The latest culinary option to join the growing array of pop-up restaurants at the shared kitchen at Korean Dad in Veazie will be a popular West African cuisine.
Starting next month, African Cuisine, run by Hope Moneke, will begin serving Nigerian meals.
Hope Moneke, a recent graduate of the Husson University nursing program who works as a nurse at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, will cook dishes from her home country of Nigeria starting in mid-March. She will use the shared kitchen space at 1492 State St.
She’ll start out offering food for take-out on Thursdays, but hopes to expand to an extra day later on in the year.
Before she moved to the United States in 2013, Moneke ran a restaurant in Nigeria. Though her nursing career has kept her busy, she’s long wanted to cook the food she loves for the people in her adopted home of Bangor.
“I’m very, very excited to do what I love to do, because this is me, and this is what I want to share with people,” Moneke said. “When I first came here 10 years ago, it was really hard, because there was just no African food anywhere. Things have changed a lot since then. It’s really important for immigrants to see the food they know when they move someplace. It makes them comfortable, and makes them want to stay.”
African Cuisine will join another Nigerian-owned business in the Bangor area, Tropical Tastes and Styles, a West African and Caribbean market on Harlow Street, owned by former Bangor city councilor Angela Okafor. That market opened in 2020.
Moneke intends to offer staples of Nigerian cuisine, including both vegetable and meat dishes, bean dishes and soups and stews, and classic treats like jollof rice, a flavorful tomato-based rice dish, and fufu, a soft and smooth starch usually eaten with soups and stews.
Nigerian cuisine is renowned for its spiciness, but Moneke said she will offer varying levels of spice for those unaccustomed to its traditional level of heat.
Changu Kristopher Lee opened Korean Dad in 2021, serving Korean food on the weekends. Since then, he has welcomed several other part-time restaurateurs into the building, operating what has turned out to be a kind of restaurant incubator in the Veazie space. The shared kitchen model allows people to get experience in the restaurant industry without spending tens of thousands of dollars on start-up costs.
A part-time Cajun eatery, Ca C’est Bon, opened in January, and a part-time Filipino restaurant, Kucina, is set to debut later this month.
“I take a lot of pride in being able to help people get their dreams off the ground, and to showcase all the different cuisines we have right here,” Lee told the Bangor Daily News last month. “Plus, what other restaurants are there around here where there are three different food options under one roof?”
Moneke said the Korean Dad model is perfect for someone like her, who wants to start small.
“I don’t have the money to open a big restaurant, so this is perfect for me,” she said. “It’s exactly what I need to be able to get started.”