On a recent brisk weekend, a group of strangers gathered outside a non-descript Soho building. The glances and quizzical looks exchanged were more furtive than what you would expect from a typical brunch crowd.
We were gathered for a PlaceInvaders event — a super-secret, pop-up dining experience held in exclusive homes in New York City. Eleven guests entered a grand loft space with a large communal table and were encouraged to explore the home, which helped us loosen up. Cocktails certainly helped, so much so that throughout the meal, one guest made frequent boozy toasts.
PlaceInvaders is one of several pop-up restaurants operating in NYC, others include the seasonal Broadway Bites, Penn Plates, and Dassara Ramen & AquaBoil PopUp. Recently, Flynn McGarry, a teen chef, served a 14-course tasting menu at a 12-seat, pop-up restaurant called Eureka at Creative Edge Parties, a catering and event planning company in the West Village, at $160 a head.
With the rise of the sharing economy (Airbnb and Uber and their ilk), is there any wonder that pop-up eateries would find their audience? The appeal of creating a restaurant is obvious, but without NYC health permits and oversight, pop-ups are often an undercover operation.
PlaceInvaders puts a twist on the pop-up restaurant concept: The events are held in tony homes that are often for sale, and Hagan Blount and partner Katie Smith-Adair — neither are professional chefs — ‘invade’ the homes. “The catch is that the owners of the apartments are not home,” explains Smith-Adair. Coming soon: Look for PlaceInvaders to host meals at open houses.
Founded in June 2014, PlaceInvaders averages several events per month. Past locations have included the iconic Chelsea “Black Apartment” on sale for over $6 million, and a four-story Fort Greene townhome on the market for $3.6 million.
Those who sign up online receive an alert when locations and dates are selected. Meals range from $85–$200 in NYC. Between 11 and 24 guests are invited, and guests learn the location on the day of the event.
The meal itself is first-rate. I feasted on broiled oysters poached in Mezcal with roasted jalapeño and habanero butter; a shaved Brussel sprout salad with bacon, pancetta, parmesan and crispy panko; a duck chicharron taco with guacamole, pickled red onion, hoison, plum sauce and cream; bo ssam hash with baby potatoes and woodland cream; and for dessert, a Liege waffle with pumpkin pie spice sauce and candy cap mushroom sugar.
“We get to travel the world, stay in great places and throw dinner parties,” said Smith-Adair. “What could be better than that?”