Pop-up dinners, yay!, meh, or nay?

How do you feel about pop-up dinners? The one-night only, out-of-town chefs swinging through, or ambitious cooks trying their hand at their own restaurant. If you’ve ever been to one, how was it?

I’ve never been to one, a few have sounded interesting but mostly I am skeptical. I do participate in a fair number of pop-up markets, but that’s a different, more of a farmers market for crafters (and the odd chocolatier), no obligation to buy.

The commissary kitchen I previously used was home to the local chapter of Dinner Lab, recently closed. From what I saw in the kitchen, I hoped people were there for the novel experience at least as much as the food :smiling_imp: I mean, I’m sure they did their best, but it was always a total clusterfuck when they were in. Today there was supposed to be a pop-up Mothers day brunch at my current place of kitchen use that was cancelled due to low sales. I would have thought anyone could kill it at MD brunch. There is another pop-up dinner scheduled in a few weeks featuring ramen made by a couple of experienced professional cooks. I’m sure it will be tasty, but how many people want to buy tickets for $27 ramen (apparently you get to keep the bowl). I’ll stick with the huge and delicious upscale $16 Hawaiian saimin up the street and not clutter up my cupboards with souvenirs.

On one hand, pop-ups give cooks and chefs a chance to explore new avenues and gain publicity. On the other hand, they are not likely to be the finely tuned experience that comes with running nightly service and take business away from the brick-and-mortar restaurants who are already struggling to keep their piece of the pie.

Thoughts? Experience?

Yay. I’ve enjoyed pretty much every pop up I’ve been to. The pros for me are getting to try new places before they go prime time, or having a dining experience generally not available otherwise. The major con is the crowd that is generally heavy on “foodie” types or friends of the management who think that entitles them to be d-bags. I go in with expectations adjusted about hiccups in service, etc.

I will say that as pop ups become more ubiquitous, my desire to seek them out and attend is waning.

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Never been to a pop-up. They tend to be quite high end things here - visiting high end chef takes over the kitchen at a high end place for a couple of nights.

In one case I recall, I’d simply rather eat the guys food at his own place - and it was more expensive than his own place.

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I would say generally yay, because it gives an opportunity for those not in your typical area/region the chance to try out a chef’s food. Now I can completely understand why some people might be turned off by a particular pop-up to due menu choice, pricing or location – they have the same issues a regular restaurant would, but that’s more of a problem with the chef and/or execution.

I haven’t been to many, because I never learn about them in time. I must be under the pop-up restaurant proverbial rock, because I never get wind of them until the day of or afterwards, so I rarely get the chance. I really wish there was a more consistent and reliable way to find out about what and when. If I had one general criticism is that I find some pop-ups are purposefully secretive and scarce, giving them an air of elitism that I find annoying.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2