his time spent in Charlotte, exposed to the abundance of sushi joints, that he rekindled his love of Japanese cuisine, a throwback to the Nikkei cuisine of his homeland.

“Based on the immigration of Japanese citizens during World War II in Peru, [Japanese traditions] have a strong influence on the culture of Peru. The dishes that they made are very much a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese, not necessarily Japanese or Peruvian. It’s a really good marriage,” he says, adding that the word “Nikkei” refers to someone of Japanese descent who is born in a different country.

“I knew that when I moved back to Omaha, I wanted to work for a Japanese restaurant,” he says. “I ended up getting a job with Kona Grill, and that’s where I met my mentor, Ichi Takei.”

With more than 50 years experience in Japanese cuisine, Takei helped Dionicio learn the business. “I made a lot of really great connections at Kona. Ichi taught me everything I know about sushi,” Dionicio says of the chef who worked with him in Omaha for less than two years. “Then I worked at Kona as the executive sushi chef and things were great. One day, out of the blue, Ichi calls me from Cape Cod. He wanted me to come up and work for him.” So, in 2008, Dionicio headed to Massachusetts to reunite with his mentor and friend.

Life on the East Coast was great. Dionicio was able to work with the freshest ingredients–sea-food caught the same day. “I loved the vibes up there,” he says. However, the off-season proved challenging. “This was seasonal work,” he says. “So when the tourists left, things got pretty slow. I needed something more secure to support my family. So I moved back to Omaha.”

Dionicio’s final trek back to the heartland would turn out to be his introduction into the Omaha food scene spotlight. It was his experiences as a member of Paul Kulik’s opening staff at The Boiler Room and working alongside Jared Clarke at the now-defunct Blue Agave where Dionicio received the most support.

“I’ll always be grateful to Paul and Jared for what they taught me,” he says. “We were never content with what we were creating. We were always pushing the limits with our food. Paul and Jared always motivated me to be the best chef I can be.”

And when it came time for Dionicio to be chef of his own restaurant, fate couldn’t have played a better hand. “I just happened to be driving through Benson, and I noticed a ‘for lease’ sign on what used to be the Today Café [the future home of Taita, now Ika]. It was pretty rough inside.”

The story of Ika’s first venue—now Chingon’s space—came from a similar chance passing. “Two blocks from Taita, we saw an empty spot next to a barbershop.” So, he dropped into the barbershop to inquire, managed to contact the owner of the empty business space, and soon had another major renovation project underway.

When Dionicio needed them most, all his friends and kitchen connections stepped up to lend a helping hand in getting his new ventures off the ground.

“I just really want everybody to know how much they mean to me, and how grateful I am to them for the support. Barbara [Schlott, an early supporter of Taita], Paul, Jared, my friends, and family—they’ve all helped me reach my goals.”

Jose Dionicio and his son

Visit ikaramenandizakaya.com for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine.