Mimi’s Chūka Diner — a pop-up inspired by chūka ryori, or dishes with Chinese origins made in a Japanese style — has been making steady appearances around the Boston area throughout the pandemic, serving fast-casual dumplings and bento boxes, offering sit-down meals with noodles and more, and delivering frozen dumplings. Now, founders Ted Woo and Jon Awerman, who met working at B&G Oysters, are bringing the pop-up to Artifact Cider Project’s taproom in Cambridge’s Central Square (438 Massachusetts Ave.), dubbed the Station, for a residency that will last at least through spring 2022.
Woo and Awerman tell Eater that they’ll be there every day that Artifact is open (it’s closed Mondays), starting this Saturday, October 16, at 4 p.m., serving a menu that will rotate occasionally and will always include some gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options; see the opening menu below, featuring two types of gyoza (one vegan), Sichuan chile wontons (pictured above), mapo donburi, and more. Once things are up and running, they plan to purchase a merchandising freezer to put in the foyer so customers can grab dumplings and sauces.
Mimi’s food isn’t meant to be “an exact replica of chūka cuisine”; it draws influences from the duo’s roots — Woo’s family heritage is “mostly Chinese, but with deep roots in Kobe, Japan,” while Awerman sees parallels between the service at chūka restaurants and classic American diners.
Woo says that the partnership with Artifact came about through Megan MacLean, the general manager at the cider company’s Cambridge taproom, which opened in fall 2020, an expansion from the company’s home base in Western Massachusetts village Florence. The duo knew MacLean from South End restaurant Black Lamb, where Awerman worked and where Mimi’s popped up a number of times in 2020. MacLean invited Mimi’s to pop up at Artifact several times over the summer; it went well, and Artifact and Mimi’s decided to formalize the partnership, with Mimi’s taking over the taproom’s kitchen for a long-term run. “It was a no-brainer for us as we really enjoyed working with their staff and were essentially being offered a home base to serve our food to guests nearly every night of the week,” says Woo.
He notes that Mimi’s will be able to continue — and hopefully expand — its retail and wholesale dumpling operations as the team now has a good space to hire staff.
“Very excited to be partnering with Artifact as we’ve realized that cider and chūka are a natural pair,” says Woo. The current arrangement will run through the spring, with potential to extend the residency at that time, but Woo and Awerman do still hope to find a restaurant space to call their own.
“At Artifact, we care a lot about introducing cider to broader audiences,” says cidermaker and Artifact co-founder Soham Bhatt via a press release from Artifact. “Cider is often paired with the obvious cheese or roast pork, but cider should be considered the ultimate companion to many types of food, including bold and spicy international foods — think biriyani or jollof rice. Cider has the perfect mix of low alcohol, complexity of flavor, and tartness to complement cuisine like Mimi’s. We’re excited to showcase this idea with the marriage of cider and chūka ryōri cuisine.”
Artifact Cider Project’s Cambridge taproom, open six days a week, serves up to 14 of its ciders on tap. Artifact’s lineup includes ciders like Feels Like Home, aged on rum-soaked oak and giving off “late-night bonfire” vibes, and By Any Other Name, made with blueberries and tasting like “brunch and beach.”