In its modern form, pop-up restaurants, or supper clubs, are dining concepts with no formal brick-and-mortar location. Aided by the internet and appearing at an assortment of changing locales, several top-notch local chefs are experimenting with the style and producing truly riveting results. Freed from the constraints of a specific location, these chefs are creating specific, one-of-a-kind menus inspired by the muse of the moment — be it seasonal offerings, local ingredients or the art hanging on the wall of the hosting venue. Often presented in the form of a prix-fixe, multi-course menus with tickets sold in advance online, the supper clubs are introducing an innovative alternative way to consume food experiences.
To further differentiate themselves from the traditional restaurant, the pop-ups included below serve meals at a community table — socializing with strangers being the inevitable result. While privacy has its place, the open layout encourages a highly festive atmosphere that can be hard to achieve in standard dining situations. Dishes are served with explanations and met with applause, glasses raised high to the joy of eating. Below are a few of our favorites to try and attend this season.
RENDER is the joint effort of two Savannah, Georgia, transplants and childhood friends Jason Brown and Josh Monopoli. Each with almost 20 years of experience — Jason with tenures at BRU, Old Major and now Bittersweet and Josh at Black Cat, Mountain Standard and Holeman & Finch in Atlanta — the culinary duo are formidable indeed. With a style that focuses on the proper sourcing of all the ingredients, the locavore aficionados are pushing the envelope with regards to the way people consume food.
RENDER’s upcoming event will be a family-style barbecue in which a whole lamb is cooked over an open fire. Taking place June 25 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Boulder Lamb Farm — with the involvement of shepherds, Clint and Mary Buckner — the affair will be as direct a way to experience local meat as possible. Illustrating the pop-up’s ability to take diner’s straight to the source, with the freshest ingredients coming directly from the producer, RENDER manages to one-up existing trends, bringing the table to the farm. Tickets are available and range from $15 for kids to $45 for adults — sides and libations are included with the cost of entry.
Night Owl is the brainchild of Denver chefs Kiley Fraley and Taylor West. They debuted with their first event on Monday, June 6 — serving a five-course meal highlighting local ingredients reimagined through the lens of fine-dining. Everything about the event screamed class and refinement, from the glass of rosé that appeared in hand immediately upon entry to the beautifully arranged community table complete with gold service plates and fine glassware — the team clearly spared no expense. The decision to host the dinner at sleek coffee-house and cocktail bar White Lies speaks to one of the finest parts of pop-up dinner culture — detached from any continuous space, the chefs can switch from one gorgeous location to the next, finding a space that suits the theme while simultaneously giving light to the venues that so generously convert their space for them (many in attendance vowed to return later for White Lies’ standard dinner service).
The inaugural event had the chefs introducing plates highlighting local ingredients prepared with fastidious care. Dishes like Colorado trout with pea puree and a sweet foam, exquisite rabbit confit and a duo of local green chili lamb sausage with pistachio and mint crusted lamb belly — the cherry jus poured on tableside — exemplify Fraley and West’s commitment to the craft. Night Owl is an impressive example of what pop-ups have the potential to be — a place where chefs can let loose, do as they please and ultimately produce an original, highly memorable and sophisticated dining experience that leaves attendees craving the next one. Despite there being no events on the immediate horizon, the chefs assure that something is in the works. In the meantime check their Instagram for updates.
Hutch Supper Club
Chef Chris Jakubiec is a big fish in Denver’s still-growing pond. Coming from a fine-dining background nearly 20 years long, Jakubiec has traversed the world of boutique, luxury independent hotels — with stints at the Alain Ducasse-helmed Mix in New York City, The Blue Door in Miami and The Jefferson in Washington D.C. — finally arriving in Denver in 2015 to help open the ART Hotel. The impressive resume has inspired Jakubiec’s current approach — a five-star mentality, executing the craft to the highest level, but without the pomp and excess — its marvelous food sans the usually associated stuffiness.
The Hutch Supper Club — named after one of the restaurants started by Jakubiec’s grandfather — served their first meal in January of this year. Assisted by wife Liz Wegrzyn and a small, rotating team, Hutch has gone on to serve four additional meals — two Filipino feasts with fellow local chef Leah Eveleigh, the pork-centered Swine & Dine and a vegetarian ode to warm weather, Spring Into Vegetables. Utilizing Feastly — described by Jacubiek as the Uber of dinner parties — Hutch uploads the menu in advance, allowing would-be diners to scan the meal and purchase tickets with ease.
The upcoming Illuminated Palate dinner is taking place Saturday, June 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at an undisclosed art gallery on South Santa Fe. The five-course feast includes a soup shooter, Colorado beats, squid ink tagliatelle, veal caponata, concluding with a blueberry and lemon bar. Each item is sure to delight more than the last — Jakubiec bringing a level of expertise worthy of his Michelin-influenced career.