BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — When Ayo Balogun was a teenager in Nigeria, a visit to a local eatery made a lasting impact.
“It was one of the most amazing nights of my life. Guys are cooking, everybody’s having fun, discussing fashion, politics, relationships," Balogun, 38, said.
"It was kind of like a parlor and it was an amazing thing to be around a cross-section of people from society, sitting down over good food."
Now, the owner of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Trade Union Cafe looks to bring the same vibe to Malcolm X Boulevard with a series of Nigerian-inspired pop-up dinners.
The event, called Iya Eba, takes its name from that restaurant in Lagos, Nigeria.
The next installment at 346 Malcolm X Blvd. near Bainbridge Street kicks off Thursday, where the diner owner will cook up a four-course meal.
The menu is meant to mirror what’s in season in Nigeria, according to Balogun, and is inspired by the country’s traditional dishes.
Iya Eba will offer pepper soup, a dish that’s generally very spicy, according to Balogun, though he’ll put his own spin on it.
“My grandmother, when she makes it, I don’t know if she’s trying to teach us a lesson, but it can be really hot,” he joked. “This is going to be more flavorful.”
Other courses may include dishes such as eba, a cassava-based paste served with vegetables, fish or meat, and iyan, or pounded yam.
Thursday’s dinner will be the third out of the Trade Union Cafe's 10-event series, which takes place bi-weekly.
“I want to inform people of Nigerian politics and culture through food,” Balogun said, adding that he leads a discussion on the dishes.
“I think it's beautiful, the association we get when we are talking about food. It’s completely different than having some political meeting where people are yelling across the table.”
Iya Eba takes place at The Trade Union Cafe on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40. For more information visit the cafe's Instagram page or email at email@example.com.