At the small tables of an underground dinner, a couple might be paired with another random couple who will become Facebook friends by the end of the evening. With a casual dress code, BYOB and good food, chef David Anthony Temple's underground dinners give diners another option outside of the traditional culinary experience.
Chef DAT has taken his fine-dining restaurant know-how from underground to brick-and-mortar and back underground again, recently using East Dallas' Garden Cafe as a venue for two of his near-weekly pop-up dinners. The theme of the Garden Cafe dinners focused on produce you can find at the new Stock Exchange Neighborhood Pantry, an "old-school general store" that recently opened next door to the cafe and is operated by cafe manager Mark Wootton.
At one of the pop-up dinners at Garden Cafe, 17 people who had been on the email list each paid $71 in cash at the end of the night (before tip) for the six-course meal. Compared with other Dallas supper clubs, that's damn near a steal — both Dallas Supper Club and Frank Underground clock in at about $150 per meal.
Before the meal began, Temple did the required schmoozing around the dining room, tasting diners' wines (the BYO-wine option helps keep meal prices down) and chatting with patrons. Chef DAT let his personality take over the room, explaining that the night's meals wouldn't be complicated but would celebrate the food in a simple manner.
He commanded attention at one point while plating food. Instead of rubbing herbs to get the best flavor before plating, he loudly slapped them in between his hands. "Sometimes herbs need a good spanking," he says.
While celebrating Wootton’s new store, the night also fêted Tom Spicer, the beloved store owner who Temple says helped define the farm-to-table movement in Dallas. Spicer died in 2015; funds from the recent dinners went to the Spicer family. The main course led diners to scrape every item with their forks. Every flavor on the plate was perfectly paired: the grass-fed prime rib (from Jimmy’s Food Store) perfectly fried Brussels sprouts, pureed cauliflower and — the best part — fresh shishito peppers.
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And if that wasn’t enough to make you think the wackiness of being a part of an email list just to get in is worth it, the foie gras in the ice cream impressed with a perfect subtlety.
Chef DAT's next BYOB underground dinners happen 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, location forthcoming, and will set diners back $68 plus gratuity.
"All the produce is coming from The Stock Exchange and all the meats from Louisiana," Temple says. "I just got home with a big cooler of amazing andouille, deer, chicken, boudin and shrimp."
To get in on the dinner, sign up for Chef DAT's email list, where further details like the menu and location will be announced closer to this weekend's dinners. Unlike Dallas' other more prominent supper clubs, this one is relatively easy to grab a seat at — and is likely more affordable for Dallasites who just can't swing the city's more exclusive supper clubs.