Pop-Up Cafe: A Permanent Space for Pop-Ups

Pop-ups are fun as hell and just about everyone loves them — even the detractors of their cousin, the food truck. As most pop-ups aspire to permanent status, they usually rest on a precarious footing, existing only because a given kitchen sits idle at certain days and times. The Pop-Up Café in the Tenderloin offers a solution to this neither-here-nor-there quandary, allocating regular space to these irregular businesses.

Monday brings Cambodian-Laotian street food by Chef Sal. Tuesdays are given over to Mexican (with deals such as $2 tacos) from Fritas Shack. Wednesdays and Thursdays are BBQ@Lux, and the entire weekend goes to seafood wizards the Crawfish Spot. What will not be changing is the giant beer selection, which starts with a dozen selections on draft (Lagunitas, PBR, 21st Amendment) plus an entire wall of reach-in fridges stocked with bottles, plus wine and a couple of aperitif-based cocktails.

The rotating menu is for dinner only (5-10 p.m.) For breakfast and lunch — served 7 a.m.–2 p.m. — the menu adheres to a bacon-and-egg formula. A “Croq-Lady” (bacon, cheese, egg, and Bechamel) was a glorious mess, runny and gooey but utterly delicious, with toast that kept it together (barely). Coffee is from Oakland's Mr. Espresso.

It's a casual setting, with little by way of décor aside from cut flowers floating in water on the outdoor tables. Octagonal stools with wooden seats like cutting boards aren't too comfortable after a few minutes, and the water station uses disposable red plastic cups. But those are fixable. The food is good, and the beer is plentiful. As time goes by, some nights will certainly pan out better than others, but this experiment is a model well worth replicating.

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