Foodie Underground: Pop Up Cuisine


For foodies, the last year has seen an enormous rise in the street food trend, bringing quick, authentic and diverse food to the masses. For fashionistas, it’s been pop-up shops, taking advantage of unused retail space and allowing for unique shopping experiences that can focus on more local and sustainable themes. Now combine the two. What do you get? Pop-up restaurants.

A pop up restaurant makes sense in the day and age where economic stability isn’t always a given. And it has the allure of not being an established locale, something that suits cutting-edge urban foodies just fine. Think I’m kidding? There’s a whole blog devoted to documenting the effort of opening up a restaurant for limited cash and keeping it mobile. And with helpful guerrilla tools like Twitter and food blogs, getting the word out about mobile culinary experiences isn’t all too difficult.

Cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and London – with their food crazed populations that are always up for something new – are quick to embrace the trend. In San Francisco, it’s being taking even further, with the upcoming Street Fixe, a sit-down street-food prix fixe with table service. Part of the beauty of street food is that it’s not served in traditional dining environment, but every once in awhile don’t you just wish you could enjoy your tacos in a little more peace and quiet? Street Fixe will provide for just that, and by putting several vendors in one space, eliminate the need for underground research on where the latest and greatest food cart of the week is.

Earlier this year, New York tried a similar thing, hosting The Hunger, which focused on their deemed theme of “Urban Cuisine Burgeois.” Or there’s the Ghetto Gourmet, a wandering supper club of sorts which provides a whole community of people looking to host and attend pop up type eating events. Dining out-of-the-box so to say.

Mobile and able to transition quickly, the idea of pop up restaurants might conjure up images of poorly cooked meals that lack creativity. On the contrary, part of the allure of these places is their gastronomic ingenuity. Street Fixe has a five course menu that includes Sabudana Vada Tapioca Fritter, complete with hot and sweet apricot sauce. Mission Street Food makes diversity a central part of its menu, bringing in a new guest chef every week, giving up and coming chefs the chance to make a name for themselves with the cool crowd.

Pop up restaurants aren’t just hitting the urban, out-and-about scene, in a down economy they’re also becoming a trend for eating at home, allowing amateur chefs try their hand at whipping together a meal and bringing together a small crowd. There are even How to guides out there for those that are willing to take on the endeavor, meaning that your pop up dining experience could be just around the corner.

Do you have a favorite pop up restaurant in your town? Tell us about it! Either in the comments below, or by using #FoodieUnderground on Twitter.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground. Each week, Anna will be taking a look at something new and different that’s taking place in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to culinary avant garde.

Image: Mark & Andrea Busse

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.