Pop Up Dining and Underground Supper Clubs Make a Comeback

FullSizeRender.jpgCreme Fraiche Apple Roses–Red Apple/Puff Pastry/Creme Fraiche/Powdered Sugar, paired with 100% Kona Coffee from Holualoa Farms by Chef Charles Akau IV of Happy Buddha Hawaii

Grab a welcome beverage and mingle with friends. Back in the 1960’s, supper clubs were all the rage. Today, it’s all about pop up restaurants—the modern version of underground dining has made a resurgence. Just as the name implies, pop-up dining experiences can occur in the most unexpected of places. Today’s photos are brought to you from my Easter Pop-Up brunch with Chef Charles Akau IV of Happy Buddha Hawaii

From barns, to pastures, from carports to backyards, these fresh and lively social events serve many purposes. Pop-ups can raise money for charity, or showcase the culinary talents of a talented young chef. Most of all, they offer guests the opportunity to socialize and network in an environment free of cell phones and other distractions.


The lovely advantage of pop-up dining experiences, is they give guests access to high quality gourmet dining at affordable prices. Chefs can offer high-quality, locally sourced food with little or no overhead. Most chefs love feeding friends and sharing their talents with a friendly audience, and this is the perfect venue to do so.

FullSizeRender_1.jpgRed and Golden Beet Salad–Beets/Red wine Sherry Vinaigrette/Goat Cheese and Big Island Lehua Honey/Corn Shoots, paired with Prosecco and Philippine Orange-Dalandan by Chef Charles Akau IV of Happy Buddha Hawaii

Pop-up restaurants also offer that old-time, nostalgic feeling of friends gathering around the dinner table for good food and conversation. Most guests who attend pop-ups tend to be adventurous foodies who will try anything put in front of them. There are no menu selections, it is eat-what-you-are-served, and most foodies love the excitement of not knowing what comes next. It’s definitely for those who appreciate the art of gastronomy and specialty dining.


Kona Cold Lobster and Belgian Waffles–Lobster Tail/Belgian Waffle/Country Fried Potatoes by Chef Charles Akau IV of Happy Buddha Hawaii

Pop-up menus are typically creative and unique. One underground art dinner club in Kona, Hawaii bases each menu off of a specific artist, and creates the menu based on the honored artist’s work and personal taste in food. Most offer several courses complete with alcoholic beverage pairings.

It’s important to remember that many experiences are more like secret underground clubs. This means guests aren’t technically “paying” for a meal and service—they are friends who are joining the chef for dinner and pitching in to cover the price of the food and drink. It’s not a “business,” it’s a private dinner that someone is hosting, and in addition, accepting donations to cover the costs associated with putting together the dinner.

FullSizeRender_4.jpgMango Panna Cotta–Hawaiian Mango/Custard and Cinnamon Streusel by Chef Charles Akau IV of Happy Buddha Hawaii

A true underground dinner club doesn’t usually bother with licenses or insurance. It’s like having guests over to your house for dinner and having them pitch in for the price of the meal. However, pop-ups designed for profit or to raise money for charity should avoid any potential legal hassles and check with local authorities regarding what types of temporary permits may be needed.

If an underground supper club or pop-up sounds like something you would like to get involved in, ask around and see what is available in your neighborhood. Or, be adventurous and plan one for yourself. Bon appetit!

FullSizeRender_3.jpgSatisfied Guests 

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