This is the second post in a series on underground supper clubs, dining establishments that operate outside the law. Not exactly restaurants, and not exactly dinner parties, these clubs have developed devoted followings, but what is it that they really do? We wanted to find out. (Most names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Today: Arriving The reservations were the hard part. Securing them required not only charm and a demonstrable appreciation for food, but also actually finding the email address necessary to get in touch with a club's host. But once you've gotten those reservations, all you have to do is follow the directions to the location (which were very detailed in all of our experiences), and you're set. The supper clubs, by and large, were held on the fringes of the outer boroughs. The benefits of this, though, were clear. An out-of-the-way location clearly adds to the mystery of the experience, and also makes it financially viable to find spaces that can fit upwards of 20 diners. One word of advice, however, is to show up fashionably late. Perhaps it was our na´vetÚ, but we were always some of the first to arrive.
Not that it mattered much. Our hosts were always gracious, with welcomes that were warm and well practiced. Guests trickled in, though, and suddenly a large apartment on the outskirts of the city had become a very hip party. A famous graffiti artist introduced himself by his tag name, a photographer from Food & Wine snapped a shot of countered hors d'oeuvres, two young studs from Gourmet attracted lots of attention from the ladies in attendance (ahem), and a sommelier from one of Manhattan's top restaurants inspected the wines on offer. A lot of time is dedicated to mingling, presumably due to the fact that everyone has the shared appreciation of food and had the same will to seek out dinners like these. And whether it was wine or homemade cocktails, alcohol was always in great supply during these pre-dinner mingling sessions. The main attraction at any of these dinner clubs is the social engagement that undoubtedly happens because, unlike a traditional restaurant, where you're escorted to your own private table, the place settings at a supper club are family style. So, as dinner gets underway, you'd better be prepared to get friendly. . . and drunk. Next week: So you're in, you're chatty, and you're tipsy. But where's the food? And what was the name of that blonde over at the next table? That's right, it's dinnertime.