The allure of underground dining, a popular trend in San Francisco and New York, is all about the mystery. David Anthony Temple — also known as “Chef DAT” — calls himself the “only person in Dallas who does the true underground dining scene.” The Lakewood resident hosts dinners once or twice a week, each at a different house whose address is known only to the 30 to 40 people invited by email the day of the dinner. When the invitees show up to the dinner, which is BYOB, they are treated to a five- to 12-course themed meal. There is no menu. The dinner guests are then sworn to secrecy about the location of the event, pay (in cash, DAT doesn’t have a credit-card machine), and leave — hopefully after having a great time, eating good food and meeting new people, DAT says.
When did you start underground dining?
I started doing dinners at other people’s houses years ago. And having the invite list and the emails — I started doing those maybe over a year ago. [I’ve been] consistently doing it once a week since December. We sometimes do two to three a week.
What inspired you?
It kind of was organically grown. There’s really no method to the madness. I thought I could do it. I thought I knew enough people in town, [and] I thought I had enough emails so I could just start emailing and people just come. And it just worked. And I just kept going from there.
Describe the underground dining experience for you. What happens during a typical dinner?
People come, meet other people — 90 percent of the time people don’t know each other. We get everyone seated, [and] there’s no menu, they don’t know what’s coming first. The first course comes out, I make my announcement, “Our first course is …” We do that about six times. Usually it’s six courses. Sometimes I do ones with 12, nine … Some people pay and leave; some people stay and talk to the new best friends they made at their table. Usually I go and finish cleaning the kitchen and then go out and chat with them.
Do you want the experience to be mostly about the food or the social aspect?
The food is the main star. But I think the coolest thing is the relationships people make. I think it’s so funny! People become best friends at my dinners! And they would have never met unless they had come to the dinner and sat at a communal table together.
Why do you say that you’re the only person in Dallas who does the “true underground dining scene”?
Because I do it once a week at least. I know people who do pop-up dinners like once a month or every other month or quarterly. That’s not what true underground dining is. The thing about underground dining is that it’s something more consistent. Every single day, they’re working on that.
What are your next projects? I saw on your website that you’re starting a restaurant.
My next project is a restaurant, yes. We are hoping to open in the Deep Ellum area. I’ll still do the underground dinners even when I get the restaurant open. We’ll probably do them at least twice a month. With a little more finance coming in the door, we can get more expensive dinners done. We’re going to expand to have bigger menus for the underground dinners.
Tell me more about the restaurant. Why is it going to be called “Twenty Seven”?
Twenty-seven is my age and the age of my favorite musicians that have passed away (Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain, Winehouse). We will have no menu at Twenty Seven. You will make your reservation via phone or internet and choose your menu by “field” (vegetarian), “land” (rare meats and game), or “sea” (seafood).
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