Baseball has its farm system, the NFL and NBA have their intercollegiate athletics, and the NHL has its numerous developmental programs, all paths for the talented and upcoming athletes to find their way to “the show.”
IF they have what it takes…
So, if you’re an ambitious, talented sous chef or a little-known chef flying under the publicity radar, where do you go to get your crack at the big leagues? How can you let your freak flag fly when you labor under another chef’s domain or are outside of the beam of the culinary spotlight?
Pop-up restaurants are one of the answers.
Pop-up restaurants are legitimate enterprises consisting of a brick-and-mortar building, a dining room and a kitchen adequate enough to allow a chef to show his or her wares.
There are numerous pop-ups in the Detroit Metro area, and more are popping up all the time. Some of the better known include (revolver), Yemans Street, Komodo Kitchen, The Menagerie, Guns + Butter, Salt & Acid, and the appropriately named POP.
What’s different about a pop-up restaurant?
First and foremost, the restaurant itself doesn’t pop-up; the chefs do. Each time you go, while you may be in the same dining room, even in the same chair, it’s a brand-new chef and a brand-new menu—never the same twice.
The other differences are:
• Generally, pop-ups have communal table seating, meaning large banquet tables where you are seated amongst other eager diners. Basically, it’s a party, and you’ve just invited yourself. • While the menus are published on the pop-ups website, they are fixed. Multiple courses for a fixed price, no substitutions. You go on to the pop-up’s site, check out the upcoming chefs and their menus, find the one you like, and pay for it online, in advance, by credit card to reserve your seats. • It’s BYOB, friends. Generally, there’s no bar, and thus, no lobby. That means you’re walking from the front door right into the dining room. Depending on when you arrive (they recommend 15 minutes before the scheduled start), you generally have some latitude with your seating. If you arrive exactly on time, your options are fewer. Enough said. • Service is banquet style. Everyone eats each course together as they are individually plated and brought out for you to enjoy. Tipping is encouraged. It’s something you can charge there, but most people put some cash on the table before they leave.
Typically, the evening’s meal begins with a formal announcement by the owner who may introduce the chef and mention upcoming dinners and such. Regardless, you can expect that throughout the meal, you’ll be pleasantly interrupted by the chefs as they explain each dish just before or after you’ve eaten it. You can also expect to have the opportunity to meet them one on one and say hello.
Pop-ups are such a departure from a chef’s typical routine that even some of the well-known, established chefs can’t resist getting in on the fun, as was the case at the most recent pop-up dinner held at Yemans Street in Hamtramck.
The chef, Eric Voigt (of Big Rock Restaurant in Birmingham), was in the house. Or should I say Hogwarts? The menu was a whimsical, five course, Harry Potter themed dinner held just before Halloween.
The idea was that each course was to be inspired by a class you might take at the wizard school Hogwarts.
His menu was not only designed to put a spell on your taste buds but also to introduce the evening’s diners to some of his most trusted (current and former) cooks and sous chefs, including one who works with us now at Nino’s Troy store, Sous Chef Jacqueline (Jac) Keller.
Her Potions-Inspired “Don’t tell Snape” Confit of Duck with Spaghetti Squash, Kumquat Jam and Ginger was a potion cleverly constructed so that when you poured the sauce over the dish, it foamed and looked very potion-like.
Other courses included an Herbology-Inspired Herb Soup, a Divination-Inspired, Pan Seared Halibut with a Tea Leaf Fumet (you read your tea leaves with a chart they had at everyone’s place setting), a Dueling and Hogwarts-Inspired (what else?) Roast Hog with Sweet Potato Dumplings, all topped off with Harry’s favorite dessert, an Apparition-Inspired Treacle Tart.
Overall, it was indeed a magical evening spent with wonderful friends who, like me, enjoyed the lively conversation, laughs, and of course, the food.
Future events at Yemans Street read like a concert lineup and include:
November 9th Reid Shipman, Josh Stockton & Friends
November 13th Brent Foster, “A Clockwork Orange”
November 14th Julian Botham
November 18th Mulefoot
November 20th Kelli Lewton of 2 Unique
Yemans Street is also open for brunch each Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM, hosted by Jeremy Kalmus and The Brunchkins. His menu also varies.
As for the rest, here’s my box score. *(5 being highest/best where numbers are listed)
Menu Intimidation Factor MIF ??:
Unlike a normal restaurant, the menu changes so frequently that I’m of absolutely no help here unless you’d like to invite me to join you and be your personal menu interpreter. I work for food.
Very casual, unless of course the evening’s theme warrants dressing up like The Great Gatsby or Princess Leia. In that case, you’re on you own.
The Crowd 3.5 :
These people are a no-holds-barred, fun-loving, outgoing, interesting lot. The others are mostly foodies who ran out of new restaurants to check out, so Yemans Street is their usual default because, well, it’s basically a new restaurant every night.
Parking 5 :
There is a large lot (free parking) right across the street and one just down the block. No issues.
Bang for the Buck 5:
For between $50 and $75, you can really get a value here if you enjoy each course. The atmosphere is lively and congenial, and then, since it’s always changing, you can revel in the fact that no one you’ll recommend it to the next day can experience exactly what you did.
Food Stuff 3.5:
It’s a mixed bag and a more varied menu week to week than any traditional restaurant. Some menus are read just so-so in print and end up being phenomenal. Sometimes, well, it can be just the opposite.
Energy, Vibe, & the Cool-Wow Factor 4:
Lots of energy for sure. The cool-wow factor comes when you explain to your uninitiated friends as to where you went for dinner and what it was like. Their response is usually “COOL!” “WOW!”
• Out of respect to Yemans Street’s guest chefs and the preparation required to bring the freshest ingredients to our table, they require a minimum 48-hour cancellation notice.
• Diners who do not meet the cancellation policy will be required to pay for their seat as reserved.
• Leave the kids at home. You’ll enjoy the evening so much more.
• Lastly, Yemans Street DOES have its own catering chef who will accommodate your special party/events requests, from birthday parties to baby showers and even wedding receptions! They’ll work with you whether your budget is large or small.