Are you reading this wondering, "Um, what's a pop-up restaurant?" Pop-up restaurants are those that seem to spring up out of nowhere -- hence the name -- in random locations (sometimes in a restaurant only open during the day, a public arts space, or another spot with a kitchen or with space where a makeshift kitchen can be set up). The kicker? The restaurant might only be around for one night or one week. Then, as quickly as they seemed to appear, they're gone.
What's the word on pop-ups?
Pop-up chefs range from high-profile chefs to up-and-comers who don't have their own restaurant space, but are looking for a venue where they can try new dishes and concepts. The locations are licensed like regular restaurants, so no worries there. But unlike established restaurants, the buzz, menu details and location information are typically delivered through word-of-mouth and social media.
While there is investment involved for the chefs, restaurant operations overhead (salaries, insurance, rent) is low so chefs can easily try new things without major financial risk if people don't like or frequent their spot.
Experience the trend
According to the National Restaurant Association, a recent "What's Hot in 2011" survey completed by chefs, ranked food trucks and pop-up restaurants as the hottest restaurant operational trend in 2011.
Chefs aren't the only ones excited about temporary venues. Pop-ups give diners a reprieve from their tried-and-true favorite establishments and a chance to try cutting edge or traditional-yet-otherwise-unavailable meals. If you have the good fortune of knowing about a local pop-up, let alone eating at one, you might make your friends' super-cool list. Reservations, along with the restaurant's existence, are limited so if you catch one, you'll earn the right to brag that you were part of the "experience" that will never happen again. But for the sake of hanging on to your friends, try to keep your boasting to a minimum.
Cities and diners around the country fancy this fad, and pop-ups can be found in Chicago, Cleveland, New York, San Diego, New Orleans, Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles and Miami. If you get the opportunity and can locate one, try a pop-up in your town before it's gone.
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