“Find the cowboy at Station tavern @ 8 p.m. Say ‘Giddy up, cowboy.' Be prompt.”
That's the text message I got last week, a day before the so-called Cuban Dinner Crisis, a new underground pop-up supper club run by a pair of young men who say locally grown, sustainable food is their raison d'etre.
My dining partner and I found the cowboy sitting at the bar at Station in South Park, drinking a beer and eating a hamburger. We said the secret sentence, and he gave us an enthusiastic Yee-haw! and pointed us toward the location—Velo Cult, the bike shop next door.
Inside, the bikes had been moved aside, and a lovely, 16-top table was set. The centerpiece was fashioned from the rim of a bicycle wheel with flowers and Styrofoam balls covered in blossoms poking up through the spokes. Tea lights set the mood, and being seated next to strangers helped keep things interesting.
Pop-up dinner clubs and restaurants have been, well, popping up across the country in the last few years. The New York Times recently did a piece on the culinary trend, saying the wave has been spearheaded by “professionals who might have the creativity and charisma to open their own establishments but lack the money to sign a lease and hire a contractor.”
To my knowledge, here in San Diego, there has been at least one pop-up project in recent times—a brunch in Barrio Logan that shall remain nameless just in case the county Health Department gets any wild ideas about regulating the fun foodie phenomenon.
Our Cuban Dinner Crisis menu included four courses and a cocktail. We started with the Intermediate Range Ballistic Mojito (IRBM), ended with a Pan Tres Leches de Che Coco con Café Cubano and enjoyed Camaron y Platain con Mojo Castro, Bay of Pigs and Black Bean Soup and Picadillo de Khrushchev vs. Arroz de Kennedy in between. Cost: $40.
I asked one of the supper-club guys (who asked that he not be identified by name) why he and his partner didn't just jump on the food-truck bandwagon instead.
“I don't want to spend my days crammed inside a truck,” he said.
Who would? The fresh air spilling in from the opened warehouse door of the bike shop made for a nice touch to the underground vibe.
Want in on the next supper club? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.