Welcome to the world of unique dining experiences. If you’re tired of the same old restaurant scene, then it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. In this article, we’ll be exploring three exciting dining styles: supper clubs, tapas, and dim sum.
Now before we begin, don’t let anyone tell you that these three options can only be had in the places they originated. Their popularity has taken a global hold. While I’ve had amazing tapas in Seville, I have also experienced divine tapas in Chicago. This article lists a few highly-praised places to indulge, but your choices are truly limitless.
Whether you’re looking for an intimate dining experience, a new culinary adventure, or simply a night out with friends, there’s a unique dining experience out there that’s perfect for you. So, let’s dive in and discover what makes each of these dining styles so special.
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The Unique Dining Experience of Supper Clubs
What is a Supper Club?
A Supper Club is an intimate gathering of people who come together to enjoy a shared meal, often featuring a multi-course menu and various forms of entertainment.
The definition will vary slightly depending on where it is geographically located. Many Supper Clubs are a social dining experience that takes place in a private home, loft, or other non-commercial settings while Supper Clubs in the American Mid-West are usually restaurant based.
Regardless of the location, every Supper Club incorporates food, entertainment, and cocktail culture.
Wisconsin Supper Clubs
In Wisconsin, Supper Clubs are a unique part of the local culture. Over 300 Supper Clubs exist in the state. The clubs are established restaurants that also serve as social clubs and where everyone is made to feel welcome.
It is a gathering place for locals in the community to enjoy a leisurely night of dining and entertainment.
The restaurants are independently owned and often located in rural settings providing the residents with homemade food created from local ingredients.
Southern Supper Clubs
The Southern Supper Club is more like an actual club in the traditional sense, consisting of a group that meets periodically throughout the year. Each member takes a turn hosting and providing the main course.
Think of it like a book club, but instead of book-talking, it’s a dinner party.
Each Supper Club devises and abides by its own set of participation rules. It is usually a bonding and lifelong relationship.
Read this if you are interested in learning more about food culture in America.
A Bit of Supper Club History
The concept of Supper Clubs has roots in the underground dining experiences of the 1920s and 1930s when people would gather in private homes to enjoy elaborate meals and socialize with friends.
Over time, Supper Clubs evolved into more formal and organized events, featuring a set menu, pre-arranged seating, and live entertainment.
Supper Clubs Today
Today, Supper Clubs have seen a resurgence in popularity as a way for food lovers to experience unique and intimate dining experiences.
They can exist in super secret locations or pop-up events.
Attending a Supper Club with your partner is a recipe for a very romantic foodie date night.
Here is a list of some Supper Clubs from around the world:
The Vaulted Cellar, London, UK: This underground dining club offers a multi-course meal in a historic wine cellar setting.
The Supper Club Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands: This renowned Supper Club offers a unique dining experience, complete with live music, creative cocktails, and a set menu featuring local ingredients.
Hob Nob, Racine, Wisconsin: This family-owned restaurant established in 1954 is renowned for its outstanding hospitality. It offers classic decor, supper club favorites, and impeccable service.
The Norwegian Supper Club– Norway: 3 award-winning chefs, locally sourced ingredients, a menu inspired by 3 beautiful minimalist locations.
Wild Kitchen, San Francisco, California: A roving underground kitchen that seats 100 diners. Location varies. A communal table, 8-course meal, nature.
The Secret Table, Paris, France: This clandestine Supper Club offers a unique dining experience in a secret location, with a set menu featuring local ingredients and a focus on sustainable dining practices.
The Unique Dining Experience of Tapas
What are Tapas?
Tapas are small Spanish dishes, typically served with drinks at bars. The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb “tapar,” which means “to cover.”
One traditional story behind the origin of tapas is that King Alfonso X of Spain was recovering from an illness in the 13th century and was advised to eat small portions of food with wine to aid his recovery. He ordered that slices of bread be placed over glasses of wine to keep out the dust and flies, and thus, the first tapas were born.
The origin of the word tapas is often debated. Some also say that tapa, meaning lid, referred to the lid of the wine barrel that people placed their glass on while they eat the snack that came with the drink.
In modern Spain, tapas are a staple of social dining and can be found in bars and restaurants across the country. Tapas come in a variety of forms, including hot and cold dishes, meat, fish, and vegetarian options, and can be served as an appetizer or a light meal. Some popular tapas dishes include patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce), tortilla española (an omelette with potatoes and onions), and pulpo a la gallega (octopus with paprika and olive oil).
