By Cathy Best
Clandestine culinary societies are tucked in to home kitchens across the globe. These alternative dining spots, known as underground, or secret, restaurants have evolved, from conventional supper clubs with friends, to elevated supper clubs with paying customers. Home-cooks, and chefs alike, host these intimate home dinners. Commonly, the set-up is a single-seating, prix fixe, family-style affair for approximately 10 to 30 guests. On average, the price ranges from $30 to $70 per person and typically includes a five course meal and wine tastings. The menus are as varied as the venue’s whereabouts; local ingredients generally highlight the courses.
Although gaining in number and popularity, the underground dinner scene remains shrouded in mystery; think speakeasy without law enforcement. Their locations are spread foodie to foodie. With diligence, you can find them listed on food-related blogs. Some are strictly by invitation and referrals; it’s the foodies you know who save you a seat at the table. Others have open reservations to the public. And even though you make a reservation there’s no guarantee a spot is reserved. The host selects guests out of all the reservations submitted. It can take awhile to secure a coveted seat.
What’s intriguing, and fun, about this whole concept is that any person, or like-minded group of people, with a love of cooking, an interest in experimenting with foods and flavors, who enjoy sharing a meal, can do this. You don’t have to make an investment beyond the meal itself. It’s brilliant if you love people and food.
There are a couple of locals who have found their culinary niche in the secret dining scene.
You may have heard whispers about the Four Courseman, an underground restaurant, in Athens. The restaurant thrived for six years under the tutelage of chefs from three of Athens landmark restaurants as well as a home cook and sommelier. Recently, the name and some members changed but the venue remains at the shotgun house on the hill. [Three founding members, along with three new members, will continue as Shotgun Dinners. The format is loosely based on the Four Courseman tradition of hosting bimonthly dinners using local ingredients.] Athens is also home to Little & Saturday, Sarah Dunning’s supper club. Menu items are often fresh from the garden and Sarah encourages her guests to “share with us the parts of your life that have made you who you are and teach us the things you’ve found unique to this neck of the woods.”
If you try this at home, whisper loud enough for me to hear you. I want to be the first reservation on the list.
Best of the Best: Underground Supper Clubs
For reservations or to be put on the mailing list for upcoming dinners:
Shotgun Dinners: www.shotgundinners.com
Little & Saturday: www.littleandsaturday.com
Magazine article: Travel and Leisure: “Worlds Best Secret Dining Clubs” www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/worlds-best-secret-dining-clubs
Blog: SaltShaker is written by expat Dan Perlman who resides in Buenos Aires. The blog is about food, drink and life. He has an extensive list of worldwide underground dining clubs listed under, ”Underground Dining Scene.” Many of the listings have links. www.saltshaker.net