Pop ups have been popping up everywhere. Variously called Supper Clubs, Anti-Restaurants, Renegade Restaurants or plain Underground Restaurants, the phenomenon came of age in LA with Ludo Lefebre’s LudoBites series of hot ticket meals which the chef used as test bed and marketing campaign – similar to restaurant digital marketing – combined, prior to the launch of Trois Mec and settling down to quiet superstar status.
Not all recent pop ups morphed into bricks and mortar restaurants, though. The pop ups of a few years ago have matured in various ways: Pheast has became a “multi-media, performance, design, think tank” for example. Others have established a well honed routine so they’re not exactly popping up so much as popping senses at the same place every week. Mission Rose in Santa Barbara for example. Can you really be a pop up if everyone knows where you’re going to be every week (Santa Barbara Organic Kitchen, but don’t say we told you shhhh!)? Who cares, if the food is as delicious as Michael Glazer’s: a recent MR pop-up featured tagliatelle with sea urchin butter, pecorino and chives and pan-roasted halibut with seasonal greens, butternut squash puree and nettle pesto. Pop on over!
There’s the über high end pop ups, showcasing culinary stars from out of town who take up residency at a restaurant like a guest DJ at a night club. Friday night this week for example, Alma restaurant hosted the ‘insanely popular’ (per Eater LA) Norwegian impresario, forager and New Nordic cuisine evangelist Mads Refslund at $110 a pop. Otherwise you have to go all the way to Acme in New York to feast on Refslund fare:
There’s a grand evening organised like clockwork for a white linen and sparkling crystal kind of an evening to be devoured over at The Fig House with Steve Fortunato’s roomforty.
And there are events run like balls where everyone wears white at a secret location like the ones run by Handmade Events:
And then there’s Forage & Pasture‘s style of underground restaurant, from free-spirited rock and rollers who just can’t fit into any financial or culinary mould. They want local, they want seasonal and they want a challenge that shifts with their inner development. The New Yorker ran an incredible piece about Wolvesmouth, but chef Craig Thornton has a one year waiting list for his ‘suppers with strangers’, thanks to his commitment to satisfying his own craving for challenge and change. If someone thinks his work is beautifully plated, he cooks ugly. His recipe for LA Weekly, Wolves In The Snow was meant to show off the food dressed as roadkill: “Rip venison apart with two forks which will act as teeth. Attack your plate with your blackberry beet ‘blood’.” Far out.
Suzanne Griswold & Rachael Narins’ Chicks With Knives describes itself as “a collective of women chefs in Los Angeles, with a commitment to Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical Food”. They create culinary events including underground dinners and a pop-up pickle shop. Their supper club menus are certainly mouth-watering:
And try Sunday brunch at Elysian care of Roxana Jullapat and Sonoko Saka, putting heirloom grains on plates until April 26th (together they also founded the Common Grains Collective to build a community around ancient grains, good food, and sustainability).
Then there’s our favourite, the pop up within a pop up.
Per the LA Times: “Porridge and Puffs is Mhin Phan’s permanent pop-up inside Field Trip, which in turn is a permanent pop-up inside the Farmers Kitchen, owned by Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), the entity that runs the Hollywood farmers market”. Phew! The rice porridge that’s the feature of the restaurant is beautifully versatile:
We love this: “If it were possible to hand-knit a restaurant from organic wool and put it up for sale on Etsy, it would probably be a lot like Porridge and Puffs,” says Jonathan Gold for the LA Times…
That’s poppin’ all, folks!