Secret Supper. Shhh!
November 30, 2009 3:17 PM   Subscribe

The owners of Casa Saltshaker in Buenos Aires have compiled a list of venues in what they refer to as the Underground Dining Scene.

The Puerta Cerrada (Closed Door) restaurant is becoming more and more popular with travellers and locals alike. Offering a restaurant-like experience in a private home, and also known as Secret Supper Clubs, Salon Dinners or In-Home Restaurants, the idea has been around for years, but new ones are popping up all over the world as travellers seek more and more "local" experiences.

Fancy setting one up in your house? Here's how to do it.
posted by jontyjago (14 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
When I was in Olympia there was something kind of like this, they called them "secret cafes". They became so widespread at one point that many a telephone pole would have a flier advertising an upcoming secret cafe. It started as one time fundraisers and many of them eventually started opening up on a more regular basis as an "underground" restaurant.
posted by idiopath at 3:56 PM on November 30, 2009

The vast gay internet cabal alerted me to Casa Saltshaker a while ago, and it's always provided me with more food porn than I could ever hope for. Mmmm. Interesting concept for restaurants. Sad Houston doesn't have any for me to try!
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:59 PM on November 30, 2009

It's all a great idea, and I love the concept... but how does one keep from running afoul of food handler permit laws, or kitchen inspectors, or any number of other things we've established over the decades designed to keep professional food service establishments from poisoning their customers? (not snark -- genuinely curious)
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on November 30, 2009

hippybear: "but how does one keep from running afoul of food handler permit laws, or kitchen inspectors, or any number of other things we've established over the decades designed to keep professional food service establishments from poisoning their customers?"

By staying low profile and not getting caught.

A friend of a friend in Oly went so far as to turn the bottom floor of her house into a restaraunt serving breakfast on the weekends, and eventually it was the IRS that got her before the people behind the food-handling permits and kitchen inspectors.
posted by idiopath at 4:03 PM on November 30, 2009

I enjoyed one of these while in Berlin, and made fast friends with the hostess and chef, and enjoyed the experience immensely.

In speaking with her, it sounded like there was some legal grey area she was treading, as she was sure to mention she was hosting "dinner parties", not running a restaurant, and for a second dessert, we were served cordial glasses to receive our empty "donation".

Either way, it was one of my most memorable experiences of being there, and I highly recommend it. We were seated with 6 total strangers in an intimate setting with some elaborately prepared home meals, and felt pretty dang cool for it.
posted by CharlesV42 at 4:10 PM on November 30, 2009

Former MeFite Dobbs has done this a couple of times. He didn't do it for profit but in order to meet new people. One of the requirements is that each person has to bring a stranger (to him). The cost was minimal--$30 if I remember correctly, and people brought their own alcohol. I went to one of them and it was excellent but he never invites the same people twice though I think the strangers get an automatic invite to the next one and they have to bring another stranger.

I've talked to him about teaming up to do something like it for music. That is, private listening parties organized by genre. People come and drink and listen to unfamiliar tunes that we select. CDs and LPs of the albums would be available for purchase and we'd specialize in small run titles. He's not on board yet but admits it's "interesting". Does anyone know if such a thing already exists?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:12 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've always wanted to do this, but I can't imagine I would actually ever get my act together. I always thought it would be fun to run a restaurant if it could be done without caring about the business side. Maybe if I ever find myself independently wealthy I'll go park a trailer out in some wrecking yard, clear a space, throw a bunch of plastic tables and chairs out, and serve a prix fixe junkyard wasteland dinner one random night every month.
posted by majick at 4:25 PM on November 30, 2009

I just want to echo the upthread data points of "it's a really great night". They're more like really good dinner parties than restaurant dining, except the food is better and there's no mess.
posted by Keith Talent at 5:28 PM on November 30, 2009

There’s been at least one ongoing supper club here in Atlanta. They partner up with a group of homebrewers to supply the party with good drink. The one event I went to was pretty sweet, held in the middle of a city park, soup kitchen style.
posted by ijoshua at 6:40 PM on November 30, 2009

I've been to most of these in Buenos Aires. Take it from me, Cocina Sunae for the win. Great food, fantastic host, great atmosphere. It's a little bit out of the center, but a lovely space. Given the appalling dearth of good ethnic food here in BsAs, it's a welcome change to have somthing cooked with an appreciation of the value of spices. Please, if you are in BsAs, make a reservation and tell Cristina that Con sent you!
posted by conifer at 7:22 PM on November 30, 2009

I've been to one (in fact, the first New York City link that the "Underground Dining Scene" page in the fpp links to is my write up of the experience), and yea, pretty much it was like a dinner party thrown by your rich foodie friends who could afford to hire a small wait/clean up staff. I can't remember off the top of my head how much it was, but I remember it actually being a pretty good chunk of cash. I wasn't too worried about the quality of food or if what was being served would follow food safety guide lines too much. I was more worried about all the subterfuge involved with it. I had the choice of dropping off a sizeable portion of that good chunk of cash either at some office box or with a door man at a upper West Side apartment. On top of that I had to wait until basically the day or two before the dinner was to take place before I'd get the address of where the dinner would be held (it rotated). I was afraid my ass was gonna get rolled in some elaborate scheme.
posted by kkokkodalk at 10:35 PM on November 30, 2009

A few pretty high profile chefs have done this. One just outside of Toronto. I knew some folks in Montréal that would have regular gourmet prix fixe meals in their house to help defray the cost of the rent.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:02 PM on December 1, 2009

Diego Felix is the one I've been to in BA, and it was wonderful. Amazing value, deeply charming atmosphere and quite good food. What's the name of the one out in Seattle?
posted by Mngo at 5:18 PM on December 2, 2009

An update if anyone is still reading this - I've just got back from Casa Felix (in BsAs) and had a thoroughly wonderful evening. By far the most expensive (just under $100 for 2 including a wine taster with every course) meal I've had here (in 6 months) but equally the tastiest and most interesting one I've had too. Diego is a fascinating and delightful person and provides a great experience.

The other guests were fucking annoying but did little to distract from the wonderful (vegetarian, another BsAs novelty) food, service and atmosphere.
posted by jontyjago at 9:17 PM on December 3, 2009

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