The difference between these quirky dining experiences and my aunt’s open-door policy is that the former come and go. My aunt made plain, farm-style cooking so delicious my memories still sing. Only problem was, there were never enough people to eat it. So anyone who came to the door unannounced was a welcome guest. I don’t know when she began that open-hearted approach to the world, but when I saw her in a nursing home before she died, she was still doing it.
One thing that’s different about these modern-day incarnations of open-door welcomes is that they charge for the gourmet fare they offer. And that it’s gourmet fare is another difference. I love the idea.
Secret or closed-door restaurants are an international sensation. They operate in people’s homes, under the radar of any licensing bodies. So pointing them out is a bit dicey. But those with a Web site are fair game. Here are some examples:
In Portland, Oregon, the din din supper club has been going strong since 2007. They bill it as a once-monthly, traveling feast. There’s a catering company behind din din, and, oh, does the food sound divine.
If you’re in Buenos Aires and have a hankering for good Asian food, Kitchen Sunae will fill the bill. (The translation shows $130, but apparently that’s actually 130 pesos.) Just looking at the photos will make you drool.
In Padova, near Venice, you can dine at Mama Isa's Supper Club. She offers a six-course meal, accompanied by a welcome drink, Italian wine, and a digestif.
These small, home-based restaurants come and go. That’s one of their charms. They are unique, fun, and a great way to gather a group of friends for an unusual experience. Hats off to the entrepreneurial chefs who make them happen.