The Rise of the Pop-Up Restaurant and Supper Club

“Wait. You have to pose,” said Erica Schwartzberg, the host of the High Society Dining Club as her guest was leaving the dinner. The woman, a young owner of a food-truck business picked up a faux female breast and pretended to lick it while seated in a hot pink velvet chair. Erica snapped a picture. This was one episode of the supper club that Schwartzberg runs out of her loft in Williamsburg with Aimee Hunter. Meanwhile at the Chelsea Market, the James Beard Foundation has set up JBF LTD: 27 Days, a pop-up restaurant that presents a series of world-class chefs who will take up residence at a specially-designed space in the Chelsea Market. From the high-end to the DIY, it seems everyone these days is tired of the institutional dining experience and wants their culinary variables fluffed. Below, we take a look at a selection of purveyors of unique culinary experiences who have inspired our imaginations and, we hope, will inspire yours.

JBF LTD: 27 Days – New York, NY

Before there were pop-up restaurants, there was the James Beard Foundation, arguably the first to put forth this “new” form of dining. For the next 27 days, JBF LTD takes the pop-up restaurant idea to a new level, bringing a new resident star chef to a temporary venue in the Chelsea Market each week to regale diners with a prix-fixe, four-course meal, including dessert, and paired with wines. For the first week, JBF LTD presents Michelin 3-star chef Laurent Gras. Following weeks bring Michelle Bernstein from Michy’s and Sra in Miami, Iñaki Aizpitarte of Le Châteaubriand in Paris, and David Chang and Team Momofuku. Meals are $75, with wine pairing included. Check the site for full details and during the daytime, come for lunch, sample some tastings, and sign up for dinner. This is one restaurant you will never have the chance to enter again.

Rogue 24 at LTO – New York, NY

“New York’s dining scene is ever-evolving and we wanted to produce an environment for chefs to put their most creative ideas to the test,” says Ron Castellano owner of LTO (Limited Time Only) a new pop-up restaurant that will open its doors in late April at the venue formerly known as Broadway East, the speakeasy-ish lounge nestled at the intersection between Chinatown and the Lower East Side. First up is chef RJ Cooper, a James Beard Foundation Award winner, who previews the menu of his soon-to-open Washington, DC restaurant Rogue 24. You choose either a 16-course or 24-course tasting, with the option of a beverage pairing for each. From $100 to $180 each for dinner, this is among the higher-end pop-ups that offer expertly prepared food in a more traditional restaurant setting. The excitement is all in the chef, who is not only prestigious and has prepared something novel just for you, but has most likely flown in for the occasion and will soon be gone.

Underground Wine Tasting Dinner – Los Angeles, CA

“It’s a pop-up restaurant with a real yenta salon vibe,” says Lisa Feinstein about the Underground Wine Tasting Dinner, her bi-monthly dinner series that she hosts in architecturally significant homes and venues in Los Angeles. Sign up for a dinner — all of which are five courses paired with five wines — and three days before the event you’ll be privy to the location, which could be an empty art gallery in Chinatown, the one home in Beverly Hills designed by Arts and Crafts architects Greene and Greene, or Sowen House — designed by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright. The next one is in a furniture store with 5 living rooms. Feinstein insists on keeping it small, “like a salon,” to instill an intimate atmosphere. “Everyone gets to meet everyone,” she says. “When I see people exchanging numbers at the end of the night, that’s when I know the yenta in me was successful.” And while she uses a professional commercial kitchen, and she never reveals the menu in advance, everything is “crock-pot-able,” and “toaster-oven-able.”

Sunday Supper at Veronica People’s Club – Brooklyn, NY

Sunday Supper at Veronica People’s Club in Greenpoint gives the pop-up restaurant a decidedly young, hip, environmentally conscious, community oriented, and all around good vibe. Their rotating roster of guest chefs is curated by Jeremy Parker and spans a wide range of culinary backgrounds, from chefs with traditional restaurant chops like Nate Smith, former chef of the Spotted Pig, to those who throw lavish dinner parties like Anne Apparu, an artist and chef who hosted her own renowned rotating dining event — The 18th Restaurant — at unique spaces around New York. Sunday Supper may provide “grandma’s meatballs” with New Jersey fresh tomato sauce, or garlic veggie stew with homemade focaccia. According to Parker, his priorities for the series are “execution of food, spirit, and community,” which seem right in line with the general feel of Veronica’s, a neighborhood bar known for its attention to design and atmosphere. This week’s Sunday Supper chef is Smith, who prepares a beet salad with mint and pickled onion, and braised goat with buckwheat crepe. And as always, it’s $20 prix fixe, which includes dessert and a cocktail.

High Society Dining Club – Williamsburg, NY

At the High Society Dining Club, you may be asked to have your picture taken holding religious statuary or wearing a rabbit mask. You may be regaled by host Erica Schwartzberg, formerly of Comedy Central, with stories like the one about the time she posed nude in Spain for Spencer Tunick. But don’t let her penchant for good times fool you. Both Schwartzberg and her partner in high society dining Aimee Hunter have lived in Spain and prepare a mean salt cod fritter and chorizo pan tomate. And as with their menu, which changes up between installments of the monthly series (their next one is April 30th), they also take pains to place guests next to other guests with optimal mingling in mind. As Erica and Aimee are young entrepreneurs, you will most likely find yourself amongst a coterie of Brooklyn’s entrepreneurial elite. Owners of artisanal food trucks, restauranteurs, and chefs might be among the foodies at the tables of an installment of High Society in Schwartzberg’s spacious loft. Feel free to bring your own cabernet. But at $45, know you’ll be pampered with great food and company and plenty of other surprises in store at this cozy pop-up worth its weight in Brooklyn’s young, smart, and artful set.