Wisconsin’s Pop-Up Restaurants

As a state that counts great food and big fun as top priorities, there’s no way Wisconsin was going to miss out on the pop-up restaurant trend that started in London and has since made its way into cool cities around the world.  

Pop-up restaurants are temporary – often one-night – events that can happen in non-restaurant spaces, or restaurants whose kitchens would otherwise be closed that night. There’s an underground sort of buzz to the occasions, which feel more like attending an amazing dinner party than going out to a fancy restaurant.

The menus tend toward the daring side, since the chefs know that they’re cooking for die-hard foodies. The night, including the menu, is usually built around a theme. And often, all of the cooking, eating, and merrymaking is for a good cause, with proceeds going to local charities. 

Take Milwaukee Food for Thought, a group of top Milwaukee chefs who have come together to create themed pop-up dining experiences for charity. At a recent dinner, each course was inspired by a nursery rhyme. Take “Three Little Pigs,” for example: Chef Gil Petrovic of Hi-Hat created a trio of pork belly, guanciale (an Italian bacon), and tenderloin with Asian flavors. The dinner was hosted at The National Café and Takeaway in Walker’s Point, and supported the Joy House for homeless mothers and children.

Milwaukee Food for Thought puts together a new event each quarter; follow their upcoming plans on Facebook

The extravagantly namedAnd You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Crumbs…”, affectionately known as TOC, is another well-established Milwaukee pop-up restaurant group. TOC focuses on local and organic ingredients, along with a generous serving of the theatrical.  Each event’s location is revealed to guests only a couple days in advance, and the menu stays hush-hush until dinnertime. 

Diners who signed up for TOC’s recent “Banned Books” evening ended up at Woodland Pattern Books Center, where each course was accompanied by music chosen by the chef, and a reading from the book that inspired it. If you weren’t there, you missed your chance to try Burmese python in pomegranate glaze with apple slaw. But don’t feel too left out: you can read all about TOC’s past and future events on their website.

In our capital city, Eat for Equity Madison is a branch of the national Eat for Equity (E4E) organization, aiming to promote local food and community while supporting equity-related causes. E4E Madison throws a themed dinner party every other month, benefitting a different local organization each time. A recent event, hosted at Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ, featured a “Wisco Spring” meal, topped off with warm rhubarb rice pudding and handmade ice cream. Proceeds went to the Gardens for Empowerment Project, which strengthens neighborhoods through shared flower and food gardens. E4E Madison shares their events on Facebook.

Hungry now? We can recommend some great restaurants that aren’t pop-ups, too.

This entry was posted in Dining, Local Foods, Restaurants