Buy Yourself a Ticket to These Pop-Up Dinners and Supper Clubs in San Diego
When it comes to dining in San Diego, a lot of us are prone to routine: go to the same ol' places, order the same ol' thing. It's time to be as adventurous eating out as we are with our outdoors escapades. Mix it up at one of these 10 pop-up dinners (spontaneous!) and supper clubs (fancy!) for a change.
When: Monthly, Monday nights
If you’ve been to the Cork & Craft (and if you haven’t, shame on you), then you already know that it's cranking out scrumptious eats six days a week. But one Monday night a month, it does something, well, abnormal. Executive chef Phil Esteban opens up his kitchen to collaborate with other talented chefs and a top-notch brewery for the Abnormal Dinner Series. In the past 13 dinners, it's worked with breweries like Alesmith and Stone Brewing, and has brought in chefs like Anthony Wells of Juniper & Ivy and Chris Osbourne of Cowboy Star. Check the Facebook page for info on upcoming dinners; these typically sell out, so get your tickets in advance.
When: Friday and Saturday nights
A chef dressed in a bear costume serving you dinner is something you’d only expect to happen at a furry convention. But thanks to Cow by Bear, you can have this somewhat odd experience every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm. Anonymity is key for Bear, although there is plenty of speculation about the identity of the chef in costume. S/he comes out of the kitchen to greet guests and for photo ops, but doesn’t speak and never breaks character. The culinary theme changes for each dinner except for one constant: the 45-day dry-aged rib eye serves as the main course. There are only 10 seats at these five-course dinners, so it tends to sell out weeks in advance. Although typically held somewhere Downtown-ish, the location remains as mysterious as the identity of Bear until the address is emailed to you the day before. To reserve your spot at the table, visit the website and email Bear for upcoming dates.
When: Intermittently throughout the month
Several times a month, chef Logan Mitchell and mixologist Gary McIntire open their home in Normal Heights for a private “friends only” dinner party. Each menu has a creative theme, from a Judy Rodgers tribute to a re-creation of the couple’s wedding menu, and the courses are always perfectly paired with a cocktail. There are personal touches at every table they set, like handwritten menu, or beautiful plates & glassware. Thanks to the hospitality of this talented couple, everyone might arrive as strangers, but will leave with a table full of new friends. You can sign up for the email list for updates on when you can be a part of the next dinner/friendship circle.
When: Intermittently throughout the year
If you love Green Flash beers (and who doesn’t?), then enjoying them paired expertly with the culinary delights of a carefully chosen chef is something you don’t want to miss out on. Each year, Green Flash sells 20 supper club memberships that include discounts on tickets to its dinners, a commemorative growlette with a free fill at each event, and other swag that'll make you feel super special. Memberships are already sold out for 2016, but not to worry -- you can still purchase tickets to the dinners even if you aren’t a member. Each event is five courses created by a San Diego chef and paired with a Green Flash beer by its director of beer education and certified cicerone, Dave Adams. Visit the events page on the website for updates on future dinners.
When: Monthly, Sunday brunch hour
What happens when you bring together great chefs with great beers? Toronado beer brunch, that’s what. In case you haven’t heard, everyone’s favorite beer bar hosts a monthly Sunday beer brunch. Each menu features beer pairings from a select brewery and the culinary stylings of a local chef(s).
When: Intermittently throughout the year
Nick Brune, chef and owner of Eco Caters, has combined music and food into a SoundBite dining experience -- music to both your ears and taste buds. Brune and guest chefs collaborate on a multi-course meal while the band that inspired the menu performs live. Before each course, the chefs explain how they were inspired by a certain song and how that inspiration translated onto the plate, making this an interactive, creative experience for the guests, chefs, and musicians.
When: Two to three times a year
Common Theory Public House wasn’t messing around when it hosted its first pop-up beer dinner back in January. As if bringing together nine (yes, nine!) of SD’s most beloved chefs under one roof wasn’t enough, each of the nine courses was paired with a beer from the award-winning Alesmith Brewing Company. Common Theory is planning to host these pop-up dinners only two or three times per year, so make sure you get your hands on tickets for the next one. The next date hasn’t been announced yet, but after the huge success of the first dinner, it will definitely sell out.
Get dressed up in old Hollywood garb and take a trip back in time, experiencing the sexy nights of Havana after dark. This monthly event is a swanky evening of dinner and dancing to the musical stylings of Charlie Chavez y su Afrotruko orchestra and the vocals of Grammy-nominated singer Sacha. In the past, it's been held at The Lafayette, but on April 14th, the supper club will be at the elegant Fairmont Grand Del Mar. The chef will be serving a prix fixe period-appropriate tasting menu with Havana-themed cocktails. Doors open at 6pm with a performance by the Sacha’s Supper Club dancers at 7pm. Get your tickets here.
In a perfection-obsessed society, we throw out about 40% of totally edible fruits and vegetables deemed too odd-looking to sell to the masses. Re:Source, one of San Diego’s newest pop-up dinner series, aims to raise awareness about food waste by teaming up with top chefs who will use food that would typically be tossed to create a delicious meal. The first four-course dinner will be prepared by chef Miguel Valdez on April 6th at The Red Door with seatings at 5:30pm and 7:45pm. Monthly dinners will follow, leading up to the San Diego Food System Alliance’s 2nd Unwasted Food Solution Summit on September 27th at the Jacobs Center. For tickets, head here.
When: Once a year
We don’t have a lot of excuses to dress nice in San Diego’s laid-back flip-flop culture, but Dîner en Blanc is a great reason to clean yourself up. This mysterious picnic has a strict dress code of all white everything, from your headwear to your choice of shoes. The location remains undisclosed to members until the last minute, when everyone is notified where to meet. There are quite a few rules for this exclusive gathering: guests will need to bring their own table, white chairs, white table cloth, and a picnic basket full of goodies for dinner. At the end of the event, everyone packs up and disappears into the night almost like it never happened.
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Sara Norris is a freelance writer and photographer in San Diego who is always on the lookout for a unique dining experience. Even if that means being served a steak by a bear.