The Underground Kitchen Experience
Recently, my wife and I took part in what’s described as “the most exclusive dining ticket in town” – The Underground Kitchen. This pop-up dinner series has always been extremely popular in Richmond, VA and has now expanded to over 28 cities nationally. While we’ve always had our eye on this unique concept, it’s taken us a little while to attend since the events sell out in minutes.
After purchasing tickets to the “secret dinner,” we only knew the date, time, and theme. Everything else was disclosed via email 2 days prior to the event. I think the anticipation is part of the entire enchantment of the event and why it has become so wildly popular!
The Founder and CEO of UGK, Michael Sparks, explained the story behind it’s creation. It was an inspiring story because their whole goal is to bring people together over dinner. But the event is certainly anything than just a simple dinner. Elaborate themes, amazing wine pairings, and top local chefs make the UGK the special entity it has become.
The events are purposely kept small, between 35 and 60 people. That is simply to allow people to interact as you would at your kitchen table with family or friends. Michael encouraged everybody to talk their neighbors and actually get to know them. He was absolutely the most friendly, gracious, and charming host a party could have.
Our dinner was on a Friday night so the Wednesday evening prior my wife, Tracey, received the email that the event would take place at The Graduate – one of Richmond’s newer boutique hotels.
Our experience began in the lobby where we were greeted with a glass of champagne garnished with fresh lavender. We were then personally escorted 17 floors up to the roof-top bar providing such an amazing view of the Richmond skyline. It was the perfect way to settle in, have a refreshing Amuse-Bouche of watermelon gazpacho, and meet some of our fellow participants!
The dinner then continued downstairs where we sat at a large community table. Our theme was Richmond 360 so there were a lot of Richmond decorations and a rotating slide show of everything Richmond. Very cool.
Our chef for the evening grew up Richmond so the dinner was comprised of his favorite memories growing up fishing and hunting. This was combined with local ingredients and locally designed dinnerware.
And speaking of dinnerware, how cool are these plates that the Smoked Venison was served on!? I’ve actually have never seen anything quite like them but am now in search of procuring some. And believe me, this dish didn’t just look great, it tasted equally amazing.
We also loved the slate tablet that the S’Mores dessert came out on. You can also see a pretty good view of the unique wooden place-mats designed for the event.
The other locally inspired courses were comprised of Local Yellowfin Tuna Tartare w/ Quail Egg and Confit of Quail.
All-in-all it was a top notch event executed to perfection. My wife and I were very pleased and look forward to attending another event – if the tickets don’t sell out too fast!
We have seen some of our catering community participate in events like these as organizers. Perhaps this a great way to expand your brand awareness and increase catering revenues during the slower times of the year.
Have you been to a UGK event or other creative pop-up dinner? Please share your experience, we’d love to hear from you!