The Password Is …

Originally published at

by Rani Long


When you hear the phrase underground dining, you may envision creeping into a musty basement, giving a secret password to an inscrutable lookout, and bracing yourself for a raid from the police. (Hide the popovers!) The reality couldn’t be more different. While there will be no signs out front, and the majority of people walking by won’t know it’s there, this trend in dining is better described as epicurean, cost-effective, and most of all, communal.

Cook Here and Now
San Francisco

The statement, “There are no guests — all pitch in,” says a lot about the atmosphere of the dinners here. While locales rotate frequently, diners stay informed through founder Marco Flavio Marinucci’s blog and active word of mouth. All dinners are seasonally, locally, and sustainably themed, and all attendees are required to cook, prep, or participate. Marinucci specializes in artisan breads, baked goods, and a wide range of Italian dishes, plus, he also makes his own cultured butter and chutneys.

4 Course Vegan
Brooklyn, New York

Producing all-vegan gourmet dinners in his “secret” Brooklyn loft, 4 Course Vegan’s chef, Matthew “Matteo” Silverman, puts emphasis on local and organic foods; one signature dish is watermelon-radish ravioli with cashew cheese and Thai basil puree. He notes, “At least half of the guests who attend aren’t even vegetarians!”

Clandestino Supper Club

In the beginning, chef/founder Efrain Cuevas kept a low profile to avoid run-ins with the health department. But now he’s obtained his food-safety license, insurance, and a catering kitchen. To keep things interesting, his supper club moves to a different location every month (think abandoned convents and barns) with announcements made via Twitter, Facebook, a website, and newsletters. Our favorite dish is the Blueberry Moonpie — crispy chocolate biscuits, homemade marshmallows, blueberry ice cream, blueberry compote, and chocolate ganache.

St. Louis

Word of mouth and an e-mail list keep guests informed about the self-titled Clandestine Chef’s upcoming dinners, which are held in a variety of spots, from homes to art galleries to wine shops. If money’s an issue, “People are given the chance to barter for a dinner,” says the chef, “doing kitchen work or serving.” Thus far, only one dish has been repeated: “An egg yolk ravioli with melted mustard greens and lardoons.”

RogueApron has a mailing list of 1,800 people, and once a dinner date is announced, reservations are booked within minutes. With the help of volunteers, chef Lady Rogue hosts theme dinners — one favorite was the Soup Line after last year’s stock-market crash — and locations rotate between private homes, parks, coffee shops, and even drive-ins.