New ‘Mee-Ka’ pop-up restaurant blends Hmong and American food cultures
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Chef Yia Vang and his team have revamped their menu and space at 901 W. Lake St. in Uptown to launch a new pop-up concept, “Mee-Ka,” geared toward the merging of Hmong and American dishes.
Vang’s previous pop-up shop, Slurp, closed down to make room for the new restaurant which will run until early summer 2023. The new pop-up opened Wednesday, March 29th.
The pop-up’s name, Mee-Ka, comes from the Hmong word for “American,” signifying the enmeshing of the two cultures and its significance for Vang.
“Growing up mom always asked if we wanted to eat Hmong food or Mee-ka food,” said chef and owner Yia Vang. “As Hmong people, we lived in this cross-cultural state of eating food that was considered Mee-ka but using Hmong ingredients. But our Mee-Ka pop-up is not fusion food. It is the forging of two cultures and traditions to build a third culture that we can use to connect to others.”
Mee-Ka will follow in its pop-up predecessor’s footsteps serving a tight menu of only six dishes, along with a handful of occasional specials and desserts.
The menu includes recognizably classic American dishes — such as meatloaf, or spaghetti and meatballs, along with a cheeseburger — while incorporating ingredients and traditions from the Hmong culture. Think ramen noodles instead of spaghetti and meatballs that are made of Hmong sausage.
The menu also includes dishes that are traditional within the Hmong household, such as the Nqaij Tsaws (pronounced “ngai chah-uh”), a dish featuring braised pork and greens along with rice and roasted vegetables. Cobb Laab Salad, a cheeseburger, and a pork katsu sandwich also hold space on the menu.
“Mee-Ka is the beautiful collision of two amazing food cultures that inspired and created a third food culture,” said Vang. “Mee-ka was the contextual understanding of this third culture that we unintentionally helped create. This was a way that Hmong kids felt like they belonged to a new world that didn’t look like them.”
Mee-Ka will be open Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for longer hours on Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The restaurant offers takeout as well as dine-in options. Mee-Ka will not accept reservations. The menu features options that are gluten-free as well as vegan and vegetarian. Beer and wine will be available.
The Mee-Ka pop-up comes after the successful Slurp pop-up Noodle Shop which opened in the same space in early 2023. The Slurp menu will no longer be available, but the option of its return to the Hilltribe group of restaurants is not off the table.