What is Feastly ?
If you are a major food lover/adventurous enough to try new cuisines and are living or visiting San Francisco, then you should check out the thriving pop-up restaurant scene in the city. Pop-up restaurants, which are temporary dining arrangements showcasing the talent of local and visiting chefs, are instrumental in fostering a community of food lovers who bond over good food and drinks, that are unique and hard to find in traditional restaurants. This is essentially the next frontier of urban dining where you get to sample a diversity of dishes, all from the comfort of your geographical location, without the stuffiness of restaurant dining or shelling out a huge amount of moolah for scrumptious food. Most importantly, the dishes cooked by the chefs are very niche and you will be hard pressed to find them elsewhere. Although there are several social/pop-up dining phenomenon in the city, this article is dedicated to Feastly SF, a food startup which is at the forefront of social dining in San Francisco thanks to its creativity, eye for good food and a vast network of diverse chefs that participate and continue to grow in number in their pop-up network.
Why Feastly SF?
Feastly SF (website here), the startup for social eating that allows amateur /local/visiting chefs to showcase their culinary skills, provides an opportunity to savor cuisines not yet obtainable at restaurants and is gaining a lot of momentum in its birth city San Francisco. With more and more new entrants eager to bring in a taste of their childhood/city/country to the table, Feastly is your one-stop solution to a diverse culinary experience without ever having to leave your city where chefs whip up their local delicacies and you show up either at their homes or at the Feastly headquarters (several locations in the city) and dine at a communal table. Feastly chefs differ widely in their experience spectrum; some may be passionate home cooks or not classically trained while some have honed their skills in several restaurants including Michelin starred ones and bring in heavyweight culinary experience to the table. Many Feastly chefs use their pop-up experience as a launching pad to pave way for their own restaurant openings as well. No matter who you choose to dine with, it is certain that you will have a culinary experience that is way more personalized and one that speaks from the heart as compared to regular restaurants with a behind the scenes invisible chef. The people behind Feastly have an unwavering mission of building bridges via food bring chefs to your city (NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Portland and Washington DC) from all over the world with their delectable cuisine (Tunisian to Turkish, Indian to Irish, you name it they have it) and dishes that you never knew existed. Essentially, you get to sample food from all corners of the globe that you’ve perhaps not even heard of and savor hard to find flavors. More importantly, these feasts (that you can pick and choose from since there are a myriad of them based on cuisine and dietary preferences) help to bring people together over food, banter and laughter. Community building at its best, Feastly is a great place to learn about new cultures, taste some lip-smacking grub and perhaps make a new friend or two in the city with similar appetite for new culinary adventures. In a nutshell, Feastly SF is the answer to the collective prayers of the global foodie!
How does Feastly work?
Feastly’s website makes it very simple for you to search for and book unique meals to enjoy in your city. Simply log in via social media or email, go to the city of your choice (currently this start up operates in NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Portland and Washington DC), browse through the different meals/dinners/brunches/lunches offered and book the one that tickles your taste buds. You can search for vegetarian and vegan meals in the search bar and if unsure, can message the chef privately before you book if asking for substitutions. Many chefs will either state their substitution policy or accommodate meat free dishes as alternatives with prior notice. If there is a particular chef you’ve liked dining with before, you can search by their name or even follow that chef to get alerts when he/she hosts a new feast. Finally, please be aware of the cancellation policy for a feast because not all are flexible. Feastly also rewards you with cash rewards(essentially a discount) from time to time to encourage you to attend more feasts, and given how many pop-ups we’ve attended, I can definitely say that it is working!
Once you get a confirmation that your seats are booked, you get instructions on where the feast will be which is often at a communal dining spot. When we started off with Feastly SF, the small group of chefs hosted meals at their place and Feastly SF had just acquired a spacious, airy loft in the Mission for banquet feasts (15-20 feasters). Now Feastly SF has several locations all over the city, the most new one being in the beautiful Russian Hill neighborhood. When you turn up for your feast, you will find yourself dining with several other people across one big table. Arriving on time and complying with standard table manners will definitely make the social dining experience enjoyable for both you and other diners.
Our Feastly SF experience
My husband and I are Feastly veterans of sorts, given that we have been to over twenty feasts and counting! What started off as simple curiosity to try out the underground supper club scene in San Francisco in March 2013, led us to finding Feastly who had just opened their website. Our first feast was a Malaysian brunch with Chef Tracy (which to date is one of my favorite feasts) and I distinctly remember a Feastly SF employee informing us enthusiastically at the feast about their now famous artichoke logo that they had just decided upon. The idea behind the logo was that much like peeling off layers of an artichoke reveals a tasty interior/heart, so does the world of Feastly with its myriad cuisines and flavors. Sold on our first bite, we kept on returning to an ever growing list of feasts and chefs and that association has endured through a good four years.
Our Feastly SF pop-up feasts
This is possibly the hardest section to write as I walk down memory lane and dust the cobwebs off those delicious feasts, one click at a time. Our feasts (lunch, brunch, tea time and dinner) have been varied from Asia to South America to Europe and have comprised of one off meals as well as repeats with our favorite chefs. We’ve tasted Persian and Northern Iranian/Gilacki cuisine (Chefs Seti and Hanif), Malaysian food (Chef Tracy), Indian Food (Chefs Vijitha, Meena Bala and Lakshmy), Turkish brunch (Chefs Sayat and Laura), Filipino-Hawaiian brunch (Chef Eric), Peruvian dinner, Arabic feast, vegan Meals including a Filipino Kamayan dinner and Thanksgiving feast and many, many others. From the modern flavors of Istanbul to a vegan Thanksgiving, from a 30 course South Indian Karaikudi banquet dinner to an intimate Sri-Lankan dine in, we’ve experienced an incredible amount of diverse cuisine, thanks to Feastly SF, that would not otherwise have been possible. Neither of us are super chatty, but we did open up to our fellow feasters and made some incredible connections, which is always a big plus for my blog. Here are select photos from our different feasts with Feastly SF so far!
If you are an adventurous foodie/curious about other cuisines/ trying to meet like minded foodies in a relaxed scene and are living in or visiting San Francisco, do try this off-kilter dining experience and dine at one of Feastly SF’s pop ups! You will love the experience for sure! Read my other post on a step by step guide to food tours for more off the beaten track food adventures.
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