Tired of the same-old-same-old when it comes to dining out? You’re not alone. Pop-ups, crawls, and supper clubs have been sprouting all over town lately to wet adventurous appetites and turn an average night out into a feast worth remembering.
Here are a few of the standouts from the crop:
- Mosquito Club Supper Club – Don’t call it a “pop-up”. This twice-monthly supper club is housed in The Tigermen Den, a beautifully restored, century-old building in the heart of the Bywater. Every supper club serves up classic Bayou cooking to around thirty people (“’Cause that’s how many plates we have,” says chef/owner Melissa Martin) spread out on benches over long, room-length tables. Started among family and friends, this dining experience takes the best of a Southern house party and adds on delicious, deceptively simple, local dishes straight from “marsh-to-table.” Melissa and co-host Effie Michot also run monthly Cajun Brunches and Gumbo n’ Beer Parties, which combine classic Creole cooking with authentic Cajun-style music. A recent party featured the Soul Creole Band, a lively local group that brought even the wallflowers out on the dance floor for a spin. The next supper clubs on Sept. 29 & 30 will include raw oysters, shrimp boulettes, and a traditional “cake walk” (a version of musical chairs with the added prize of an enormous cake). If you’re lucky, you may get treated to an audio recording of Melissa’s grandmother, a great cook in her own right, and one of the inspirations behind the supper club. mosquitosupperclub.com
- Dishcrawl – Ever gone on a pub crawl and gotten incredibly hungry with only mediocre bar food to satisfy your cravings? Well, Dishcrawl solves all that. Here, the focus is on the food, but that doesn’t mean you’re not drinking along the way too. Dishcrawl explores the exciting world of brand new restaurants as well as the tried-and-trues, in different parts of the city each month. Hostess-with-the-mostest Michelle Mashon leads groups of about 30 people on tours of neighborhood eateries, both semi-fancy and low-key, and always with lots of charm. Previous crawls have tackled Freret Street, the Irish Channel, and Maple Street. For this month, Michelle tackles the newly bustling Bywater: two nights and four restaurants, which is their most ambitious yet, but the crawls keep getting more and more popular each time. Arrive solo or with a partner; the beauty of these events is that you’re never in the same seat twice. Come for the food, stay for the company, make new friends, and discover new restaurants all in the same shot. What more could you want? dishcrawl.com/neworleans
- Dinner Lab – Started in 2011 to fill the void in diverse cooking in New Orleans, Dinner Lab quickly expanded to 20 cities and features everything from internationally-known chefs to local favorites, bringing their unique creations to a different location each month. Dinner Labs are a members-only affair, which, according to CEO Brian Bordainick, helps keep prices relatively affordable, freeing them from dependence on per-event ticket sales. Once a member, you’re able to attend any dinner lab event in twenty cities across the country. Lab locations remain secret until a day before the event, but past highlights have included a brewery, an old bank, and an abandoned church lit by candles. Your ticket includes a full 5-course meal, and all the alcohol you can drink (just make sure you’re not driving afterwards), so the nights eventually erupt into full-blown parties. In addition, your participation aids in the selection of chefs and dishes for future events. Every diner is provided with notecards to grade each meal on several basis: taste/portion size/creativity, etc. So if you ever wanted to be a judge on one of the many cooking reality shows, here’s your chance! dinnerlab.com
- The New Orleans Eat Club – Began by Tom Fitzmorris, host of the Food Show on 1350 AM radio, and the publisher of the New Orleans Menu Daily, the Eat Club convenes several times a month at a different restaurant each time. Everyone is welcome: singles, couples, friends, etc. If you come solo, you won’t stay that way for long. About a third of all participants are first-timers, and, with the fine wines and courses being served, everyone makes friends quickly. The dinners are “convivial and unpretentious,” which, according to Tom, means no themes or long-winded speeches, just good ol’ fashioned eating and drinking. Tom makes no money from these events – all proceeds go to the restaurants themselves. He’s just in it for the love of food, and to spread the word on some of his favorite eating spots. Upcoming Eat Clubs include an Oktoberfest celebration featuring traditional German dishes with a New Orleans twist, and a 7 courses / 7 wines dinner at Café Giovanni. Tom makes the rounds at every event, and doesn’t mind telling the same joke over and over, as long as it’s a hit. nomenu.com