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The Comeback of the Supper Club


Oriana Leckert | July 3, 2018
A look at several unique dining experiences that combine culinary creativity with a flair for dramatic entertainment.

“Cooking is an extension of art, just like painting,” says John Bisignano, a butcher, home chef, and founder of Bad Mother Supper, a rock ‘n’ roll–themed underground dining experience in Brooklyn. This month, Per La Mente sits down for a meal with an array of unique new supper clubs, also including Ai Ito’s Ajito: The Hideout, a semi-regular meal featuring multiple courses of Japanese tapas, and Simone Ver Eecke and Isabel Kagan’s Tile Table, a monthly themed supper accompanied by activities and a movie.

Each of these proprietors combines his or her unique culinary expertise with a flair for the dramatic, resulting in events that leave guests dazzled and, of course, stuffed.

The first-ever supper club was founded by Milwaukeen Lawrence Frank in Beverly Hills, just after Prohibition ended in the 1930s. What began as an attempt to democratize fine dining by making it available to people of every social class has morphed over the decades into myriad different shapes and experiences, catering to every type of person and featuring everything from low-key down-home vittles to exclusive super-high-end fare.

This can mean gorgeously innovative cooking, as evidenced by Craig Thornton, who runs Wolvesmouth in Los Angeles. Thornton, who has had a residence at the Museum of Contemporary Art to create nine-course “art dinners,” is known for dishes that evoke violence, aggression, and masculinity but are designed beautifully, with earthy, feminine ingredients. “I’m not just going to go around replicating stuff I’ve seen at previous restaurants,” he told The New Yorker. “I’m going to think about what I like about flavors, textures, temperatures, and colors.”

"Psychedelic Spin-Painted Veal" by Mossimo Bottura

It can also mean radically unusual ideas about how and where to serve food. One young chef became infamous for starting a supper club in his Columbia University dorm room when he was just 21 years old and had no culinary training — it was so successful that it was dubbed “the hottest table in town” by the New York Post. He continues Pith to this day, with his elaborate, seasonal meals now popping up all over the world.

Another supper club that takes advantage of varied locations is PlaceInvaders, which invites diners to partake of multiple courses prepared by local chefs and served in other people’s homes, from chic Manhattan lofts to a “Motown mansion” in Detroit. “Everyone is so happy with these experiences,” co-founder Hagan Blount told Per La Mente. “People so often say, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t even know there was anything like this!’”

PlaceInvaders dinner, photo by Alix Piorun

Many supper clubs go all-in on their themes, which range from the concrete to the very abstract. In New Orleans, Mosquito Supper Club pairs super-fresh seafood with Cajun music. Portland’s Snow Supper once designed a dinner in collaboration with the Center for Genomic Gastronomy at which all the dishes “typified the ways humans unconsciously sculpt the biosphere.” San Francisco’s Eat My Heart Out combines dinner theater with dishes “driven by personal narratives.” Chicago’s Filigree Suppers showcase their imaginative food in “supremely designed atmospheres.” In New York, Yewande Komolafe serves meals based on her Nigerian heritage, and dinners at Yardy are focused on social justice and queer migrant culture. At Bad Taste, Jen Monroe prepared a series of “color meals,” each featuring 10 monochromatic courses.

There is such a smorgasbord of modern supper clubs across the country, it would be crazy to try to list them all. But whatever your culinary preference or entertainment proclivity, there’s sure to be one — or many! — dinner experiences just waiting to serve up the meal of your dreams.

To read up on the history of the supper club, click here.

To learn why every chef loves a supper club, go here.

To find the right supper club for every personality, try here.

To sip some cocktails made just for supper clubs, head here.

To discover more distinctive culture, try Heritage | Fernet-Branca .

Oriana Leckert is a writer, editor, cultural hipstorian [sic], and the author of Brooklyn Spaces: 50 Hubs of Culture & Creativity. Her writing has appeared on Slate, Atlas Obscura, New York Post, Matador, Hyperallergic, Gothamist, Curbed, Brooklyn Magazine, Brooklyn Based, and more.


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