A restaurant is a place where people pay to eat meals. That applies to all the variations: café, bistro, diner, pizza parlor, gastropubs, etc. We all know what we're getting when we go to one of those versus another.
But what about all the off-the-grid dining establishments? What can you expect when you show up to a pop-up or a home restaurant? How about a secret supper club or a private restaurant? What you're walking into can be a little murkier. To that end, we felt it was important to apply some definitions to the myriad alternate options. This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good place to start. Turn the page.
This is a staffed restaurant with a trained professional doing the cooking. The business model is the same as a restaurant, minus all those pesky permits, health codes, taxes, etc., which the chef usually finds a creative/legal way around. The underground restaurant happens in a permanent location. These are not typically advertised or promoted and are found by word of mouth, underground being the operative word. Also may be called a guestaurant, guerrilla dining, secret supper club or pirate restaurant. The dishes may be a la carte, but more often, it is prix-fixe. Prices are set, and cash is usually required. Local examples: Wolvesden and Elysian.
The original restaurant, and a traditional source of income found around the world. In this scenario a nonprofessional cook works in his or her personal kitchen and sets up another part of the house for dining. Home restaurants exist only in one location, the cook's home, aka the place they live. You'll be asked to make a contribution at the end of the meal, paying what you think it was worth, requested as a donation. Local favorite Starry Kitchen began as a home restaurant before going legit, and Dinner at Eight is currently running.
The private restaurant is the dining facility at a place like a golf or country club, a lodge or school club — anywhere you need to be a member to attend. All tables are reserved for members and their guests. Local examples: Soho House and the Bel-Air Country Club.
(Secret) Supper Club:
This is a social function with a dining component. Technically it's a prix-fixe catered event for a group of strangers, which includes entertainment, a common theme, speakers or a salon discussion. Events take place in private homes or other venues with full kitchens. You will be expected to provide your own wine (or beer). A supper club requires advance payment and may have a vetting process to decide who can attend. Local example: Kali Dining.
You know, when a friend or acquaintance has invited you over to eat dinner with them and a few other guests in their home. Custom dictates you bring a bottle of wine or anything the host suggests. No money is exchanged. We assume you knew all that.
This is a consistent concept with one chef or group of chefs, which repeats/reappears in different locations. A chef and his team take over a kitchen in a space that's already operating, creating their own restaurant. This also could be called a temporary restaurant. Local examples: Le Comptoir, LudoBites and LQ/Laurent Quenioux.
A marquee chef steps away from the stoves at his own established restaurant and allows another chef to cook his/her own menu. This is a way for chefs to support each other and is at heart a publicity-driven concept. Recent local examples: Dan Moody at Batch and Evan Klieman at the Charleston.
When an experience is created in a space that does not have a working kitchen. The responsible persons build out the kitchen or make due with what is available. A pop-up can be one night or ongoing. Example: Outstanding in the Field and A Razor a Shiny Knife.
Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments. Now you just have to go out and decide where to eat tonight.
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