Richmond is popping off with pop-ups. The month of July is so packed with them that you could attend one a week, maybe even two. So let’s pop to it, because after this, you are going have to p(r)op me up. (You can groan now.)
To define a pop-up is tough; The Macmillan dictionary defines this type of event as: “respond [ing] to temporary demand in connection with an event, or provide new professionals the opportunity to try out their menus.” Wikipedia takes it a step further and states that pop-ups are an “effective way for young professionals to gain exposure of their skills ... as they seek investors and attention pursuant to opening a restaurant or another culinary concept.” More expansion on the concept can be called a chef residency. A residency, simply, can be an extended pop-up for a chef or concept, which can, potentially, reap the benefits of cooking in and running a restaurant, but without the capital needed to get the whole she-bang off the ground.
Any way it’s defined, the experimental aspect of a pop-up (or residency) is definitely most anticipated. Here are some that are happening in Richmond, starting tonight:
- On Thursday, July 9, J Frank will be cooking in at The Cask Cafe. Currently known for his cupcake flavors at the Carytown Dixie Donuts, J Frank has a varied and impressive resume. In Richmond, he started his career at The Commonwealth Club before moving to Europe for stints at Braurei Gastof and the Hilton in Munich, before coming back to Virginia to work at The Inn at Little Washington. J Frank's pop-up menu includes à la carte items, all under $10: chilled, charcoal-grilled Alaskan salmon with fresh herb sauce and tomato-cucumber salad; tuna-tomato tartar and crab chips; crispy five-spice pork belly with tomato jam, coconut cream and lime; and a local corn salad paired with arugula corn cakes. Additionally, there will be special pins from DC Brau, a D.C.-based brewery.
- On July 20, another chef will pop-up at Cask. Xavier Meers from Brux’l Café will be showcasing his talents, pairing Belgian food with Belgian beer. Meers, whose grandfather cooked for the Belgian Royal Family, is known for traditional Belgian cuisine using fresh ingredients and French technique. The à la carte menu includes fondue au Parmesan (cheese croquette) for $5; garlic shrimp scampi for $6; chicken Waterzooi (a Belgian traditional stew) priced at $10; mussels Provençal (with tomatoes, garlic and cream) for $10; a vegetable salad at $8; and a Belgian waffle complete with strawberry and chocolate for $6. Featured Belgian beers will be Duvel Single, Ommegang Belgian Independence Day Dry Hopped Tripel, Brasserie D' Achouffe McChouffe Belgian Brown Ale, and Liefmans Goudenband Flemish Brown.
- With a delayed opening for their brick and mortar, Belle & James is hitting a weekly stride (every week in July) with pop-ups all over the city. Belle & James expects these events to act as a teaser for their opening and showcase some of the talents of their chef, Michael Crowley. The up-and-coming restaurant started its pop-up series on July Fourth with a pig roast at Lickinghole Creek Brewery, and upcoming pop-ups include July 14 at Osaka Sushi & Steak, July 21 at Blue Goat and July 27 at Curry Craft. Each pop-up is unique but still features an aspect of Belle & James. At the Osaka event, guests can prepare for a riff on one of the beer cocktails from the upcoming Belle & James menu. This beertail is made from a citrus-heavy Saison, tequila, kiwi, shiso and egg white. At The Blue Goat pop-up, diners can try the pork belly dish — a piece of smoked pork belly wrapped in a thin slice of pineapple and served with yucca fries, sautéed swiss chard and harissa. To culminate the pop-up series (the first two collaborations are à la carte), Curry Craft will host a three-course dinner for $40 with two seatings: one at 6:00 p.m. and another at 8:30 pm. Expect first-course selections like cumin-infused trout confit with apple-fennel salad, salmon roe and mustard beurre blanc, and main-course options such as a Cajun-spiced lamb kabobs basted in duck fat and served over three-bean "Dal" with a fried egg, garam masala and garlic-scented baguette. Are your mouths watering yet? Paired cocktails will be curated by Belle & James’ Bobby Kruger, with wine pairings by Amour’s Paul Heitz. There's also word of a special guest bartender.
- If a bricolage of Cantonese, Sichuan and Hunan food is the pop-up your heart's desire, The Jackdaw, guest starring at Shoryuken Ramen on July 12, is for you. The soon-to-be brick and mortar by Ian Merryman (currently of Millie's Diner) is serving first come/first serve and by-reservation nine dishes, all à la carte, that range from five-spice fried chicken to Tang Goa, a deep-fried doughnut with soy milk horchata. While the Sichuan flower tickles your tastebuds, your philanthropic nature will get a little tickle as well — part of the proceeds from the event will benefit Paralyzed Veterans of the American Mid-Atlantic Chapter. Want more on this new pop-up concept? We've got you covered.
- ZZQ, the Texas-style barbecue with a cult following, has been popping up at 5 p.m. at Ardent Craft Ales every first and third Friday of the month this summer. So take note: Friday, July 17, will be the next time brisket will be served at Ardent. Each barbecue plate is served with your choice of meat and a side for $10. Last Friday’s haul was pork ribs or brisket with a choice of jalapeño mac 'n' cheese, blackstrap collard greens or buttermilk potato salad. If you can’t wait until then, ZZQ is popping up at Strangeways Brewing Co. this Saturday from noon to 5:30 p.m. for the brewery's 2nd annual birthday celebration. This event also marks the return of Wake Me Up Before You Gose and feature two new beer variants: Hibiscus Red Wine Barrel Aged and Ghost Pepper Rum Barrel Aged. King of Pops and Campus Cookies will keep the party going with desserts and The Hot Dog Man RVA will provide the late night munchies 'til close.
- And last but certainly not least, prepare to get jazzy at not one but two Underground Kitchen pop-ups this month. This series of pop-ups isn’t new to Richmond; The Underground Kitchen (UGK, if you will) has been riding the scene for the last year with multiple well-known chefs and pop-up locations in Richmond and D.C. If you haven’t hopped on that train, go all-out on July 25 with a jazzy farm dinner for $140; location and chef are TBD, according to the UGK's mission statement of secrecy and surprise. Not ready to commit to the slow ride and want to take it easy? There is a mini-jazzy-dinner on July 17, for $75.00. The mini-dinner promises wine, beer, food and breezy jazz. (B.Y.O.Breeze?) Location and chef, also TBD.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
This post originally included Ian Merryman's previous place of work, but has since been updated to provide his current employer.