There’s a pop up supper club in Nashville that I wish I could attend. It’s called Buttermilk Road Sunday Suppers, and its mission is “Bringing People Together, One Biscuit at a Time.”
I don’t know the woman behind Buttermilk Road at all, but what I do glean from reading her intelligent writings and cheering her culinary career on from afar, is that she is the kind of person with whom I share what I’ll call a “cultural anthropological” approach to food. Her meals are simple, but beautiful, and each one happens as a “pop up,” which is my latest passion.
What’s a pop up? It’s a temporary shop, hotel, restaurant, bar…. you name it, that operates out of an existing space repurposed in order to house it. Get it? It “pops up” and then packs up. Some pop ups are outdoors. Some operate out of thriving restaurants. Some function only underground and by-reservation or by-invitation. Some fill emptied/abandoned warehouse spaces and after a successful short term run, end up there (or elsewhere) as permanent businesses with homes of their own. Those are pop ups gone permanent.
Some pop ups are shops. Some are clubs. Some are housed in shipping containers. Others fill iconic, American-brand trailers. Some food trucks could be called pop ups. And some pop ups operate speakeasy style from behind nondescript doors in dark alleys. (I love the “secret” aspect of those!) I’ve learned that pop ups are an architectural design category in their own right, and that London seems to be the capital of all things pop up, though they exist in almost every urban mecca across the globe. Regardless of their form, all pop ups begin as “here now; gone tomorrow” ventures. They are temporary shops, fleeting art shows, or a quilted community gathered under the banner of good food, wine and conversation.
Pop ups are getting lots of coverage in the entrepreneurial business world for their imagination and innovation. They’ve taken the retail category by storm. (I’ve discovered companies that are dedicated solely to leasing & scouting spaces for pop up ventures–companies like Storefront, Hood Branded Environments, The Empty Shops Network, and StoreEnvy).
In the food world, (as I see it) pop up restaurants and supper clubs offer a step up from the food truck movement that has swept the US and Europe. Pop ups cultivate creativity and foster the collective imagination. They promise an ever-changing gallery of meals-as-masterpieces, where different chefs, ingredients, atmospheres, and forward-thinking diners serve as the mixed media palette.
The national restaurant site Eater, a veteran, 16-city blog that is favorite of food industry pros and amateurs, has a pop up category for each of its major cities (Its sister site, the retail-centric Racked, covers pop ups too.) Big brands like Gap and Sephora have hosted pop up shops, and there are pop up collaboratives set up for the sole purpose of showcasing small local businesses. In Belfast, the Big Apple, and Australia I’ve read about art and design coops that host pop up galleries featuring a rotating group of artists and craftspeople.
Obviously, I’m pretty crazy about the whole pop up thing. I’d hop a plane to Antwerp in a heartbeat if a couple nights at Sleeping Around, a shipping container-based mobile pop up hotel were reserved for me. Or I might indulge in a yoga retreat at the pop up ashram coming this summer to Bali. New Orleans has always been at the top of my will-travel-for-food chain, and pop up supper clubs there are some of the hottest tickets in town.
How do I know what’s popping all over the globe? It’s become my new job of sorts: From food truck maven to pop up blogger at Urban Pop Ups. It feels like a natural shift–a move into a higher gear in the world of all things mobile.
I’d love it if you’d follow me on my new site Urban Pop Ups. Pop ups have been called the way of the future. Maybe they’re a fun, new (and ultimately fleeting) trend; maybe they’re here to stay. Regardless, pop up culture is a creative movement that, for now at least, is reshaping urban landscapes, and driving a reinvigorated economy with a healthy dose of creativity and imagination! Go to Urban Pop Ups and learn why.