Pop-up restaurants are cropping up everywhere. And for good reason: They allow young chefs a chance to make a name for themselves. They allow existing restaurants an opportunity to test new concepts without having to change their model or menu. And they allow both to test concepts in a larger venue and to a larger audience than they otherwise might be able to.
Pop-ups also provide opportunities for planners looking for distinctive dining experiences for groups. The events are sometimes nearsecret, revealed only to those on email lists. Tickets can sell out quickly. But for those paying attention, pop-ups can be a one-of-a-kind experience that will leave guests talking.
The following are four Michigan pop-ups worth trying.
Chef Jared, Troy
Jared Bobkin is the executive chef at Bayview Yacht Club. He puts in 75 hours a week there—but that’s not enough.
“I’m still a young chef trying to make an even bigger name for myself,” he says. “I want to own my own restaurant one day.”
Bobkin does six pop-events per year as Chef Jared after hours at restaurants, clubs and soup kitchens. “I even did one at an apple orchard,” he says, adding that he sometimes collaborates with other chefs, including former contestants on Fox’s reality show “Hell’s Kitchen,” for multicourse dinners—one course per chef.
“The pop-ups give me an outlet for creativity that I may not get at work,” he says. “It’s showcasing what I can do and what real creativity allows when you have no parameters, no restrictions. It’s getting my name out there, it’s getting my food out there.”
Bobkin’s menu is New American, which he describes as American cuisine with a modern twist.
“One of my big hits is red wine-braised octopus tentacle with pickled seaweed, anchovy sand and honeydew and coconut foam,” he says. “People love my pink peppercorn-crusted tuna with eggplant and golden raisin caponata appetizer. A favorite dessert is my raspberry and pistachio tartlet.”
Warung Keke, Canton
Keke Rompas, the owner of Warung Keke, loves cooking and introducing people to food inspired by her homeland of Indonesia.
“Not many people are familiar with my culture and Indonesian food,” she says. “The more events I do, the more people learn that there’s more than just Chinese and Thai food. I’ve had good feedback, especially for my beef rendang.”
Rompas conducts pop-up lunches and dinners at various American restaurants once or twice a month. What differentiates Rompas from many other pop-up chefs is that she does her events during regular restaurant hours.
“I’m the chef that day or night,” she says, adding that some of her events also provide wine pairings with the help of a friend who owns a local wine store.
Rompas works part time as a translator. “For now, my pop-up business is a hobby,” she says, “but one day I’d like to open my own restaurant.”
The Parlor, Traverse City
The Parlor is a craft cocktail lounge that doubles as a cool place to host a pop-up event. “We’ve got a laid-back, relaxing atmosphere,” says co-owner Jason Thibodeau.
Up-and-coming chefs or existing establishments have the option of renting the entire facility for up to 200 guests or renting the Northern Express Room for up to 70 guests. There are also two outdoor decks.
The Parlor has hosted pop-up events by Kim Ryan, who was a winner on “Hell’s Kitchen,” and five other contestants on the show. “We’ve also had Eric and Jen from The Cooks’ House here in town hold events here,” Thibodeau says. “Troy Daily, another local entrepreneur, has a food truck in town called the Daily Blend, and he came in here and had a pop-up event.”
Eastern Market, one of the country’s longest-running open-air markets, is a popular spot for events of all kinds. The Cultivation Committee on Eastern Market, a volunteer committee associated with the Eastern Market Corporation, started hosting a quarterly pop-up dinner series called Nourish to fundraise for Eastern Market programs, like Detroit Kitchen Connect, as well as raise awareness about the nonprofit market.
“Our goal is basically to hold a series of pop-up dinners for which we use different local chefs, whether they’re established or upand-coming,” says Lauren Kase, a member of the Cultivation Committee. “I think popups are a great way to bring together community around supporting local chefs. We give them the platform of Eastern Market to showcase their skills, which is a great resource for all of Detroit.”