Underground dining and pop-up restaurants aren't anything new. The seemingly exclusive events have been gaining popularity in cities all over the country for years now, and in some cities you could dine out seven days a week and never set foot in a proper restaurant.
Dallas has been slower to the party. While David Anthony Temple has been cooking up underground meals in Dallas since 2009, he's for the most part the only consistent show in town. He currently serves up secret suppers in a semi-secret Deep Ellum location, but the dinners are only a staging ground for a new restaurant he's planning to open. When the doors of his new concept, called Twenty-Seven, open, his secret dinners will probably close.
Nicole Gossling used to work with Temple as his sous. Now she runs her own dinners, usually one a week and also in Deep Ellum. Gossling leverages her relationship with Urban Acres, a local organic market in Oak Cliff where she volunteers part-time, to secure some of her ingredients. The result is a menu that features as many local and organic ingredients as possible, Gossling says. Her latest, this weekend, adds a murder-mystery component -- a nod to Halloween.
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These diners may not have a permanent address or restaurant associated with them, but they're hardly underground and they're not at all exclusive. Organizers in Dallas have worked tirelessly putting together formal email announcements and blasting them out to massive lists. Local blogs have given the events significant coverage, and Richard Chamberlain has enlisted a PR company to promote his latest, a two-night pop-up dinner in Addison featuring an $89 four-course menu.
Bar 828 is a new, temporary bar in Oak Cliff that will pop up for three weekends beginning tonight. This concept, forged by bartender Michael Martensen, has gotten attention from Crave, the Dallas Morning News and more. It's a stark contrast to other markets, where news of these events tends to travel by word of mouth, dinners are invite only, and if you're not in the know, you're not getting in.
But underground or not, the dinners are often worthy ventures. Most seat diners at massive communal tables, and the tone is more social than a typical restaurant. Strangers that wouldn't otherwise interact find themselves engaged in random conversation, and chefs are driven to be innovative and creative.
Dallas could use more of it, but the fact that it's happening at all is welcome -- a sign of a growing and improving food scene.