Opening a restaurant is an expensive and time consuming endeavor, which is why many local restaurants start-up as pop-ups. Local chefs in Detroit frequently host pop-ups as a way to test out new menus, preview future restaurants, try something outside their normal style, or to simply collaborate with their buddies. Others enjoy taking their food on the road to liven up various bars in the evenings all while keeping diners hungry for the unexpected. Because pop-ups are clandestine by nature, they’re not always easy to keep up with. That said, here’s a guide to Detroit’s most intriguing limited dining engagements, from semi-secret dinner parties to cocktails and bar food collaborations. Some are one-time deals, some are seasonal, and many recur on a regular basis.
Keep in mind, this list is updated as needed. Know of any amazing pop-ups heading to town? Hit up the comments or head to the Eater Detroit tipline.
Short Term Pop-Ups
The Situation: Cocktail bar Pablo Discobar is taking over Lost River this winter for one night. Visitors can expect a disco soundtrack during the takeover and an eclectic lineup of cocktails with ingredients like Coco Puffs.
When: 4 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday, January 23
Where: Lost River, 15421 Mack Ave, Detroit
Lunar New Year Dinner
The Situation: Home cook and popular Instagram personality MyThy Huynh is popping up all over the place this winter with appearances at Gather and the Sugar House. In Ann Arbor, Huynh is taking over the kitchens at Miss Kim during Lunar New Year for a 10-course meal featuring Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Tickets are $75.
When: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, January 28
Where: Miss Kim, 415 N 5th Ave., Ann Arbor
The Situation: Street Beet’s popular vegan series, which interprets fast food chains, is returning in February with an eyebrow-raising homage to the Golden Arches. There will be gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options available. Street Beet’s pop-ups tend to sell out quickly so get there early.
When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, February 17
Where: Nancy Whiskey’s, 2644 Harrison St., Detroit
The Situation: Former Detroit-based bartender and Eater Young Gun Dorothy Elizabeth will be tending bar for one night-only at Fort Street Galley, side-by-side with Marlowe Johnson. Expect a featured cocktail menu from Elizabeth.
When: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, January 17
Where: Fort Street Galley, 160 W Fort St., Detroit
The Situation: Redford bakery Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery is hosting its second annual Burns Night Celebration in honor of the 18th-century Romantic poet and lyricist Robert “Rabbie” Burns. The event will feature haggis, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, pub foods such as meat pies, sausage rolls, and traditional neeps and tatties (turnips and mashed potatoes). Expect family-friendly activities like a design-your-own empire biscuit station, plus Scotch ale from host Urbanrest Brewing Company. Check out photos from last year here.
When: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday, January 25
Where: Urbanrest, 2615 Wolcott St., Ferndale
Pop-Ups With a Semi-Permanent Address
The Situation: Replacing summer pop-up Clementina, the Capitol Inn debuted in January in Capitol Park. Operated by Heirloom Hospitality (the team behind Townhouse and Prime + Proper), Capitol Inn features cozy winter-themed furnishings and a menu with options like salted dark chocolate hot cocoa, boozy horchata, caramel popcorn, and harissa beef jerky.
When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday.
Where: 150 State St., Detroit
Cadillac Square Lodge
The Situation: This wintery restaurant and bar pop-up in Cadillac Square returned this fall with a new menu developed by chef Jordan Hoffman of Parc. Expect options like Detroit-style chili, soft pretzel with beer cheese, and more. The space features comfy seating, giant Jenga, and more.
When: Open now through Sunday, February 17; hours are 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Where: 60 Cadillac Square, Detroit
Guest Chef Series
The Situation: Eastern Market restaurant Gather is bringing back its Winter Guest Chef Series for another year with eight dinners on the schedule featuring local chefs from around the region including Nick Rodgers of the Root Restaurant & Bar, Matt Tulpa and Mythy Huynh, and Matt and Mike Romine of Farm Field Table. Tickets for several of the dinners are available now on the restaurant’s website.
When: January 21 through March 4
Where: 1454 Gratiot Ave., Detroit
Restaurants and Bars Regularly Hosting Pop-Ups
The Situation: Detroit City Distillery’s hosts regular Tuesday Takeover pop-ups from a rotating list of pop-up restaurants and bartenders as well as occasional pop-ups scattered throughout the week.
When: Tuesdays (other pop-up days vary)
The Situation: In addition to its regular menu and drinks, Corktown bar icon Nancy Whiskey’s is a regular haunt for local pop-up restaurants. Coming up this winter, plan for multiple appearances by hit vegan pop-up Street Beet.
When: Sundays (other pop-up days vary)
The Situation: Revolver has for the past few years now been the spot for up-and-coming and chefs and veterans in the industry who are visiting from out of town. As such, expect to find a revolving door of culinary talent each and every time you plan a meal there. Tickets should be reserved online and alcohol is generally BYOB.
