The Past & Future of Pop-Up Restaurants

All around Metro Detroit, one could stumble upon a pop-up any day of the week. Pop-ups are a great option for consumers wanting to try something new, and also provides an opportunity for a chef to grow their customer base and test menu items. Many upcoming restaurateurs and chefs host pop-ups at local venues, bars, and restaurants before opening their own brick and mortar or food truck. One of my absolute favorites, Irie Occasions, held weekly pop-ups on Saturday nights for an entire year at Brooklyn Street Local before opening their brick and mortar Flavors of Jamaica in Pontiac.

Just as with the rest of the restaurant industry, pop-up chefs face significant challenges during the pandemic. And just as the hospitality industry always does, we figure out how we can work together to support each other and feed people. Detroit City Distillery (DCD), for example, began a pop-up series called “Sunday Service”. According to their Instagram, “On Sundays…the best of Detroit’s service industry will be serving up street food for a good cause. $20 gets you a cocktail and a plate of food family-style from an amazing Detroit chef. The $10 suggested donation at the door goes to raise money for local non-profits focused on the intersection of food security and economic equality.”  This street-food style pop-up took place in DCD’s new ‘“street bar” setup as an outdoor patio where patrons could dine socially distanced while enjoying cocktails and a different chef every Sunday. 

One of the featured chefs was Chef Nezaa Bandele of Paradise Natural Foods, affectionately referred to as “Mama Nezaa” by all that know her. She was not only pleasantly surprised at how well attended the was, but also inspired to tiptoe back into hosting her vegan pop-ups all around the city of Detroit. Paradise Natural has since hosted pop-ups at MaryGrove Conservancy, and Sweet Potato Sensations and brought in more revenue post-pandemic than ever before! She attributes this to her expanded customer base of folks learning to eat healthier, taking better care of themselves, and wanting something nutritious to feed their families. 

Mama Nezaa isn’t the only chef getting back into the pop-up game. Although pop-ups may look a little different than before, we’re happy to see that they aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon!

Pop-Ups Across the State

Frame, Hazel Park

has been hosting Dinner Kit Experiences featuring local chefs and restaurants

Lucha Peurco, Ypsilanti / Ann Arbor

Birria taco pop-up offering house fermented hot sauce

Basil Babe Dumplings , Ann Arbor / Detroit

A mother and daughter duo offering dumplings and crab rangoon

Part of the fun of pop-up dining options is that they sometimes come as a surprise. What’s going on in your neck of the woods? Send us your tips for pop-ups happening near you!

Ederique Goudia is the Metro Detroit Content Creator for Taste the Local Difference.  Contact her at [email protected]