Palestinian pop-up restaurant Yamma opens in Wicker Park

A new pop-up Palestinian-influenced restaurant created by a trio of members of Chicago’s service industry debuts for on-site dining and take-out on Wednesday at a bar in Wicker Park. Yamma, an affectionate expression for “my mother” in Arabic, offers “healthy Mediterranean cuisine, tasty and sensitive to allergens” through the objective of Ruba Hassan’s desire to showcase her family’s culinary culture. She and her partners have signed up for a one-year stay at Pint, 1547 N. Milwaukee Avenue.

Pint, with its red phone booths that are familiar to the UK, might not naturally lend itself to Middle Eastern cuisine, but Hassan and his company are going to give it a try. At first, Hassan contacted Ghost Kitchens, but eventually contacted Pint’s owner Kevin O’Donnell, who was already looking for a new direction for his kitchen. Pint was founded in 2004.

Salads abound in different sizes like tabbouleh (parsley, crushed bulgarian wheat) and a chickpea and kale Caesar (roasted chickpeas, onion, cucumber, sun-dried tomato). Customers will also find wraps with traditional Arabic shrak bread or bowls with rice vermicelli or maftoul (Palestinian wheat couscous) – in varieties like Shish Tawook (grilled and spicy chicken, tahini, toum, whipped feta, onions. sumac, romaine) and Lamb Meshwi (khyar bi laban, marinated turnips, sumac onions, tahini).

Katie Poplawski (left), Ruba Hassan (center) and Tierra Hubbard met while working at restaurants in Chicago.
Yamma [Official Photo]

Hassan is reluctant to serve an entirely vegetarian menu; she says it would be a tough sale for many Arab families, so there are meat and fish options. For the most part, however, she and Hubbard want to draw attention to healthy substitutes like mushrooms, which retain a meaty essence without turning to factory-made alternatives like Impossible and Beyond meat substitutes. They also plan to introduce a weekly meal service for vegetarians and omnivores in the near future.

As Hassan’s legacy inspires, Executive Chef Tierra Hubbard (Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar) will execute his vision. They are joined by COO Katie Poplawski to launch with a menu of mezze-style appetizers and snacks like a spicy Muhammara dip (flame roasted red pepper, walnuts, pomegranate molasses) and lentil fritters with harissa. creamy.

“I come from a Palestinian background and food is a very important part of our culture, especially as a woman,” says Hassan, who was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. “Growing up, I had to reclaim my own culture, with all the growing pains of being very American and having to adapt. During this process, I gave birth to Yamma, I guess.

The group hopes that Yamma’s menu will help novices better understand Palestinian cuisine. The cuisine is generally grouped with Middle Eastern cuisines, Hassan says, but it’s probably closer to what Americans consider Mediterranean cuisine with influences from Greece, Egypt, and Morocco. It is important for her to make explicit the relationship between the menu and her heritage as part of a larger mission to educate others about Palestinian culture, which she says is too often reduced to information about violence in the middle east.

“It was very striking for me to grow up – [Palestinian] restaurateurs lied about their identity and said they were Jordanian or Lebanese. Keeping the Palestinian word count, it is more under attack – literally today … It is important to honor the land, that of my mother – and our ancestors – long hard hours in the kitchen to make this food possible.

The Palestinian population of the Chicago area is concentrated in the southern suburb of Bridgeview, about 15 miles southwest of the loop. There are approximately 85,000 Palestinians in the area, and there is a stretch of Bridgeview known as Little Palestine. Notable restaurants include Al Bawadi Grill. Hassan also referred to a location of the Naf Naf Grill chain in Uptown as an influence.

While focusing on Palestinian cuisine, Yamma adds to a strong group of Middle Eastern options in the region, including Taxim, Istanbul Cafe, IDOF, Sultan’s Market, Rumi Middle Eastern Grill, and Falafel & Grill.

Yamma, 1547 N. Milwaukee Avenue inside Pint pub, Opens Wednesday. delivery and pickup available on DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber eats.

  • “ Palestine is not just geography, it’s how we cook, eat and talk [Eater]

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