When diners are willing to wait in line for an hour outside a hot new restaurant in New York's hard-to-reach Red Hook neighborhood, or to constantly refresh their browsers to book a seat at celebrity chef David Chang's Momofuku Ko, they're craving something more than just a meal. Exclusivity is a big part of dining today, and the recently launched site Underground Eats seeks to introduce people to the newest and coolest dining experiences.
Based in New York City, with plans to eventually expand to other cities, Underground Eats offers tickets to upcoming food festivals plus private dinners hosted by up-and-coming chefs at undisclosed locations, often in upscale apartments.
Underground Eats has attracted more than 10,000 registered users since the site's launch in February 2012, which was celebrated with a 450-person party at an abandoned warehouse that normally hosts the avant-garde play Sleep No More. Actors from the play mingled with guests for a 1939 World's Fair theme, with food served by Marc Murphy of popular New York restaurant Landmarc.
"There are a thousand food events going on around us," co-founder Adam Sirois said, "but where are you going to find the good ones? We curate the best events that are out there."
Another goal was to showcase some of New York's hardworking chefs. "We wanted to build a platform for these extremely well trained and talented individuals that will allow them to make money and extend their reach to another audience," said Sirois.
Though some of the events on the site are already well publicized, like Josh Ozersky's upcoming Meatopia festival, Underground Eats offers its users special access to chefs, admission to after parties and other perks. Other events, like an F. Scott Fitzgerald-themed dinner hosted by chef David Santos of New York restaurants Hotel Griffou and Five & Diamond, are exclusive to Underground Eats.
All of the events have a theme, like the recent BDGA Kitchen dinner at Do or Dine, Justin Warner's restaurant in Brooklyn's rough Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood. Underground Eats built a fake bodega (corner market) in the restaurant's backyard, and each dish served included one high end ingredient and one ingredient sourced from a bodega. The most popular item of the night? Hamachi sashimi garnished with crumbled Cool Ranch Doritos.
By starting small and working with established chefs, Underground Eats hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls that have plagued bigger food events. Prices range from $25 into the thousands, and though the site is trading in exclusivity, their target market is wide. As Sirois explained, "Our target audience is anybody in New York who's looking to do something interesting."