Salty, sweet, sour, funky. These are the principal flavors of Filipino cuisine, a mashup of Spanish, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and American influences that Greenvillians have come to love over the past two years of Nikki Evangelista’s pop-ups. Named after a Tagalog word meaning “to crave something delicious,” Takam now operates out of Methodical Coffee at The Commons, where Nikki has worked as a line cook since March. “They offered me their kitchen to use after hours,” she explains, “so we started doing our Tuesday pop-ups there starting in August.”
Takam celebrated its second anniversary in September with a record-setting pop-up at The Commons. “We had between 150 and 200 people that night. The community really came through,” reports Nikki. Compare this to their first year doing pre-orders, when Takam attracted between 20 and 30 customers per event. They continue to keep their menu small (three to four dishes, plus a dessert) as the core kitchen team remains the same: Nikki, her mother, and her friend Elisabeth Watkins (who bakes the bread at GB&D). Now that Takam welcomes walk-ins, they’ve recruited Nikki’s brother and another friend to work the front counter.
Since going to Methodical, Nikki has introduced a few new dishes, like a vegan version of the rice-noodle favorite called pancit, and laing, a spicy coconut stew braised with kale and seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeños, and crab paste. She is currently cooking up a brand-new menu for the new year.
As she reflects on the past two years of Takam, Nikki can’t help but feel blessed. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of many other business owners,” she believes. She’s grateful to supporters like A.J. Arellano, proprietor of Savereign in the Village of West Greenville, who hosted her first pop-up in 2019; Christina and Brett Barest of Naked Pasta; Chef Alex George at GB&D; and the folks at Methodical Coffee, among others. Nikki’s voice rings with conviction when she says, “I feel like we’re doing this in the right city.”
Takam Holiday Flavors
Filipinos attend Mass every night for the 15 nights leading up to Christmas, and one of their favorite foods to snack on afterward is this mildly sweet rice cake. For her bibingka, Nikki mixes glutinous rice flour and all-purpose flour with coconut milk and bakes it in a cast-iron pan lined with banana leaves. A topping of shredded cheese and salted duck eggs add salty and funky notes to the dessert’s complex flavor profile.
For more, check out @takamgvl.