Read more about the art of eating tapas in this beginner’s guide.
Cities in Spain that are known for their tapas’ culture and quality include Madrid, Seville, and Granada. Tapas in Barcelona is practically an art form. In these cities, you’ll find many traditional bars and taverns serving up delicious tapas, as well as more contemporary restaurants that offer innovative takes on the classic dishes.
You will also find many of that many of these ingredients make for wonderful edible souvenirs and can be found at the local markets.
Although tapas are available in many destinations worldwide, you won’t want to miss out on tapas in Spain while visiting. Here are some solid recommendations.
El Rinconcillo: This is one of the oldest tapas bars in Seville and is known for its traditional Andalusian cuisine.
Taberna Ángel Bonet: This is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, serving a range of tapas, including cured meats and cheeses, and a variety of traditional dishes.
La Brunilda: This bar is known for its modern take on traditional tapas and has a lively atmosphere.
Check out this SEVILLE TAPAS, TAVERNS, AND HISTORY TOUR.
Casa Mono: This bar is known for its traditional Madrid-style tapas, including dishes such as croquetas and callos a la madrileña.
El Sur: This bar serves up traditional Andalusian tapas with a modern twist.
La Venencia: This bar is known for its sherry and tapas, including classic dishes such as jamón ibérico and boquerones.
Check out this MADRID TAPAS, TAVERNS, AND HISTORY TOUR
For the traveling reader try this: MADRID TAPAS AND WINE: SMALL GROUP LITERARY QUARTER TOUR
Bodegas Castañeda: This bar is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, serving up traditional Granada-style tapas.
Bar Los Diamantes: This bar is known for its modern take on traditional tapas, including dishes made with local ingredients.
Casa las Dos Abraham: This bar is a popular spot for locals, serving up traditional Granada-style tapas and sherry.
The Unique Dining Experience of Dim Sum
What is Dim Sum?
Dim sum is a traditional Chinese cuisine that originated in the Cantonese region of southern China. It consists of small, bite-sized dishes that are typically served in steamer baskets or on small plates and are meant to be shared among diners. Some examples of dim sum dishes would be dumplings, bao buns, chicken feet, and shumai. Dim sum is typically eaten on weekends, mid-morning through lunchtime, much like brunch. A dim sum dining experience is one of shared plates. Typically many dishes of food are on the table and are eaten family-style.
Ordering Dim Sum
On the table of a dim sum restaurant, you may have a plastic menu card where you can check off the dishes you wish to be served. You may order two or three things to start and continue to order as the dishes are eaten at the table. Just hold up the card and wave down the server. Don’t worry, it’s not rude to order that way, it’s just how it is done. Service in a dim sum restaurant is hectic. Your server most likely won’t be returning to ask you if you want anything else.
In addition to ordering from the card, some dim sum restaurants have mobile carts that are wheeled around to each table. When the card stops at your table you just point to the dish you wish to have. The server will mark off the plastic menu card on your table to keep track of what you have taken.
A Little History of Dim Sum
The origin of dim sum dates back to the later 19th century when tea houses in southern China’s Guangdong region would serve small plates of food to accompany tea. Over time, these tea houses evolved into dim sum restaurants. Travelers along the Silk Road would take part in dim sum meals which helped it migrate to Hong Kong and became popular in cities throughout southern China and around the world.
A few excellent places to try dim sum (outside of China that is):
Hang Ah Dim Sum Tea House in SanFrancisco
Peaceful Restaurant in San Francisco
Joe’s Shanghai in NYC- be prepared for a wait out the door but the xiao long bao, also known as soup dumplings, are worth the wait
So, there you have it. Three unique dining experiences that are sure to excite your taste buds. Whether you’re looking to sample a variety of small plates at a tapas bar, indulge in a multi-course meal at a supper club, or enjoy a leisurely brunch with dim sum, there’s something for everyone.
What better way to satisfy your foodie desire to explore new cuisines?
So, the next time you’re looking for a dining adventure, consider trying one of these unique styles. You won’t be disappointed.
Magazine, Smithsonian, and Amanda Fiegl. “Supper Clubs Without Depravity.” Smithsonian Magazine, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/supper-clubs-without-depravity-104440645/. Accessed 10 Feb. 2023.
“What Is Dim Sum? The Beginner’s Guide to South China’s Traditional Brunch Meal.” Asia Society, https://asiasociety.org/reference/what-dim-sum-beginners-guide-south-chinas-traditional-brunch-meal. Accessed 10 Feb. 2023.