Wise Sons Delicatessen, Rich Table, and Radio Africa Kitchen are just a few San Francisco restaurants that started out as pop-ups. For the uninitiated: a pop-up occurs when a homeless chef or restaurant concept takes over another kitchen, bar or similar venue for a limited time to show off their talent, sell their food, and start building steam as a brand. The tough thing about pop-ups? They can be hard to track down. Here now, five of our favorites that have regular, dependable gigs and great food that's worth seeking out.
The only pop-up that almost every food critic in the city has already been to, Liholiho Yacht Club is run by former Boulevard/Prospect chef Ravi Kapur, cooking Sundays out of the kitchen at State Bird Provisions. Kapur prepares elevated soulful family-style menus: twelve dishes, served in three rounds, for $50. Most of his food is inspired by various regions of Asia and (his native) Hawaii, so things like albacore tuna poke and pork ribs with pear, fish sauce and lime will shift on and off of the table. Due to popular demand, his crispy Korean-style fried quail and sweet, Hawain-style malasadas are always offered. Book through the State Bird Provisions website.
Recommended by contributing food editor Marcia Gagliardi, this homestyle Italian-American pop-up takes over the quaint Just For You Cafe in the Dogpatch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Offerings usually includes a spaghetti with anything from meatballs to crab and housemade sausage. The husband-and-wife owners complete the experience with candles, Italian music and Italian beers and wines for a totally homespun, heart-warming, belly-filling evening. More information here.
Guillermo Perez and Caroline Hummer have been in the food truck business for several years, first with Chairman Bao, and then with Fogcutter. Now they're taking over the kitchen at the Mission's new Dear Mom bar. Fogcutter started off as The Brunch Box, a breakfast-all-day concept, so the brunch menu is ample, spanning a pork belly breakfast sandwich to huevos rancheros and their Dolores torta with chorizo, fried egg and pickled onions on a roll. Look for menu updates on Facebook and Twitter.
Two words: Pastrami sandwich. Fatted Calf alum Dan Jablow brines beef for a week, then rubs it in black pepper and coriander before smoking it, low and slow, over a mixture of woods. The brisket is sliced thin and piled on soft slices of Acme New York rye with housemade cabbage slaw and mustard aioli, making it the highlight of your work day. Other possible sandwich offerings include carnitas-style roast pork with pickled red onions, smashed avocado and cilantro aioli, or a Caprese on a rustic Acme roll. Jablow's will be at SF FoodLab all month for weekday lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jess McCarter has been slowly but surely building a following with New Orleans-style pop-ups for over a year now. All the favorites are on the menu: from etouffee to red beans, rice and smoked sausage. McCarter cooks vegan and vegetarian takes on the classics. Diehard Southerners will dig his gumbo paired with a sazerac from the full bar at The Residence (718 14th Street) where he holds court on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.