Underground supper club Dinner Lab was founded in New Orleans in 2011 and quickly made a name for itself by throwing one-of-a-kind events in unusual places like gritty warehouses and abandoned churches; it's been called "a pop-up experience that's like the dining equivalent of a rave," while founder Brian Bordainick has described it as "sort of like Fight Club meets food, but without the violence." With the help of $2 million in outside funding, Dinner Lab now has a presence in 20 markets including NYC, Miami, San Francisco and L.A., and next on their list is Dallas.
While Dinner Lab has plans to eventually open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, the current premise is pop-up dinners that offer a rotating lineup of chefs a platform to experiment with new dishes and ideas. Roughly half of Dinner Lab's featured chefs are chosen from the local market, while the other half are brought in from their top-performing markets; patrons are encourage to offer detailed feedback on each and every course via scored comment cards, which are then aggregated and given to the chef (sounds like a Yelper's dream come true, no?). All the dinners feature communal seating at long 12-tops; "People come in as strangers and leave as friends," says director of culinary operations Mario Rodriguez.
While Dinner Lab might be considered underground, they're fully on the up-and-up; they function as a private club that sells annual memberships, which they explain thusly: "We operate as a subscription service where people pay up front for access to our calendar. We aren't trying to be exclusive or anything like that, but this is how we subsidize the cost of dinners, hire people, rent a kitchen, etc. Guests then pay for each dinner and have access to not only events in the local market, but in every other city that Dinner Lab operates." Annual memberships for Dallas are currently on sale for $125.
Ambitious Dallas chefs, take note: Dinner Lab is currently in search of local talent. "We're looking for chef de cuisine-type people that have something to prove and want to put something out there and experiment on menus," says Rodriguez. Kicking things off in Dallas on October 25 will be chef Ryan Carson, who oversees Dinner Lab events in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The menu for the kickoff event, below:
Chilled Bean Sprouts
tamarind emulsion | peanut confit | lime cured egg yolk
charred broccoli | tofu mustard | crispy rice | chili oil
kimchi jelly | puffed pigs skin | lacto-fermented apple | shiso
Hot Potato, Cold Potato
smoked trout | brown butter | toasted seaweed | wild chives
salt baked yams | pistachio brittle | mizuna | whipped fish sauce
Miso Pound Cake
buttermilk cottage cheese | grapefruit | basil | white sesame
· Dinner Lab [Official]