Now You Can Go Out and Eat In at the Same Time
By Kristan Schiller
The term “supper club” has evolved over the last decade to encompass two distinct meanings. The original—perhaps, passé—meaning refers to the traditional American supper club of the 1930s and ’40s, one which involves sit-down dining in a swanky public venue with live entertainment, usually cabaret. The second is the supper club of the 21st Century: underground restaurants in the welcoming homes of culinary enthusiasts who turn out gastronomic delights on a weekly or monthly basis for both friends and strangers interested in ripening their taste buds. Mind you, these supper clubs aren’t always held in someone’s home; oftentimes they’re set up in empty neighborhood warehouses or even on board someone’s boat. The new breed of supper club, typically advertised as either prix-fixe or suggested donation, isn’t a restaurant and it’s not a dinner party; it’s both rolled into one.
The relatively recent popularity of the pop-up supper club has been credited by some to a backlash caused by upscale restaurants with celebrity chefs at the helm charging outrageous prices for their creations. Meanwhile, the ascent of social media has helped promote the events. Whatever the cause, the trend has spread like wildfire, so in most major cities traveling foodies will now find a supper club where they can not only enjoy a fabulous meal, but also perhaps meet some new friends and join in some stimulating conversations. Like the Chevy Malibu you arrive in, the supper club blends comfort (a sated appetite) with style and sophistication; beauty with brains.
There are many ways to learn about supper clubs in your area. Facebook has been particularly quick to jump on the so-called supper club bandwagon. Websites like yelp.com and chow.com often list them as well. But here are a few reputable websites devoted solely to supper clubs, for which you can search by city and/or zip code. It’s almost always necessary to make a reservation well in advance, so give yourself a few weeks or even a few months to plan. And don’t be surprised if it takes a few attempts to reserve a spot, as some of these supper clubs are the hottest ticket in town!
Find a Supper Club
Perhaps the most well-known and comprehensive directory of supper clubs worldwide, “Find a Supper Club” is the pet project of Kerstin Rodgers, a supper club hostess herself (known as Ms. Marmite) and author of Supper Club: Recipes and Notes from the Underground Restaurant (Harper Collins). Rodgers, owner of London’s famous Underground Restaurant, has compiled a wonderfully detailed listing here, searchable by clickable map and also by plugging in your geographic location. The site features Rodgers’ witty blog, recipes, tips and anecdotes from her own experience as supper club hostess extraordinaire.
Saltshaker is an excellent database of supper clubs with a lengthy listing of American locales created by Dan Perlman, a former New York City sommelier who hails from the Midwest and has lived in Buenos Aires for the last seven years. Perlman not only hosts his own supper club, at his Buenos Aires apartment called Casa Saltshaker, but he also offers cooking classes and writes about food and wine for a handful of publications including Time Out and Fodor’s.
Supper Club Meetup Groups
Meetup is a web-based network of local groups that allows users to organize gatherings by areas of interest. The site helps more than 9,000 groups get together in local communities on a daily basis. “Supper Club” is one of its popular meetup “themes.” Check out a supper club in your city or organize one of your own!
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This is the first in a Homes Away From Home series on Chevy Culture. Stay tuned for Part 2, on vacation rentals and home exchanges.
Kristan Schiller is a New York-based travel writer and blogger whose articles have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s, as well as on Forbestraveler.com and Salon.com.