ME: I’m starting a secret supper club. Or maybe you know them as underground restaurants.
Sonal: Underground what?? Is that like Julia Child hosting a rave?
ME: Well, not exactly, but now that you put it like that…
Julia Child at a rave is an image more likely to appear in an REM-induced dreamscape than an archival photo of a real event. Nevertheless, as an ‘x’ meets ‘y’ creates ‘z’ formulation, it’s useful when answering the question, ‘What is a supper club or underground restaurant?’
If Julia Child wanted to create a spontaneous evening for guests unfettered by predictable menus, inspectors, payroll and routines, what would she do? Go underground, of course! Where supper clubs and raves part company are, well, at the part where drugs, trance music and police busts come in.
Essential Ingredients of a Supper Club
1. It’s hush hush. Word of mouth, tweets, emails and URLs are allowed, but addresses, phone numbers and open doors are not. Send an email, wait for a response and always knock. A cocktail awaits inside.
2. Social tables, aka, dinner party roulette. Most underground restaurants have at least one large table with open seating. If you arrive as a pair, try sitting apart from a friend or date. If you arrive alone, leave with a new friend. In DC, it’s likely the man to your left is back from a USAID mission in Uganda and the woman to your right just finished a second tour in Afghanistan. Chew, sip and listen as the daily headlines are rewritten, with the juicy bits added!
3. Cash donations only, please. No need to leave a paper trail. Remember, hush hush.
4. Dine with the chef. She’s part cook, part hostess, part storyteller, part waitress, and all smiles.
5. The menu is fixed so enjoy what you’re offered. I promise it’s yummy. Allergies? Say something. Remember, Indian food is notorious for hidden ingredients. Ask before you taste.
6. Never the same meal twice. The menu changes based on season, mood, religious holidays, and whether my mother makes a celebrity appearance.
7. Wine and beer are BYOB. Share with others or take home what you brought.
8. Seconds are allowed. We are not in France and even their supper clubs must have more to offer than a spacious, near-vacant white plate. Prepare for plates to overflow. Embracing a day of hunger is wise preparation for the evening meal.
9. Stories, songs, and whatever else the Muse of Spice conjures. Share a talent, or encourage a shy guest to do so. By the third glass you can blame it on the wine.