Gardens, museums, alleyways — you never know where you might find the pop-up dinner series Underground Kitchen, founder Michael Sparks says. But one thing is certain: It will soon be heading to obscure locations in and around Baltimore.
The Underground Kitchen, a Richmond, Va.-based organizer of pop-up dinners, is working to expand, and Baltimore and Annapolis are among the new destinations the company is targeting. The group is among a swelling wave of event organizers catering to Baltimore foodies in search of unique dining experiences.
Sparks expects Underground Kitchen to host its first Baltimore-area event in the late spring or early summer. A place and date haven't been announced yet, but if all goes as planned, the Underground Kitchen will be here to stay — with local events as often as twice a month.
Each dinner has a limited capacity — usually between 50 and 75 people — and Underground Kitchen often brings in chefs from out of town to cook for the crowd. The venue is kept secret until 24 to 48 hours before the dinner, and the chef remains a surprise until guests arrive.
Once Underground Kitchen establishes a presence in the Baltimore area, Sparks hopes to bring Baltimore chefs to cater events in other Underground Kitchen cities.
"We like to cross pollinate," he said.
The events provide an avenue for chefs to test out new markets as well as experiment with new menu items; Underground Kitchen prefers that chefs don't serve dishes available at their restaurants.
Underground Kitchen offers three tiers of events, Sparks said: an $85 ticket for a three- to four-course meal; $150 for five- to seven-course dinners, the Underground Kitchen's standard; and luxury events at $200 and up. Tickets are all inclusive, and the price varies based on the location and chef.
People interested in attending a dinner sign up on Underground Kitchen's website to receive notification ahead of each event.
Each event has a theme woven throughout the atmosphere, decor and menu. Past themes include a "Pig in the Park" Father's Day dinner, "Ports of Indulgence," in Charlottesville, Va., and "ARTrageous" at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
"We saw the opportunities on so many fronts,” Sparks said. "Lifestyle, fashion, food and wine — it creates all the things that I’m personally interested in.”