Despite what you may have thought, the pop-up dining trend hasn't ended. In fact, Dinner Lab, a New Orleans-based pop-up dining event company, hopes to take pop-up dining to a whole new level.
The company operates as a subscription service that gives diners access to pop-up dining events in their city and cities across the country. For an annual fee, Dinner Lab invites diners to weekly dinners held at unique locations with food prepared by local and national chefs.
Here's how it works. Diners pay a fee to get access to the Dinner Lab calendar of events. The calendar will not only include events in Phoenix, but also in the 26 Dinner Lab cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston.
Once they've joined, members can then purchase tickets to individual dining events throughout the year. Tickets are all inclusive -- food, drinks, and tip -- and members can bring up to three guests to each dinner. The company might host up to 100 events in a city each year, with dinners costing between $50 and $80 for five or more courses.
About half of the Dinner Lab events will feature local chefs, while the other half will feature chefs from all over the country. Each event will be held at a different, unconventional location around town, and the location won't be announced until the day before the event.
The chefs are asked to create menus that tell a story, and most events feature an open kitchen-style setup. The events also include a sort of speech from the chef, during which he or she explains the story behind the event's menu.
Diners eat at a large, community style tables, designed to encourage people to connect over food.
After the event, diners provide feedback about the meal -- each course is rated by over 5 criteria points by each diner -- which is aggregated and given to the chef. Dinner Lab aims to recruit sous chefs and other names who aren't already in the spotlight.
Memberships cost $125 per person and can be purchased online. The first Phoenix event will be held on Friday, April 10 and will be prepared by chef Nini Nguyen formerly of Eleven Madison Park in New York City.
The event, called "Viet Nom, Nom, Nom," will include courses such as Canh Chua, or sour tamarind and prawn soup with tomato and pineapple and rice paddy herbs; Cha Ca La Vong, or turmeric and lemongras seared fish with vermicelli noodles and dill; and Che Chuoi, or coconut sorbet with tapioca, caramelized banana, and peanut crumble.
The start-up company, which was recently profiled in the New York Times, was founded by Brian Bordainick in 2011. Since hosting the first dinner in a building that once housed a brothel in New Orleands, the company has expanded to dozens of cities and now has more than 18,000 members.
For more information, or to join, check the Dinner Lab website.