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Commune Avoids Pop-Up Pitfalls

Commune Avoids Pop-Up Pitfalls
Photos by Jonathan Boncek

I love pop-ups.1 I love farm tables. I love courses and pairings and cocktail hours and string lights and meeting new friends across the table. If this is you too, then read on.

Photo by Jonathan Boncek
Photo by Jonathan Boncek

I’ve been to my share of supper clubs, dinners in places where you shouldn’t be having dinner2 that are naturally places that prove challenging for the chefs since these aren’t usually places with kitchens. There’s a lot that can go wrong, and there are always things that go right. But let’s get back to the pitfalls:

  1. The décor can be lacking. If a backdrop isn’t The Sunset on the River, then it’s easy to notice that the table décor can be more Party City3  than posh.
  2. Pacing is off. If you have a multicourse dinner, it’s easy to assume that the supper club is the main activity for the evening, but if pacing is off between courses,4  I’ve had supper clubs last pushing four hours.
  3. All that sitting and waiting for food can be uncomfortable. Not just because I don’t usually sit still that long, but because, well, many times the seats just aren’t comfortable, and we all are a little packed in, banging elbows and forgetting which glass is ours.
  4. The food is uneven. One course is good and the next one not-so-much. And lots of times there is not enough green involved since many chefs love to experiment with different proteins at a pop-up.5
  5. And finally, sometimes it’s best to bring your own party6  since it can feel like a Bridget Jones couples party7  or a family dinner for a family you are not a part of.
At the Commune Supper Cult in Charleston, South Carolina last week, none of this happened.
Photo by Jonathan Boncek
Photo by Jonathan Boncek

The Commune Supper Cult was a perfect score: organized with beautiful décor in an interesting setting, perfect pacing between courses, room for everyone at the table, course after course that had all exclaiming as we passed the plates family-style: “Oh, you have to try this,” and a diverse and fun group of people who I got to know through a lively cocktail hour where we could meet and mingle over an ambitious Revelry Brewing/Cathead Honeysuckle vodka beer cocktail before taking our seats.

And it was all cooked out of a food truck and in the parking lot with grills and prep tables. A wonderfully tender Milk Braised Lamb Gnocchi with Fennel and Mint out of a foodtruck. Beer BBQ Sauce Braised Boudin juicy and unctuous off the grill. Seriously.

Chefs Patrick Owens and Elliot Moss have new fans. If I’d had a cigarette lighter, I would have been holding it up in tribute. This is more than a supper club, it’s a community gathering that feels like a celebration, so it’s aptly named—Commune.


[1] “Pop-ups” refer to a one-night affair, such as a one-night restaurant or art gallery.
[2] In a barn, on a dock, on the beach, in an airplane hangar.
[3] Hey, I like fake flower leis as much as the next girl, but table décor they are not.
[4] Trust me, I understand how hard it is out of your own kitchen cooking different food with servers serving that you don’t know!
[5] If your restaurant is known for fried chicken, you might be itching to try your hand cooking duck heart, bison burgers, or your own crazy turducken concoction. No room for a veggie in that lineup.
[6] Coming with whom you wish to spend your time.
[7] There’s this scene in the first Bridget Jones movie well she’s the only single woman at a couples party asking about her dating life.

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