If you are looking for a new restaurant, or new menu to tantalize your taste buds, but don’t want to travel far, try pop-up dining. Pop-up restaurants are unique, invitation-only events that “pop” up around town serving four to five course meals in surprise locations by highly skilled, trained chefs or sometimes a home schooled cook who has grown a following. Pop-up restaurants have no formal address and are held inside another restaurant or in a unique location like a warehouse, store or even a private home.
Inside Nieuport 17, a landmark restaurant in Tustin, is Aviation Restaurant, a pop-up venue featuring guest chefs and menus. In an effort to draw in new customers and test the palates of their current patrons owner Cameron Irons has been holding pop-up venues where guest chefs are given free rein. In Nieuport 17’s kitchen they create a menu, prepare, and cook a four to five course meal for a party of 40 to 50. The dinners are held in a private room and guests sit at one long table in a space that looks like a castle. The menu is entirely at the discretion of the chef and the price of the dinner is based on the cost of the food.
Dinners start at 7:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. and end around 11:00 p.m. but the fun doesn’t stop there. Many guests stroll into the Barnstormer Bar to hear live music afterward. Check Aviation’s Facebook for information on its latest pop-ups.
Recent guest chef Karen Mantoen is a personal cook with no formal training. She has such a talent working with flavors that she has amassed a following. Mantoens’ guests traveled from San Diego and Los Angeles to dine at her pop-up venue at Aviation.
“This was a fabulous opportunity. Cameron and the entire staff at Nieuport 17 created a welcoming environment,” said Mantoen.
Dinner Address: Somewhere in Orange County, (shh the secret is part of the fun)
Contact person: Steve Fortunato.
The dinner table is a powerful catalyst capable of drawing people together to swap stories and experiences in a community. Memories are often made at the table and in every culture where hospitality is extended, a meal is served. This summer Room Forty invites lovers of food and wine to a table in Orange County. This adventure will take guests on a six-course meal journey for the Summer Orange County Winemaker Dinner. The food will be paired with six or more wines from Neil Collins of Lone Madrone. If you aren’t familiar with the drill, here it goes: Location, menus, and wines are not disclosed until the week of the event.
Spectrum Wine Auction
A new series of free wine tastings is part of the Spectrum Wine Auctions “Pop-Up” Series. This group will be hosting monthly thematic tastings in Los Angeles, Orange County, and beyond.
Spectrum Wine Auctions will be on the move from Newport Beach to Santa Barbara the pop-up events will be fun, and educational with free wine tastings. These events will always be on the last Wednesday of every month, with the mission to pop corks on some great wines with old and new friends.
It will always be fun, casual, but you must RSVP and take note events sell out fast.
Address: No address until event is posted so sign up and get ready to reserve your seat.
Phone: No phone number
LudoBites is a restaurant with no formal address or phone number. The pop-up style venues are hosted by Chef Ludo Lefebvre who came from France to the United States after being trained by one of the greatest chefs in France. Lefebvre prefers LudoBites to be referred to as a “touring restaurant,” like a band that tours around a town. Instead of borrowing a stage, Lefebvre borrows a stove to create his magic. There is a new location and venue on average every six weeks.
LudoBites is listed by Fox News to be one of the most difficult restaurants to get into. So if you like a challenge and want to earn bragging rights if you score a seat, sign up and sit in wait because it’s not uncommon for the events to be sold out in less than sixty seconds. Opentable.com once crashed during the booking process when 150,000 requests came in at once.
The online avenues to booking a seat are:
LudoBites on Facebook
Octavio Olivas, the founder and owner of CEVICHE PROJECT, works in law during the day but has a passion for creating ceviche. Born in Mexico City, Olivas’ love for the cuisine grew during his childhood when his father took him fishing in Mexico. Together they would prepare a fresh and simple citrus-marinated fish using the catch of the day. Today, CEVICHE PROJECT is a southern California pop-up restaurant that aims to bring together family, friends, music, and new tastes in a communal and one-of-a-kind dining experience.
CEVICHE PROJECT will soon announce the location and date of the next pop-up. To join the mailing list, visit their website.
Michelle Mears-Gerst is a writer in Orange County.