If you’ve heard of “Chickenwire,” consider yourself a foodie in the know. It’s one of Raleigh’s best-kept secrets.
The venues are unique: a garden supply store, a warehouse, a farm. But you won’t know exactly where you’re going ‘til the last minute.
Chickenwire has held six dinner events in the last 11 months and usually sells out within 48 hours of each announcement. The most recent event in July featured 20 chefs and just as many farmers and partners, including five breweries.
“There’s been a movement toward pop-up and there’s also been a movement in the secret supper club area,” Dawn Stachler says. With her chef husband Regan, she started Chickenwire in the Raleigh area and owns the Little Hen restaurant in Apex.
Here’s how it works
If you’re a ticketholder, you’ll know the theme of the dinner as well as the chefs who will cook for you—maybe Sean Fowler of Mandolin and John Childers of Herons, to name a few.
Twenty-four hours before the event, you’ll receive an email with the exact location and menu. General admission is $85; between 60 and 100 tickets are sold. At press time, the fall event had not been scheduled, but the events are announced quickly and sell out fast so check chickenwirenc.com frequently or subscribe to receive emails.
It’s all about the novelty and the food and drink. For chefs, it’s about networking that’s unforced and a gathering that’s cooperative rather than competitive. It’s also an opportunity for chefs to be creative with burners and grills because most of the settings don’t have a kitchen, Stachler says.
“The chefs are really good at being versatile . . . you don’t need a fancy kitchen to produce fancy foods,” she says, adding that themes are open to chefs’ interpretations. “People are united by the theme, [but] no one is ever sacrificing [taste] just to meet a concept. It’s always solid, good food.”
In good company
The Triangle isn’t alone. Asheville is known for its Blind Pig events, and Charlotte is home to the Cheshire Dinner Society.
According to Eventbrite, a global marketplace where people can find and create events, the pop-up dinner experience was the fastest-growing food-and-drink trend of 2014, with 82 percent growth.
The popularity of pop-ups and secret suppers has been attributed to non-restaurant locations, amusing themes (think wild boar and mushrooms at a “Wild Thing” dinner) and the thrill of both the locale announcement and meeting new, like-minded adult diners.