Sep/Oct
2016

Girls' Night Out: Look What's Poppin': Exploring the Popularity of Pop-Up Restaruants

Written by Kim Zabel Photography by Kim Zabel
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In the back room of Forager Brewing Company, three long communal tables await us, as if we are sitting down to dinner with family. Even though we haven't met everyone at the table, it doesn't take long before we have introduced ourselves and jokingly bemoaned our difficulties remembering names.

According to the menu, our first course is simply named “broccoli,” but what we see in front of us is anything but simple. Two, sometimes three, pieces of large, plump broccoli from Dan and Hannah Miller’s Easy Yoke Farm are smothered in a rich beer cheese sauce, embedded with a slice of bacon. 

After finishing her first bite, my friend, Jeanne, smiles at me and says, “You can really tell when your food is grown with love and care.”

HARVEST DINNER

Forager Brewing Company owner Annie Henderson decided to base Harvest on the recent pop-up restaurant phenomenon, only Harvest uses products from local growers as its food source. 

“The point is to go to the farm and get fresh, season ingredients to showcase,” Annie says. This allows Forager chefs to create straight from the fields. The chefs are then tasked with developing a five-course meal to be served to Harvest guests. “Chefs go to a local farm on Tuesday, create the menu on Wednesday and prepare the meal on Thursday,” Annie says.

Our chef for the evening, Kari Davi, has done just that. She has visited Dan and Hannah Miller’s farm, Easy Yoke, in rural Millville to plan and prepare the menu. 

The fact that local chefs forage for menu ideas at local farms just two days before preparing the food turns a regular menu into an extraordinary one. 

A five-course meal prepared with locally sourced ingredients, is hosted by Forager Brewing Company on Thursdays each week through September. Cost: $25 Additional beer flight: $15.00. Featured farmers will be attending the dinner. Live music with Joel Ward begins at 7:00 p.m.

THAIPOP

ThaiPop is a pop-up restaurant also located at Forager Brewing Company. Annie Balow, owner of the widely popular restaurant, along with her husband, Ryan, initially decided to take on this endeavor to share her cooking with friends and family. 

Annie, originally from Thailand, met her husband while they both were working as Peace Corps volunteers in her homeland. Ryan raves about his wife’s cooking. His mother also helps prepare and serve the meals. “We decided to do the pop-up more consistently because we had such positive feedback about my cooking. People loved it, and it gave me the encouragement to take it further,” Balow says. 

Annie Henderson approached the Balows with a plan to build a rentable, yet permanent, pop-up kitchen at Forager. “We found it to be the perfect opportunity. We are using this experience to build our menu, expand our customer base and build our brand name. We hope to expand into a permanent brick-and-mortar in the future,” Balow says. Her seven-course meal decisions are centered on fresh and seasonal ingredients, and Balow strives to have completely different meals each time. 

“I like to experiment with new recipes based on a combination of dishes that will balance each other,” Balow says. She will also host “private pop-ups” at homes for groups of 10-20 people. ThaiPop is held twice a month at Forager and usually sells every seat at the table.

Held twice monthly and has two seatings at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Cost: $36 thaipopmn.com

EVENTBRITE

Along with pop-up restaurants, there are a variety of pop-up events that are promoted through Eventbrite, an online promotional and management tool for individuals or groups to advertise and sell tickets for an upcoming event. 

Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro uses Eventbrite for its high ropes and zip line challenge. Assisi Heights also uses it to promote a number of events, including spiritual retreats. Live music, theater performances, crafting opportunities and other activities are listed on for Eventbrite. 

You Can Browse, Search and even create your own Eventbrite Event. For free events, promotion on Eventbrite is also free. Nominal fees for ticket-based events and other information about how to use the site are available at eventbrite.com.

Kim Zabel, a Plainview-based freelance writer and photographer, is a musician, artist, Zumba instructor and lover of the land here in Minnesota. 

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