Guerrilla meal adventures haven't exploded here. But underground supper clubs -- those reservations-and-payment-required dinners held inside people's homes – persist.
In San Diego, we know of Limone, from chef Accursio Lota: He's done a seafood-centric dinner on his backyard deck. And 10 guests get into that supper series from Cellar Door. Their “I heart cheese” May menu had gnocchi hand-made from Gioia Ricotta.
And look at last Saturday’s underground Black Label Table.
After a year-and-a-half of feeding strangers – never in places with commercial kitchens, nor letter grades in the windows -- the “dine-at-your-own-risk” Black Label sold out its 20-seat supper...10 minutes after organizers Adrian Huth, Jim Lee and Evan Rumble started taking reservations via email.
(We didn’t get in.)
Held monthly, the most recent Black Label had a “summer Southern” theme. It took place in a loft in that artsy haven, East Village, with the dinner's secret location revealed the day of.
The menu, which included wine pairings, kicked off with oysters; worked up to a watermelon-and-tomato salad; went to braised barbecue ribs; then classic fried chicken from a Thomas Keller recipe; and pulled the curtains with a peach tarte Tatin. All for a $35 “donation.”
“We don’t try to make money, we try to break event,” said Black Label's chef Huth, who estimated the dinner production cost $750-$800 for his team to create.
“The difference between us and a restaurant is the social aspect. (Black Table is) where you go to meet people," he said. For the July supper, a Paso Robles winemaker from Stephen's Cellars paired his label with the Black Label menu, and worked the crowd.
"Our philosophy is you sit down at our table, maybe with Champagne," and Huth said you should be patient with your waiter. "Service can be haphazard, we're usually using friends. If you're a control freak, you might not be a happy camper.”
Huth said his once-a-month menu is like having a test kitchen. And while the series draws in about 16 new faces for each meal, he has no desire to expand or run a permanent eatery.
“It’s a dinner party for us. There’s a lot of baggage with a restaurant.”
Other than utilities and overhead, the most obvious baggage would seem to involve the Department of Environmental Health. Wasn't Black Label worried about skirting the food facility inspection rules?
“I would hope that the county of San Diego has better things to do," he said.
Interested in underground supper club invites and updates? Signup.
Black Label Table: email@example.com
Cellar Door: cellardoorsd.com
Read more from Keli Dailey on utsandiego.com