By Elisa Vitale
No, it’s not the Pillsbury Doughboy, but a bakery or restaurant may be popping up in your neighborhood. Pop-ups are temporary, or not so temporary, businesses that operate during off hours at bars or restaurants when the space would otherwise go unused. In addition to enlivening spaces that are dark during the day, pop-ups bring new offerings to neighborhoods; allow entrepreneurs to gauge interest by local residents; and provide seasoned cooks, or those just starting out, a chance to see how they would fare in the risky restaurant business.
Noah Karesh, Jonas Singer, and Cullen Gilchrist launched Blind Dog Café in Darnell’s Bar on Florida Avenue in February 2012. The café takes advantage of the bar’s space, including a kitchen, that sits empty during the day. Gilchrist, a line cook at Ardeo + Bardeo, wanted to evaluate neighborhood interest in a coffee shop. He is responsible for the menu and his sister runs her own start-up, Black Strap bakery, from the kitchen and supplies the café’s baked goods. Blind Dog Café has proven so popular that the pop-up expanded to the Science Club’s patio at L and M Streets, NW for the summer.
While Blind Dog Café is a pop-up that’s here to stay, there are more temporary pop-ups around DC. You might associate H Street NE with bars and live music, not brownies and baguettes, but stop by H Street Bakes and that could change. H Street Bakes is a monthly pop-up bake sale (the venue rotates among bars) that features treats from local residents and employees. Kim Moffatt, a local resident and the pastry chef (and waitress/hostess) at Granville Moore’s, who also provides desserts and baked goods for Boundary Road, started the pop-ups to determine neighborhood interest in a bakery on H Street. You’ll also find Crunkcakes at H Street Bakes. Faith Alice Sleeper and Raychel Sabath cooked up the idea for these boozy cupcakes while working together at the Rock & Roll Hotel.
Erica Skolnik, of Frenchie’s, is looking for a permanent storefront for her bakery. In the meantime, she sells her baked goods at Seasonal Pantry in Shaw. She recently had the opportunity to take over the Seasonal Pantry space for a one day bakery pop-up when the gourmet market was temporarily closed.
Kera Carpenter, owner of Domku in Petworth, says that she would have benefited from a mentor and a space to test her concept – that’s why she’s working with Priya Ammu and DC Dosa. Ammu is the winner of Think Local First’s StartUp Kitchen competition, which is targeted at providing resources for emerging restaurant businesses. Over the fall DC Dosa took over the Domku space (Domku is closed Mondays), giving consumers the chance to test the dosa and provide feedback at this pop-up restaurant.
Is there a space in your neighborhood that would be perfect for a pop-up? What type of restaurant would you like to see?