Pop-ups have long been a part of the Bay Area dining scene, but in the last few years, the scene has grown exponentially, showing off all the culinary talent that exists outside four-walled restaurants. Home cooks and chefs of all levels are inserting creativity into their endeavors and showcasing a diverse selection of cuisines that maybe aren’t as common as they should be.
We’re scouting and writing about some of the more exciting pop-ups we come across and showcasing them all in one place. From “Chicago Dawgs” to sourdough doughnuts, all in-the-know diners should have these pop-ups on their radars. Check back for updates as we add more spots into the mix.
Know about an upcoming pop-up that should be on this list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sanae Shikayama of Daruma Kiosk serves delicious izakaya-style food and is more recently taking up a pop-up residence at Broc Cellars in Berkeley. Expect takoyaki cooked to order with a nice, crisp sear; items such as the beef nikumaki onigiri shown above; and vegetable side dishes like gochujang-spiced eggplant and tamari cucumber to accompany. Check the @daruma.kiosk Instagram for the latest pop-up dates and times.
Sometimes what you need is just some tasty, probably-not-healthy food, and Concession is ready to provide it. Dubbing itself as “casual Midwest grub” and “lowbrow eats,” this pop-up really serves just good ol’ concession-style food, but in San Francisco, typically at a bar, and with some good intention behind it. The menu changes slightly from pop-up to pop-up, but generally expect items such as Castle Sliders, a take on the White Castle classic, steamed with onions, and including mayo, pickles, and American cheese; Chicago Dawgs made with Vienna Beef franks; and a Mother-In-Law Sandwich, a beef tamale with chili, cream, and green onions.
Pastry chef Mary Denham runs just about the most whimsical pastry pop-up we’ve seen in a while: Blooms End, which combines her love of baking with her love of flower arranging. Denham’s pop-ups always have a number of pastries to peruse and obsess over, especially the sweet and savory croissants, which include the Monkey croissant with coffee and cardamom or the Flat Tart with Czech-braised sauerkraut, bacon, apple, and caraway. There are also always Other Things in the mix (that’s how she titles them on her gorgeous menus), such as coffee cake, muffins, cookies, and pie, so if you have a sweet tooth, this one is worth tracking down.
Chicken Dog Bagels
An Eater SF tipster wrote in to remind us that we’ve still yet to write about Chicken Dog Bagels, a bagel pop-up with the “best bagels in the Bay Area.” This is strong praise, but a sign of devotion from Chicken Dog’s fanbase. Still, if you’re still looking for that perfect bagel that embodies all of your ideal, subjective bagel qualities, Chicken Dog Bagel is worth a try with its selection of plain, sesame, poppy seed, and everything bagels. Unlike other pop-ups you have to chase down, Chicken Dog is steadily selling its goods at 237 Cortland Avenue on Fridays and Saturdays for preorders and walk-ups, with the option to order a bagel sandwich on arrival. Check the @chicken_dog_bagels Instagram for updates on weekly bagel drops.
SoDo Donuts, the doughnut-centric pop-up of pastry chefs Elle Cowan and Heather Siperstein, makes appearances in the East Bay. The “SoDo” part of the name refers to sourdough, which is used to give these confections their unique and slightly bubbled texture, and which Cowan and Siperstein use as a base for a variety of doughnut flavors. Although most of the flavors tend toward the sweet side — such as the chocolate custard doughnut above or the cinnamon sugar doughnut — they do occasionally debut savory options, such as a recent caramelized leek and chevre cheese option and a sun-dried tomato stunner from the summer, filled with a mixture of goat cheese and sun-dried tomato.
Offering both occasional sit-down dinners as well as its roving pop-up series, Provecho serves Oaxacan flavors in the form of small bites made with local produce and ingredients. Recent dishes including a crudo and the black adobo pork confit have been standouts, but the chef often changes up the menu to pair with the seasonal produce at hand. Provecho pops up on both sides of the Bay Bridge.
Year of the Snake
Patty Lu, who heads up the Berkeley pop-up Year of the Snake, has already gotten some press for her pastries but we’re happy to continue singing her praises. A former baker from Tartine, Lu is now serving her own style of pastries every Sunday in Berkeley (around the corner from Standard Fare), from Portuguese egg tarts to salted egg yolk cookies — and even a tea egg if you’re feeling in the mood.
Egg Pals is perhaps the newest pop-up on this list, with just one event under its belt so far, but it’s started off on the right foot. The pop-up specializes in (what else?) egg breakfast sandwiches, serving both a bacon and veggie version on a brioche bun with pickled red onions and tangy, herby mayo. You’ll be charmed by the smaller details including the foil wrappers that keep the cheese warm and melted to the joyous, egg-y logo.
In almost a two-fer, Egg Pals joined with pop-up Molly’s Refresher creating a well-balanced breakfast meal of sandwiches and refreshments. But Molly’s Refresher stands out on its own, with delightful vintage teacups and loose-leaf tea for sale alongside a menu of coffee, seltzers, sodas, chai, and pots of tea. Our go-to is the “rise and shine,” which is half-coffee, half-chai, but the black tea soda with vanilla whip looks just as enticing for another round.
This Filipino pop-up showcases the diversity of food from the Philippines, but from a vegan perspective. While one recent pop-up focused on vegan-izing main dishes such as kilawen (Shine’s version was made with hearts of palm, rather than fish), another event delved into the popular Filipino bread roll pan de sal. An ube version came stuffed with a cheese filling with a side of ube halaya, alongside a corn pottage milk bread bun made by Mary Ann Chou. If that’s what a vegan pop-up can do with just a roll, we’re coming back.