Mama’s Noodle Bar, a lifelong dream


Joseph Schulz

Alvin Vue places an order, while Tiffany and Tyla Xiong work to fulfill it.

Joseph Schulz, Managing Editor

Mama’s Noodle Bar, a family-owned self-serve restaurant offering multiple types of Asian cuisine, is opening next to Jade Dragon on Wisconsin Street.

The restaurant had a soft opening on Oct. 24, but its official grand opening is set for Nov. 1. Mama’s Noodle Bar seeks to welcome patrons with a home-like atmosphere.

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, but on Fridays and Saturdays it will open about an hour later and on Sundays it will close about an hour earlier.

For owner Mai Vang, opening a restaurant has been a lifelong dream. Vang was born in Laos and raised in Thailand. She moved to the United States when she was 8 years old in 1979.

Vang learned to cook as a child from her father and quickly fell in love with putting her own spin on family recipes.

“I love to cook; it makes me happy,” she said.

At the age of 12, she dropped out of school to get married, and by 13, Vang gave birth to the first of her eight children.

For the last 20 years, Vang has shared her love of cooking with the community through farmers markets, but Mama’s Noodle Bar is the first time she’s been able to open a restaurant to share her cuisine.

When looking for a location, she chose Wisconsin Street because of its proximity to UW Oshkosh.

“God put me here to help the students,” Vang said, adding that all students will receive a 10% discount if they bring in their university ID.

The decision to give students a discount, Vang said, came from watching her own children grow up. When her kids were in college, they couldn’t afford to eat out.

“They ate ramen all the time,” Vang said. “I just want to help the students.”

The business is managed by Vang’s daughters. Tracy Miles and Tiffany Xiong, who both said the restaurant is called “Mama’s” because Vang is the glue that holds their family together.

Xiong told the story of living in California and quitting her job to backpack through Europe. What brought her back to the states was the opportunity to help her mother pursue a lifelong dream.

“What brought me back home was this restaurant — coming back to help my mom and to be surrounded by family again,” Xiong said. “So that’s the kind of person my mom is. She always keeps us together somehow. She’s the glue.”

Miles said helping her mom achieve her dreams has been rewarding because Vang put her life on hold to help her eight children achieve their dreams.

“I owe this lady my life; I’d do anything for her,” Miles said. “When she got approved for the [small business] loan, that was the happiest day of our lives.”

After being approved for the loan, the family faced another challenge: converting Lou’s Brew Café into a full-fledged restaurant.

“The whole kitchen had to be pretty much built from the ground up,” Miles said. “Then the electric in the walls was outdated, so that had to be renovated.”

Xiong said they aren’t worried about competing with the neighboring Jade Dragon because “there’s enough food to go around.” She described the competition between the two restaurants as a friendly one.

“We’re more of a fusion of all the best Asian dishes, so you have everything from Chinese, Thai, Hmong, Laos to Vietnamese,” Xiong said. “So, it’s like a combination of all the beloved dishes.”

Family is at the heart of Mama’s Noodle Bar, Xiong said, and they want every customer to feel like they’re family when they walk in the door.

The restaurant will offer a lunch buffet, and eventually the family hopes to experiment with catering.
“We cannot wait to start promoting and really trying to bring people in,” Miles said. “I’m just happy that we’re here to give back to the community.”