What do you know about underground supper clubs? How about clandestine dining societies?
I’ll be the first to admit that before sitting down at Gaslight Coffee with the founders of Tuesday Night Dinner (TND, @TNDChicago), these were foreign concepts. Thankfully, the TND crew quickly and unpretentiously cleared things up and filled me in on their latest exciting project.
TND is the brainchild of Jacqlyn Lancaster, Jeremy Leven and a few close friends. The concept is simple: A group of food-loving creative types, typically 40 to 45 of them, get together once a month and celebrate at locations throughout the city—sometimes it’s at someone’s house, sometimes it’s at a restaurant or business. For a reasonable suggested donation ranging from $10 to $30, there’s music, art and, of course, a mouth-watering supper. For proof, scan through these photos from a recent pig roast event at Bang Bang Pie Shop (@bangbangpie, 2051 N. California Ave.).
“We just want to keep it really accessible,” Leven said of the community dinners. “Fine dining, tasting menus—that’s something normal people can afford to do maybe two times a year. We want to celebrate the integrity of food without the fanfare.”
TND pulls a diverse crowd from various “artistic, creative communities around Chicago,” Lancaster said. “There’s a mix of new and veteran members of all ages, ranging from twenty-somethings to several couples that are in their sixties.”
After three and a half years of growing their community with monthly dinners, Tuesday Night Dinner is upgrading to version 2.0: Border Oak, a permanent home for their experimental menu. Leven describes the restaurant concept as a “celebration of Midlands food through the Chicago lens.” The menu will focus on local, sustainable ingredients. Check out the video below for the crew’s explanation.
The Border Oak team turned to Kickstarter to raise initial capital for attorney, architect, accountant and other fees. Three weeks in, they’ve already surpassed their fundraising goal of $9,000—but they still need your help. Plus, the thank you gifts are pretty tempting, including personalized recipe cards, “Tasteful Nude” calendars, and tickets to upcoming Border Oak and Tuesday Night Dinner events.
When we spoke, Leven and Lancaster noted that they will be ready to start Border Oak seatings as soon as the beginning of September, and will be kicking things off in minimum viable product mode. They’ll do two weeks on and two weeks off in order to experiment with the concept (think menu, hours and service style) and then process what did and didn’t work. “The question now is really, ‘How do we carry over themes from the community dinners to the cafe?'” Leven said of their trial period.
Border Oak will operate in semi-test mode through spring of 2014 in a temporary location on Diversey and Pulaski. Eventually, the team hopes to use Kickstarter funds to set up its permanent home in Logan Square. “This neighborhood is full of independent food types and entrepreneurs in our age demographic,” says Lancaster. “This strip [referring to Milwaukee Avenue between Fullerton and California] has blown up with restaurants over the past few months, and what I love is that everyone is focused on quality, not competition.”
Swing by and support Border Oak in the final days of their Kickstarter campaign, which ends on Aug. 30, 2013. To meet the team in person, check out TND Presents: Concrete Picnic on Aug. 27, 2013. Last but not least, keep your eyes peeled for future collaborations between Tuesday Night Dinner and LoganSquarist!