"The concept has phenomenal sex appeal," said Bret Van Leeuwen of Alpine, a regular pop-up restaurant attendee. "People are really hungry for something new and fresh. And this is a change of pace."
Kinnaird, a Colorado native, was the general manager of Cucina Toscana for about seven years, gaining a loyal following of diners. More than a year ago he decided to leave the downtown restaurant and embark on a new culinary venture.
But with the slumping economy, it wasn't a great time to start a restaurant. And Kinnaird didn't have the money to lease a building or pay start-up costs. A temporary restaurant offered a chance to launch something unique, without the financial risks.
So on the last Friday and Saturdayof each month, Kinnaird re-creates a restaurant atmosphere in a unique setting. He hires a guest chef to prepare the food, brings in a local artist to display work and finds local musicians to perform. It's not just dinner, "it's a production," the 35-year-oldsaid.
National trend • Pop-up restaurants are a national trend that have been springing up over the past few years in cities all over the country. These temporary establishments go by all sorts of different names, everything from "underground" to "guerilla."
But they all follow the here-today-and-gone tomorrow mentality. In fact, according to a chef survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, pop-up restaurants were considered one of the top food operations trend for 2011.
It's a business idea that appeals to everyone from struggling entrepreneurs to culinary moguls. For two days in March, for example, homemaking maven Martha Stewart opened a pop-up pie shop in New York City to help launch her new pie and tart cookbook. And in May, the venerable James Beard Foundation transformed an empty space in New York City's Chelsea Market into a fine-dining restaurant that featured chefs from all over the world.
On the list •In Utah, the only way to attend a By Invitation Only event is to be on Kinnaird's email invitation list. When he started the business in January 2010, that list consisted of mostly relatives, friends and past customers. But the list has expanded through word of mouth and Facebook.
Once added to the list, guests receive a monthly email invitation. If you want to attend, you simply RSVP and pay the fee which ranges from $50 to $100 per person. Then you wait. About two days before the event, you'll get an email with the address and the details of the evening.
The secrecy is part of the thrill, said Salt Lake City resident Mary Fresques. "You never know where you are going to end up." Past venues have included an art gallery, a historic home or even the stage at the Capitol Theatre.
In May, about 50 guests gathered in a newly remodeled luxury condominium at the top of H Street in Salt Lake City's Avenues neighborhood. The venue, which is for sale, offered guests a sneak peak at some modern architecture as well as spectacular views of the city.
"Everyone is a little bit of a voyeur, so it's fun to go into a place that's not yours," Kinnaird said.
The home's freshly painted walls were filled with the colorful works by Park City artist Josee Nadeau, who attended the event and answered questions.
Salt Lake City chef Adam Kreisel and his crew from Chaia Cucina Catering and Consulting prepared appetizers for the pre-dinner reception, and then served a three-course meal that included fresh produce and locally raised duck. After dinner, local musicians Daniel and Jennifer Tarasevich performed.
All combined it was an experience that guests such as Diane Lindberg had never expected in Utah.
"It makes me feel like I'm in New York or San Francisco," she said. "Salt Lake City needs more events like this."
Get a seat at a pop up restaurant
What • By Invitation Only SLC
Open • Last Friday and Saturday of each month; the next events are June 24 and 25
Where • Various locations including art galleries, luxury homes
Cost • From $50-$100 per person; includes nonalcoholic beverages. Guests may bring wine.
Get invited • Send an email with your first and last name and telephone number to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web • www.facebook.com/ByInvitationOnlySLC