Pop-up Food: It’s fun and spontaneous. It’s so new that Google has not yet picked up on it.
If you google “Pop-up Food” you actually won’t find much. Google connects you to articles about Pop-up Restaurants, which is not the same.
Pop-up Food is a quick emergence of a culinary experience. It’s serendipitous. As the name implies, it is food that pops up. This can be anything from Pop-up pizza, spring rolls, …to a 5 course decadent meal by a celebrity chef. Pop-up Food can be at a private home or restaurant. It can be an in-person dining experience or pickup to go.
The Washington Post featured D.C.’s best pizzas as pop-ups, not restaurants. Both Ramona’s Pizza Garden and June offer pizza in limited quantities, less than 40 pies a month. There are no seatings, pick-up is on a front porch. If you pick it up from Will Crick, you’ll be greeted by a coca-poo with a wagging tail. If you pick up from Michael Turner and Alexandra Bookless Turner, a husband-and-wife team, you may be able to meet a sweet 5 year old too. Finding out about these pop-ups are as difficult as getting your orders in. They sell out fast.
How do you find out about Pop-up Food?
2. Instagram. Most chefs advertise on Instagram and sell tickets online. Some chefs and restaurants have websites where you can join their newsletter.
3. Festi — a network for pop-ups. Festi is a place where people can post pop-ups for food and fitness. It’s a fast and hassle free way to connect directly with customers and collect payment without a website. For foodies it makes it easy to support local businesses, neighbors and friends.
Chef Leo, aka Mr. Fine Wine, often posts Sunday pop-up dinners for 2 ( $40-$55) to be picked up at his restaurant. When Sheryl is not busy with her young kids, she will find the time to make Lumpias (Filipino spring rolls) to share with her friends and neighbors ($17/ dozen). Celebrity Chef Roberto Donna has fun posting his famous mystery box filled with gourmet dishes, while foodies rush to sign up because it sells out within a few hours of posting.
Food pop-ups are hard to find and easy to miss.
Checking Instagram and websites can get tedious and is time consuming. By the time I read the article in Eater, most of the pop-ups listed were completed, with an expired link to Eventbrite, Resy or some other ticketing platform. One solution to the problem is to follow your favorite chefs on Festi (if they are on there), so you can be the first to know about a food offer popping up. You also avoid having to subscribe to a newsletter that clutters your email inbox.
Why is pop-up food a new trend?
The mystique of the best kept secret in the neighborhood is… fun. Restaurants and takeouts get boring because it is the same menu, offered to everyone. Pop-up food is usually one-of-a-kind. For example Chef Leo puts together something different from his restaurant menu even if it is the same dishes. He creates a special 3-course meal for 2 with a drink and dessert du jour, which is always a decadent surprise. It’s about a culinary experience, not just food that satisfies hunger.
When the NY Times did a piece on Pop-up Dinners; they featured 5 chefs with unique cultures sharing Colombian dishes to Congolese food.
As we head into 2022 Eater states “Pop-ups are in full swing in DC.” They listed 35 pop-ups with special offers including:
Michele’s Lunch Pop-up in Eaton Hotel
Cherry Blossom Le Goûter at Opaline (french afternoon tea)
Piroshky Piroshky (baked goods)
Spud’s Subs & Soups in Qui Qui D.C. (breakfast-popup)
Sukuta Sushi x Side Door
Balangay pop-up at Bullfrog Bagels. Chef Wing’s pop-up restaurant made it to Eater and his pop-up 5 course meals are on Festi.
Pop-ups are not new, in the past Chefs turned to pop-up restaurants to stay current, visible, and solvent. Now Chefs turn to pop-up food as an opportunity for them to showcase their creativity and connect with an audience eager to “experience” something unique. If you want to eat pizza you can order from Papa Johns but if you want to “experience” a cheesy deep dish pie, you should wait for June’s next pop-up pizza.
Chefs are creators and most of them would rather spend more time creating the next culinary experience and less time with the logistics of booking, payment and marketing. As we head into 2022 instant and direct connection between creators and guests is now made faster and easier than ever. It’s now possible to be first to know about the next pop-up, before it hits the press, or is sold out.