Welcome To The Latest Food Craze: Pop-Up Restaurants

Pop-up restaurants are the latest food craze and big name chefs across the US are getting in on the game.

Temporary restaurants in existing spaces, and rotating chefs taking over underutilized kitchens, help restaurants drive additional revenue and provide an outlet for chefs to express their culinary creativity, without a large upfront investment.

Demand from diners is further proof that the pop-up trend will continue to grow in 2011. Pop-up restaurants are trendy, in high demand and can vanish as quickly as they appear, making them awesome but often elusive for securing a table. Check out these hot spots before they disappear.

San Francisco
San Francisco’s Mission District is home to several pop-up restaurants. Mission Street Food takes over the kitchens at Lung Shan on Thursday and Saturday nights, turning the average Chinese restaurant into an extraordinary dining experience. To the delight of patrons, wonton soup and fried rice become gnocchi with Himalayan truffles, sea urchin sashimi, chicken fried beef jerky and other specialties.Things are kept interesting with weekly rotating chefs. So far 60 guest chefs have taken on the kitchens at Lung Shan. Location: 2234 Mission Street near 18th Street

Coffee Bar, also in Mission, has been featuring chef Eskender Aseged’s unique style for the last three years on Thursday and Friday nights, known as Radio Africa & Kitchen. The weekly tasting menu is inspired by his travels through Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Spain, Italy and France and uses organic seasonal fruits, vegetables and proteins. With Radio Africa & Kitchen, Eskender recreates his childhood in Ethiopia — communal tables to share good food, conversation and African music. Location: 1890 Bryant Street, corner of Florida and Mariposa Streets

New York
Maharlika popped up inside Restro Leon on 12th street in the East Village and serves Filipino specialties for Saturday and Sunday brunch. Nicole Ponseca, the GM at Leon’s sister restaurant Juliette, is the mastermind behind the concept. Wanting to bring back Filipino cuisine to Manhattan, she recruited a beverage expert and chef and together they studied in the Philippines in preparation. The menu may include names and ingredients you don’t recognise but, being adventurous will serve you well, and Nicole is ever present and delightfully informative, making your decisions that much easier. Weekends, 11-3PM through March; reservations are needed, email Ponseca at [email protected] or text her at 917-710-5457 Location: 351 East 12th Street

John Fraser, chef and owner of NYC restaurant Dovetail, launched What Happens When in the former Le Jardin space in Soho on January 25th. Each month, he and his designers promise a new journey they term movement, where space design, taste and sound are refreshed and carefully crafted for the ultimate dining experience. “Cooks want guests to focus on the plates, I want people to look around,” says chef John Fraser. What Happens When February 25th rolls around is anyone’s guess; go check it out. $58 prix fixe. Open through October 25th. Location: 25 Cleveland Place, between Spring and Kenmare streets

Chef Grant Achatz and the team that designed Alinea are preparing to take diners on a different type of journey at Next: Restaurant, one that travels the world of cuisine with stops to different places and times along the way. First up is Paris, 1912. Next: possibly a futuristic Hong Kong. Four stops and menus are slated for the year they plan to be open. To go along with the travel theme, you purchase tickets rather than reservations, and they’re priced similarly to airlines, with Wednesday being a coach seat and Saturday night, business class. Prix fixe will range from $40 to $75 with beverage pairings starting at $25. Opening late March. Location: 955 W. Fulton Market

Los Angeles
Coming back to Los Angeles will be Ludo Lefebvre’s popular LudoBites. Lefebvre, the pioneer of the trend, has been popping up with his original French-influenced food, or as he refers to it, touring neighborhoods of LA like a band, since 2007. More are in the works so stay tuned or sign up for a newsletter for updates.

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