You can expect three things when you attend a supper club — food, conversation, and mingling. Beyond that, pretty much anything can happen. Whether you’re looking for a mind-blowing night in a crazy location or a cozy dinner with new friends, there’s a supper club for every taste. Fancy a raucous dinner with dishes and libations created around the music of seminal punk bands? NYC’s Subculture Dining is playing your tune. Or would you like to flex your knowledge of foraging? Oregon’s Farm Spirit celebrates seasonal and local produce at the 14-seat chef’s counter in their kitchen.
Whatever your personal dining preference or mood, there’s a supper club that would be perfect for you. We spoke to the founders of four of these fabulous dining experiences about their unforgettable evenings.
For Real Estate Voyeurs: PlaceInvaders
Location: Pop-ups all across the country
The idea for PlaceInvaders was born out of the founders’ endless curiosity about how other New Yorkers live. Interesting residential spaces have always served as the backdrop for PlaceInvaders’ suppers, giving guests a glimpse into other people’s lives. A nice side effect of these intimate dinners is that people are eager to mingle and socialize.
“There’s something about going to a house party or an event in a private space that gets folks to lower their guards,” says co-founder Katie Smith-Adair. “It’s the idea that we all have fewer degrees of separation; if we’re both here, we must have something in common.”
PlaceInvaders is all about creating magic that guests can share with each other. “For a Maine-themed Invasion, we shucked 200 oysters to harvest enough oyster crabs, a delicacy our guests fed each other from tweezers, still squirming,” says Smith-Adair’s partner, co-founder Hagan Blount.
Creating dinners in people’s homes hasn’t been without its challenges — a few years ago the group set off the fire alarm in a huge historic building (with no ventilation) in downtown L.A., after which they had to rent the kitchen of a Honduran restaurant down the street for food prep and then run plates up to the dinner with no elevator. Luckily their guests were none the wiser, and even if they had been, PlaceInvaders attracts patrons who take minor hiccups and ambiguity in stride. “Adventurous diners who are willing to sign up for a meal with no address and no menu tend to have other characteristics in common, [and] they’re not jerks,” says Smith-Adair. “A no-jerks policy is just a naturally occurring byproduct of our business model. You can’t get that in a restaurant.”
For Creative Cuisine Lovers: Open Circuit Dining
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Open Circuit Dining prides itself on creative dishes served in spaces that defy convention and trends. As a chef in Chicago, Jacob Demars noticed that more and more of his compatriots followed identical plating rituals: dishes were doused in flowers and herbs and always arranged to one side without any justification for taste. Inspired by the comic series Saga, Demars decided to try something far beyond the foliage-filled aesthetic that had overtaken the dining landscape of the Windy City. So he created a pop-up restaurant serving dishes guaranteed to make guests do a double take.
“Our first dish ever was carrots and squash served with a bright blue cabbage meringue,” says Demars. “People walked in and said, ‘What the heck is this?’” That element of surprise continues to define Demars’ cooking style, and he always wants to wow patrons with dishes they haven’t seen before. While his supper club was initially in Chicago, he’s now taken it to Des Moines, Iowa, where he caters to a smaller population that is no less eager to witness culinary creativity, particularly when Open Circuit Dining events take place in inspiring locations. “We have events at an art gallery called Yellow Door where guests enter and they’re basically in an art showcase,” Demars says.
For Internationally Adventurous Palates: Hush Supper Club
Location: Washington, D.C.
Chef and storyteller Geeta (who goes by her first name only) cooks Jian food: cuisine representative of a minor Indian religion, which is rarely sampled in the West. She hosts Hush Supper Club in her home, making the experience far more personal than dining at a restaurant. “I have the whole home to entertain — you can go sit on the sofa, go for fresh air on the veranda,” says Geeta. “People come into my kitchen and look into my spice boxes. The intimacy of the space and having a guide throughout the night make it unlike any restaurant experience.”
Geeta’s dinners attract intellectually curious patrons who want to try to something new, and her guests always leave satiated in both palate and in mind. Although Hush is a supper club, there’s much more to her events than just dinner. “Of course, you come and eat in my home for five hours, but there’s a deeper, more probing personal aspect to it,” she says. “People share something about themselves, oftentimes things they’ve never said before. I’ve had spouses say, ‘Wow, I never even knew that about my husband/wife!’”
For Seekers of Unusual Salons: Spring Street Social Society
Location: New York City
Spring Street Social Society dreamed big and took a lot of risks over the last six years, during which they’ve hosted 75 unforgettable events. A membership club that’s cool without being snooty, Spring Street Social Society has hosted events that bring people together in unexpected spaces and serve up coursed plates, immersive theater, and an updated take on the cultural salon. No idea was too big — during one event, they filled a raw space in Penn Station with a whopping 50,000 pounds of sand, creating a breathtaking backdrop you wouldn’t expect to find in the middle of a metropolis.
“I remember when [the sand] was all loaded in and I took off my shoes and walked around on it for the first time,” says Amy Virginia Buchanan, Spring Street’s co-founder and artistic director. “I closed my eyes and for a second forgot that I was in New York City.”
Sadly, Spring Street is finishing its epic run this summer. “It’s important to end something before it ends itself,” says Buchanan. However, she and her co-founder Patrick Janelle aren’t done creating magic together: They’re launching a creative agency called Untitled Secret, which will enable them to bring their unique take on immersive experiences and culture to future happenings.
With Spring Street Social Society, Buchanan and Janelle were able to dream up unparalleled experiences, but most of all they consistently evoked uninterrupted joy in every guest who attended their events.
All this talk of daring dining has likely piqued your interest in attending one or many of these unique dinners. There’s a variety of supper clubs in most major cities, and a quick online search should help you find the one that’s right for you, whether that means multiple dainty Japanese courses, intellectually focused eclectic fare, or an oceanfront seafood soirée. Think about the flavors, ambiance, and experience you’re looking for and you’ll be sure to find the most delicious destination to suit your desires.