The Situation: Frame has gone on to host a number of culinary talents in metro Detroit who are awaiting the openings of their new restaurants. With its communal seating and ample kitchen space, chefs can come in, test out menus, interact with diners, and get a sense of what works and what needs tweaking before they open the doors to their own spots.
The Situation: Mack Avenue’s new tiki bar Lost River has smartly partnered up with a variety of local pop-ups that bring a little something extra to the faux Polynesian atmosphere. Expect upcoming appearances from Shinto’s Supper Club, Raquel’s Cocina, and Pietrzyk Pierogi.
The Situation: Two James Distillery has always been welcoming to pop-up restaurants. Customers can frequently drop in for cocktails and enjoy a full meal dished up by any number of roaming local restaurants. Pietrzyk Pierogi, Spacecat V-stro, and Phat Vegan are among the regulars on Two James’ schedule.
The Situation: This wild ale brewery has also become a destination for regular pop-ups and food trucks. Customers can check out pop-ups from Shinto’s, Street Beet, and Pietrzyk Pierogi just to name a few.
When: Mostly weekends, some weeknight dates
The Situation: Since opening in 2015, Hamtramck’s hip, neighborhood bar Bumbo’s has made a name for itself, not just for its affordable cocktail menu, but also its bar grub. Each Wednesday evening, Bryan Krawczyk serves a lineup of his Polish cuisine with a modern twist. Think sausage and sweet potato porridge with coconut milk, pierogi with smoked potato, and grilled sweet corn.
When: Wednesdays, 7 p.m. until the food runs out (annual), occasionally Sundays
The Situation: In addition to its regular lunch hours and Friday night dinner service, the Nosh Pit plays host to a variety of local vegan pop-ups and events like vegetarian sushi rolling workshops.
The Situation: Brunch mainstay Brooklyn Street Local has been an active host of local traveling restaurants in recent years, allowing pop-ups like soon-to-open African cafe Baobab Fare and Jamaican pop-up Irie Occasions to take over the kitchen on a regular basis.
When: Evenings, Irie Occasions makes appearances from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Sunday through March 30, 2019
The Situation: Cass Corridor beer bar and bottle shop 8 Degrees Plato allows pop-ups to share space and sling food on a semi regular basis. Coming up in the next few weeks, customers can try everything from dumpling to Pakistani samosas and chai.
When: Varies but typically on Fridays and Saturdays
Roving Pop-Ups To Know
Key Players: Nina Paletta and Meghan Shaw
The Situation: This wildly popular traveling vegan outfit draws crowds with its cleverly punny pop-ups that riff on fast food chains (Think: Taco Hell, McDaddy’s, and Pizza Butt). Street Beet is also known for its tasty vegan doughnuts, often served at Anthology Coffee.
Key Players: Maryam Khan
The Situation: Through her Khana pop-up Maryam Khan plays with classic Pakistani recipes. The menus are 100 percent halal and often have a vegan component with options like aloo gobi burritos, sweet and spicy samosas, and butter chicken nachos.
Key Players: Maritza Garibay
The Situation: The Crispy Roll pop-up takes egg roll and adds several fun twists like chipotle mac ’n cheese. Starting out at bars in Hamtramck, fans can now find these deep-fried snacks in a number of other watering holes.
Key Players: Key Locke
The Situation: This pop-up puts a vegan twist on comfort foods including a very convincing fried “fish” slider made from portabella mushrooms and braised, pulled jackfruit sliders. Phat Vgan occasionally mixes up its menu with riffs on South American cuisine.
Key Players: Dorothy Hernandez and Jake Williams
The Situation: Freelance reporter and Eater contributor Dorothy Hernandez and her husband chef Jake Williams are putting their own spin on Filipino food in Detroit using local ingredients. Sarap pops up every few months around town at spots ranging from Revolver to Folk.
Key Players: Nick George
The Situation: Chef Nick George earned his chops working at Noble Fish before launching his own roving Japanese restaurant pop-up, Dr. Sushi. Now several years in, it’s a mainstay on the Detroit pop-up circuit serving everything from sustainable sushi to okonomiyaki. Dr. Sushi can be found just about everywhere that hosts pop-ups regularly at PJ’s Lager House and Nancy Whiskey’s Pub.
Key Players: Erica Pietrzyk
The Situation: Pierogi make for the ideal bar snack in that they’re compact, yet filled with hearty ingredients to soak up the booze. At Two James Spirits, the Pietrzyk Pierogi pop-up is a regular fixture. Featuring a variety of classic Polish flavors like “The O-G” with potatoes and cheese sauce and spices to interesting takes on the dish, like one filled with chicken caprese (balsamic chicken, mozzarella, spinach, potato, and roasted tomato). $9 gets you four (sorry, no mix or match).
Key Players: Bandhu Gardens
The Situation: This gardening initiative works partners with Bangladeshi women to grow and cook with vegetables. The organization hosts pop-ups semi-regularly at Rose’s Fine Foods. Menus are typically vegetarian and showcase Bangladeshi home cookery.