The best pop-up restaurants to try in NYC right now

Robert C. Williams

This summer, NYC is ready to pop.

Right now, city eateries — serving everything from Japanese katsu to Indian street food to oysters — are opening new spinoff shops in food markets, within other restaurants, on rooftops and even inside skating rinks.

Citing a dismal year of lockdowns, ever-changing regulations, staffing issues and a lack of institutional investment, pop-ups offer chefs the opportunity to express their pent-up creative energy without the risks associated with a traditional brick-and-mortar space.

“These kinds of pop-ups are nice [because] you don’t think so much about the long term,” said chef Nir Sarig, who founded the Middle Eastern pop-up Eti. “So you allow yourself to be bolder and to take more risks.”

Whether you’re craving a cheap sandwich or an upscale three-course meal, check out these seven pop-up restaurants that are absolutely worth braving the summer heat for.

Dine at 620

Dine at 620 is a new outdoor summer dining experience at Rockefeller Center located at 620 Loft & Garden — one of Midtown’s most popular terraces with views of the city skyline. For two consecutive weeks, a rotating cast of three different restaurants — Olmsted, Atogirl and Pebble Bar — will offer a curated food and drink menu, Monday through Thursday. EB Kelly, Tishman Speyer’s managing director overseeing Rockefeller Center, told The Post that this is the first time the rooftop setting was open to the public “while collaborating with some of New York’s most celebrated restaurants and chefs.”

A James Beard “Best New Restaurant” finalist specializing in American fare, Olmsted will run its pop-up from August 2 to 12.

Chef-owner Greg Baxtrom, 36, is using seasonal and local ingredients to create a prix fixe menu ($75) featuring summer dishes like tonkatsu spare ribs, Little Gem salad with fancy ranch dressing and heirloom tomato salad. Many ingredients are sourced from the Union Square Greenmarket.

Tonkatsu spare ribs are among Chef Greg Baxtrom's favorite dishes featured at the Olmsted pop-up.
Tonkatsu spare ribs are among Chef Greg Baxtrom’s favorite dishes featured at the Olmsted pop-up.
NOAH FECKS

Olmsted, whose home base is located in Prospect Heights, did not raise prices once during the pandemic as Baxtrom “didn’t want to price up the neighborhood.” Similarly at his new pop-up, Baxtrom wants to keep the menu casual to let the food and the view speak for themselves.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the guests,” Baxtrom told The Post. “Could I come up with some fancy stuff and charge a lot more money? Yeah, totally. But that’s not what it should be here.”

Stop by Dine at 620 right now to try Atogirl, open through July 29.

Atogirl is a “playful and whimsical” concept by Chef Junghyun “JP” Park and manager Ellia Park of Atomix and Atoboy, inspired by bunsik — Korean street snacks. The pop-up menu features kimbap — commonly known as Korean sushi rolls, rose lobster tteokbokki (rice cakes), and Atoboy fried chicken.

JP and Ellia told The Post, “Atogirl wanted to show that these flavors and concepts can work just as well on a rooftop in NYC as they do on the streets or mom-and-pop shops all over Korea.”

Monday-Thursday, through August 12. 620 Loft & Garden, 620 Fifth Ave.; 212-632-5055, Resy.com/Cities/NY/Dine-At-620

Sandbar on Hudson

A taste of Philly via the West Village, High Street on Hudson has teamed up with its pizzeria neighbor Brunetti on a new seafood-and-cocktail bar dubbed Sandbar on Hudson. The pop-up, which has been open for nearly a year, features a large selection of seafood with Spanish and Mediterranean influences.

“This is more of a nightlife spot for locals,” said James Shields, 39, who owns Brunetti and runs Sandbar on Hudson. “So, it’s not trying to be anything ambitious. It’s just trying to be the kind of place where the second you walk through the door, you’re like, ‘All right, I know I’m going to have a good time.’ “

The menu, based on what Shields felt “the neighborhood really needed,” features seafood options such as their lobster roll ($28), mussels with white wine and thyme ($18), tacos with beer-battered hake ($19) and wild Atlantic salmon ($23). Nonseafood dishes include a New York strip ($28), spicy chicken sandwich ($20) and organic Amish chicken ($25). It also features cocktails ($15) like Greens Anatomy, Just Beet It and Tropical Magic.

Plates are mostly “crowd pleasers” and “shareable dishes” that allow for a more interactive dining experience, Shields said.

“We’re settling in for the long haul,” said Shields. “The community has just been super supportive of what we’re doing here, so I can’t fight what people want.”

Monday-Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday-Sunday 2 to 10 p.m. High Street on Hudson, 637 Hudson St.; 917-388-3944, HighStreetOnHudson.com

Creamline Beer Garden

Creamline Beer Garden's new, temporary location is serving up must-drinks craft beers.
Creamline Beer Garden’s new, temporary location is serving up must-try drinks and craft beers.
Brian Zak/NY Post

With 90 feet of space running along 16th Street outside of Chelsea Market, Creamline Beer Garden’s new, temporary location is serving up must-try drinks and craft beers.

Opened on July 22 in partnership with Catskill Brewery in Livingston Manor, New York, beer-infused dishes include warm beer cheese ($9) — which comes with pretzel chips and soft pretzel nuggets — and the bacon-onion-beer jam cheeseburger ($15).

“We’re focused on sourcing locally and supporting local farms and makers at our beer garden,” said chef-owner of Creamline Harris Mayer-Selinger, 37.

Visitors are particularly enamored with their signature ice cream float featuring Catskill Brewery’s Nightshine Black Lager ($15), as well as the pop-up’s liqueur-infused boozy milkshakes ($15). Catskill Brewery beers are available on draft and by the can, including Catskill Devil’s Path IPA ($9) and the Catskill Freak Tractor Farmhouse Ale ($11).

