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Previously limited to those who can respond to an email within three minutes, Chez le Commis supper club will soon be coming to a parking lot near you.
Vin de Chez, a 40-seat pop-up wine bar, will operate out of a parking lot at food incubator Union Kitchen on select Sundays while the weather holds out, starting on Sept. 29, chef Tom Madrecki announced today.
Madrecki, who learned to cook during unpaid gigs at some of the world’s best restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen and Le Chateaubriand in Paris, maintains a full-time corporate job on the Hill and will be running the pop-up with partner Liz Bird. The 25-year-old cook has said since starting Chez in March of 2012 that he prefers the challenge of serving a six-course dinner from his Clarendon apartment to professional chefdom.
So, why do a pop-up now?
“With Chez, we only have 16 seats. I feel like crap telling people that, within three minutes, they’ve lost their chance,” Madrecki says, referring to how quickly people have to respond to his supper club emails to snag a spot.
Madrecki says he’s been looking for a way to bring more people to the table, going as far as New York City to serve 80 at an upcoming reservations-onlyevent. His fare focuses on turning local ingredients into high-end plates—think aged squab and squid ink.
Union Kitchen founder Jonas Singer says the pop-up Madrecki proposed a couple months ago fit right in with the food incubator’s vision.
“Our goal really is to provide an opportunity for local folks who want to try to make some money in local food, but we also like the idea of bringing in conscientious eating,” Singer said. “We’ve been looking for something that will bring high-end culinary food here and use the kitchen to do it.”
Union Kitchen got a liquor license for the parking lot a couple months ago. Aside from the pop-up, Union Kitchen will roll out weekly events next week, including a dog happy hour on Wednesdays and a concert series on Saturdays.
Madrecki, who will take advantage of some commercial kitchen space in addition to cooking outdoors, says the license opened the door for him to focus on wine. He says the temporary café concept comes not from D.C.’s burgeoning pop-up culture but from a wine-import business he frequented in Copenhagen. Its owner took wines to an outside space under a bridge and offered food and drink during the summer months.
Vin de Chez will have seating for 40, and eaters will rotate through like any other restaurant. It will offer a decidedly different flavor from the sit-down feel of Chez le Commis, but the foods will be familiar to those who’ve made it into his dining room.
From 2 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 29, people can stop by the pop-up for a cheese plate and glass of wine (the “unusual ones you won’t find in D.C.”) or spring for a fuller meal.
Madrecki says a drink and two courses will run about $30, less than his $50 supper club, which is priced to mostly cover costs. On the menu will be some of his more approachable offerings, like vegetable bouillon, tomato-cheese tartine, and braised lamb.
“There’s nothing on the launch menu that I would not describe as ‘just tasty,’” Madrecki says.
Inspired by the outdoors setting, barbeque could become part of the mix in coming months. Madrecki says the pop-up will appear again in October and more than a dozen times throughout 2014, weather permitting. Reservations are recommended, though not required for the inaugural pop-up, and can be made here.
Photo courtesy Tom Madrecki