The quest for real: Anti-Restaurants
‘Anti-restaurants’ or ‘pirate restaurants,’ as explored by The New York Times (registration required), are underground communal food experiences that is popping up all over the United Sates and the world in a backlash against the desocialisation of eating (and everything else). Run by an assortment of people from diverse backgrounds (chefs, cookbook editors, ad execs and cross country travellers apartment hopping as they go) people pay up to help make the food (one group had to help slaughter a boar) and eat it at a communal table in unlicensed spaces like basement apartments.
“The passionate enthusiasts who have opened dozens of unlicensed restaurants in apartments and other private spaces in recent years do not generally aspire to become traditional restaurateurs, with overhead and investors and the health department — a k a The Man — telling them what to do,” writes the NY Times. “They are not in it for the money or for Buddha Bar-size crowds; instead, they say, they are in it for the community and the creative freedom.”
The movement springs from the desire for shared experiences that has meaning and authenticity, according to the owner of The Ghetto Gourmet, a website dedicated to tracking underground restaurants, which has sprung up as far as Paris and Tasmania.
Wine companies are seeing a gap, with some reportedly interested in helping sponsor these events, and interest is growing from food lovers, which means the movement might end up becoming a victim of its own success, all while having to dodge authorities who close down unlicensed eateries. This is unlikely though, even if some gets more mainstream, new underdogs are bound to pop up around the corner. The movement is another important indicator of people’s need to reconnect with other people. Why sit alone in a restaurant when you can have a great meal and conversation in the company of a bunch of interesting people!