The beer garden is “festive, enclosed, lush with garden elements,” according to Mayer-Selinger, who tried to design an “escape from the urban environment.” The space will likely remain open until it becomes too cold, yet he told The Post that his team will do everything to keep serving people.

“We think there will always be a desire for people in the city to have an escape without having to travel,” said Mayer-Selinger.

Tuesday-Sunday noon to 10 p.m. Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave.; 646-410-2040, CreamlineNYC.com

Eti

For the next three months, Eti, a Middle Eastern pop-up, will be serving crowds from Peoples Wine in the new Essex Market on the Lower East Side. Founded by Israeli-born photographer and chef Nir Sarig — who grew up surrounded by Morrocan flavors — Eti has made previous appearances at Rhodora Wine Bar and Tompkins Square Park, where chefs prepared a Moroccan-inspired basket lunch.

“I didn’t [base the menu on] a specific region,” said Sarig, 30, who opened Eti on July 22 after struggling to find a permanent location in time for summer. “It’s the flavors that I ate at a friend’s restaurant, things that I love. It’s just fun and casual.”

Notable menu items include kibbeh nayeh ($19) — Lebanese beef tartare and radish, baked kohlrabi with pine tapenade and Tassos olives ($19), scallop sashimi with watermelon and green coriander seeds ($20) and homemade labneh cheese ($16). His wine shop hosts will offer a wide selection of high-quality bottles during Eti’s residency.

Wednesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. Peoples Wine, 115 Delancey St.; 212-202-2550, https://www.Instagram.com/Eti.NYC/?hl=en

Mama Yoshi

Mama Yoshi, started by California natives Yukiko Muneyasu, 35, and Miles Tickler, 34, is a Japanese-American pop-up and the resident food program for the Brooklyn bar All Night Skate. Mama Yoshi first popped up at Marco’s on Broadway in 2017, and since then they have frequented a few Bushwick spots.

“All Night Skate is a welcoming and safe space and hosts tons of events,” Muneyasu told The Post. “We were happy to become a part of that . . . Never thought in a million years we would be able to make this a reality.”

Muneyasu and Tickler told The Post that they wanted to make “someone’s favorite chicken sandwich.” While Muneyasu favors the chicken katsu sandwich ($12), Tickler prefers the spicy version ($13), which “will burn you, but it’s so worth it.” Other popular menu items include their curry katsu ($14) and spicy tuna bowls ($16), spicy chicken katsu with pickled onions and spicy mayo ($10) and cauliflower karaage ($9).

While the pair acknowledges that “prepping off-site and lugging equipment to the destination” can be exhausting with lots of variables, they find that pop-ups provide a way for new businesses to try out fresh projects — without relying on the astronomical investments required to start a stand-alone operation. They hope to open a small Japanese deli or coffee shop in the future.

Wednesday-Thursday 5 to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday 4 to 10 p.m. All Night Skate, 54 Rockaway Ave., Brooklyn; 347-449-4190, Instagram.com/MamaYoshiBK/

Masala Mama

After years of slinging sauces such as vindaloo and coconut curry, owner Nidhi Jalan has created an “easy, healthy, delicious” new pop-up Indian spot at Michael & Ping’s in Gowanus called Masala Mama.

“This is my third week, and even though it’s backbreaking, I’m really enjoying not running a company where I’m not meeting people but just selling sauces,” Jalan, who originally hails from Kolkata, told The Post.

Jalan said her menu encompasses the flavors of many Indian regions, and she hopes to add more Bengali dishes as well. Her vegetarian menu features classics such as paneer tikka masala ($13.95/$17.95), aloo gobi with cauliflower and potatoes ($14.95), dal makhani ($11.95/$13.95) and watermelon chaat salad ($9.95).

Using a pizza oven, she prepares breads such as sourdough naan ($2.95) and garlic chimichurri naan ($3.95), which pair well with tamarind-date chutney ($1.95) or green chili pickle ($1.95).

“I like to go back in a way to traditions,” she said. “So the sourdough naan, even though it sounds very Western, traditionally, there was no commercial yeast, it was all sourdough.”

Although Jalan wants to open up her own storefront in the near future, she enjoys the pop-up experience of being creative without the extreme overhead costs. Although she took just a few orders her first day, the community has been very supportive of Masala Mama since, she said.

Wednesday-Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Michael & Ping’s, 437 Third Ave., Brooklyn; 646-820-6790, MasalaMamaFoods.com/restaurant

The Blue Light Speak Cheesy

Last December, Andrea “Andy” Chetakian, 34, opened the Blue Light Speak Cheesy, a grilled cheese and brunch pop-up at Getaway coffee shop in Greenpoint.

“Because the space that I’m working in at the moment is so small . . . I just make one thing per day,” she said.

The menu includes brunch dishes such as double-decker breakfast tacos ($12) on Tuesdays, breakfast burritos ($11) on Thursdays and four bagel sandwiches ($9-$12) on Saturdays. The rotating menu of grilled cheeses for catering and special events includes the BB-Quinn with pulled pork and smoked gouda and the Don Pablano with manchego and chorizo.

Chetakian said that she has no intention of opening a brick-and-mortar shop for the time being, since having a pop-up gives her the flexibility to connect with every client.

And why grilled cheese? “I started with grilled cheese because I had zero cooking experience. I couldn’t cook at all,” she said. “And I really did just think, if I tried really hard, I probably could make a good grilled cheese sandwich.”

Tuesday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Getaway, 158 Green St., Brooklyn; 714-519-6374, TheBlueLightSpeakCheesy.com

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