Here in San Francisco, we love a good pop-up restaurant. At pop-ups, chefs temporarily take over other restaurant's kitchens, often for a standing, one-night-a-week gig. The low overhead and ephemeral nature of the set-up allows seasoned chefs to experiment, up-and-coming chefs a way to make a name for themselves, and diners a chance to experience something new. Not surprisingly, the San Francisco pop-ups stress organic and local products and eclectic international menus. Even though news about pop-up is normally spread only by word-of-mouth, these spots draw crowds of devoted local foodies. Here are three popular San Francisco spots to try out:
Operating out of an existing chinese hole-in-the-wall—like a restaurant within a restaurant—Mission Chinese Food is a modern, pan-asian venture started by some of San Francisco's most popular serial pop-up restaurant entrepreneurs. Their changing menu features items like Tiger salad with pea shoots, seaweed and fresh coriander ($7), black cod fried rice with chinese sausage ($10), and slow cooked char siu pork belly with mu shu vegtables and ginger scallion noodles ($9). Every day 11:00 am–10:30 pm. Noon to 10 pm Sundays. 415 863-2800, Lung Shan Restaurant, 2234 Mission Street. Eat-in, take-out, and delivery.
Look for the red lantern marking the otherwise sign-less pop-up restaurant Ken Ken Ramen. Instead of a styrofoam cup filled with bland broth, here the noodle soups are jam-packed with delicacies like day-long soaked eggs, shredded pork shoulder, fresh vegtables and noodles handmade in Japantown. Plans to expand the menu to include homemade gyoza and cha-yan, a type of Chinese fried rice, are in the works. 3115 22nd street near Capp. Check their twitter feed @ KenKenRamen for updates. Mondays, starting at 6 pm.
Ramen fans will also want to check out one of the many Hapa Ramen pop-ups created by Richie Nakano, the sous chef at rustic foodie favorite Nopa, which are sprouting all over town. Besides an intense broth, their organic ramen gets a boost from braised pork shoulder, fried chicken, slow cooked eggs and seasonal vegetables from farms like Dirty Girl and Star Route in Marin. You can find outposts at the Ferry Building on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Off the Grid night in Fort Mason starting at 5pm, and starting September 6th, at Bar Tartine every Monday for dinner from 6-10pm. Expect a long wait: their much anticipated debut night this summer had crowds waiting for up to four hours. For updates and locations, keep an eye on their website and twitter feed @HapaRamen. $8–$12.
Chef Tommy Halvorson's idea behind the popular pop-up EAT events was to "provide a way for people to socialize, hang-out [and] eat at a bar but not eat bar food." The menu is an innovative take on California farm-to-table cuisine with entrees like eggplant and fennel Fritto Misto ($8), pork belly tacos with corn custard, succotash, and tarragon ($7), and nectarine cobbler ($6). EAT at 111 Minna takes place the 1st Wednesday of the month; drinks start 5pm and food starts 6pm, 111 Minna St. at 2nd and Mission, 415/ 974-1719. They also set up shop at the Ambassador on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, from 6-10pm, 673 Geary St. at Leavenworth, 415) 563-8192.