FIKA – A taste of Sweden in downtown HattiesburgBy CALEB MCCLUSKEY,
Swedish people are quite familiar with the concept of “fika” - literally translated, the word means “to take a break with something to eat.”
Swedish cafe owner Dalida Bollig is bringing that concept - along with the calm, serene tastes of Sweden - to downtown Hattiesburg with her new restaurant Fika.
“A lot of these things I try to introduce here are Nordic, the way that we live in Sweden,” said Bollig, a native of Västerås, Sweden. “Coming into Fika, getting that serenity of mind, people can just sit here and literally relax. We want them to have that feeling.”
Fika, which is pronounced “feeka,” is a concept that denotes a state of mind - pausing to take a moment to enjoy the little things in life. It’s a practice Bollig said she believes fits well with the southern lifestyle. The café, located at 127 Buschman St. in The Bakery Building, serves a plethora of treats such as pastries, parfaits, pierogis, open-faced sandwiches, tea, sparkling water and, of course, coffee. Bollig prides her café on fresh ingredients and diverse menu that supports gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diets. She believes food should be good without piles of sugar on top to mask the tastes.
“You lose all of the flavors on the palate (when you eat high sugar foods), so you can’t taste anything else,” Bollig said. “I want them to taste all the notes of berries and honey.”
Bollig moved to the United States six years ago where she met her husband, who was in the military. She lived in Hawaii while her husband was stationed there before moving to Colorado, her husband’s home state, then they moved to Atlanta, Ga. and finally to Hattiesburg. Her husband got a job offer in Hattiesburg, and they decided to check the city out.
“We were on vacation here for a good two weeks, and I really liked the city,” Bollig said. “I am humbled by how much love I see in Hattiesburg.”
She told her husband if he enjoyed the job – and the Hub City – that he should take the opportunity, so they moved.
Bollig worked with the Swedish government doing a variety of jobs that revolved around digital diplomacy, policy, representation and strategy.
After 15 years with the Swedish government, Bollig was allowed to take a five-year break from her job. This gave her the opportunity to open the café. She had opened a café before when she was studying at Lund’s University and loved it, so she decided to follow that path again. The café was designed to attract college students and offered gourmet food at affordable prices.
Bollig’s time running the café in Lund, Sweden, showed her the passion she has for food.
“I love food. I love sourcing food. I love organic food. I love mixing flavors and want good food,” Bollig said. “More on the healthy-ish side, but still not missing out on the flavors.”
With the produce found in Hattiesburg, one can create many different foods and cuisines, including some Nordic cuisine, according to Bollig. What she can’t find in Hattiesburg, she sources from Sweden, such as the Swedish berries used in her pastries and drinks.
Fika also partnered with Grin Coffee, a local coffee roaster in Hattiesburg, to create their house blend, which is a darker roast that has lower nutty, chocolaty flavors and higher berry flavors.
“It represents the perfect Swedish coffee the way we drink it in Sweden,” Bollig said. “For us, it means a lot to collaborate with locals and to bring something that is completely different than the variety you can see in town.”
The café not only brings traditional Nordic flavors to Hattiesburg but their branding also calls back to Swedish heritage. The café’s horse logo is a modernization of the Dalecarlian horse, a wooden horse painted decoratively. Bollig said the horse started as a toy but became the symbol of Sweden.
“The idea of the logo itself is modernizing it to show we are aiming to bring modern Swedish cuisine that has the roots of tradition,” Bollig said.
When her five-year break is up, Bollig said she is fully committed to bringing Fika, her heritage and culture to the city for as many years as the people of Hattiesburg want Fika to be around.
Crystal Toliblie, who works in admissions at the University of Southern Mississippi, said she enjoys everything about Fika, from the food to the peaceful atmosphere.
“The food was amazing, and it felt really peaceful,” Toliblie said. “It was a different experience but definitely one that was relaxing.”
Fika Swedish café is open 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, as well as 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
“To me, it isn’t just about the Nordic food (I serve). It is about fusions that I create because I have so much heritage in other cultures, and I just use everything to create,” Bollig said.