Dinner Rush chefs Dinner Rush chefs Chefs that participated in Tel Aviv's Dinner Rush pop-up restaurant event in November, 2014. (Photo: Eran Levi)

Pop-up restaurants take dining out of the box

Flexibility allows these makeshift eateries to literally 'pop up' without commitment, and be more creative with dishes.

Pop-up restaurants in some form or another have been around for a long time. We can track them back to food trucks, to lemonade stands – yet only recently have things taken a decidedly gourmet turn; the pop-up restaurant now sports a new, more sophisticated persona.

The appeal of the pop-up for chefs is the flexibility – they need not commit to space or location and can close shop at a moment's notice if need be. It also allows them to be more creative with dishes, not having to worry about attracting diners in the long term. For diners, this means more diversity in options. Whether you’re a fast-food junkie, a lover of raw cuisine, on the hunt for a themed dinner or a dedicated carnivore focused on finely seared steak, there's likely to be a pop-up just right for you.

In places such as New York and Los Angeles, pop-up restaurants are tracked through websites, blogs and social media. There's a website directory dedicated to tracking events throughout the country.

Yelp pop-up restaurantIn the summer of 2014, Yelp held a pop-up restaurant event in Columbus, Ohio, called "Yelp Likes it Hot (and Cold)," where hot chicken and local frozen yogurt were served. (Photo: Yelp Inc./Flickr)

But pop-ups aren't restricted to the U.S. From Tokyo to Toronto, they've caught on. A recent event in Tel Aviv speaks volumes to its global appeal. The Israeli city recently participated in Dinner Rush, a six-week pop-up concept that offered a different style of restaurant every week. From chef Zahi Bukshester's beef filet tartar and bone marrow dishes one week to chef Mika Sharon's Asian-inspired cuisine the next, the offerings ran the gamut. It was such a hit that Shir Eshel Mahorovsky, the woman behind the event, will be running it again this spring.

“Dinner Rush brought back restaurants from the past and gave a mixed crowd the chance to experience the ambience and food that were once served," she told From The Grapevine.

Explaining its appeal, she noted the obvious attractions for young, on-the-go clientele. "In the instant world we live in, the shelf life of a restaurant is too short for business. Pop-ups are the answer and the future of the too-short, over-trending restaurant life.”

Le Comptoir squashPop up restaurants allow chefs to try out interesting compositions, like this Blue Hubbard squash dish with radish, smoked scallions, chou chinois and Spanish padron pepper, at Le Comptoir in Los Angeles. After operating as a pop-up for a number of years, Le Comptoir opened in a permanent spot in December, 2014. (Photo: Larry/Flickr)

Shahar Sivan, chef and owner of the acclaimed Bistro Vanya in Haifa, and responsible for Dinner Rush's sixth and final week, summed up Tel Aviv's – and the rest of the world's – fascination with the pop-up restaurant. “It’s a bit of a fetish... At the moment and for me, [Dinner Rush] was a wonderful experience."

Jonas Benhayoun, a chef and also the co-founder of Dinner Rush, told From The Grapevine that Tel Aviv's dining community is open to these concepts because the city's residents "like to go out, eat interesting food and drink and enjoy something a bit out of the box.”

That's exactly what a pop-up restaurant is, a bit out of the box. Non-traditional settings – in New York they've been known to appear in the back corner of a bar or in the middle of a park – and dishes with flair.


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