There’s no question that Chicago has a vibrant dining scene. Guidebooks and food blogs can point you to hundreds of raved-about hot spots. But lately we’ve been hearing whispers about Chicago’s best-kept culinary secret: the city’s underground dining scene. Instead of a restaurant, picture delicious dinner parties at people’s homes and pop-up spaces; intimate affairs of 16 people, tops. When you hear about one, you have to act fast: they fill up quickly and happen only every few weeks.
Sobremesa Supper Club, one of the elusive underground dinners, is based in the Pilsen neighborhood. The supper club is a Latin-inspired, locally sourced, vegetable-forward dining experience that looks to foster community through food, relationships and dialogue. The chef, Gabriel Moya, spent time working in New York restaurants before moving back to join his childhood friends Efren Candelaria and Felipe Cabrera. They formed Sobremesa in late 2012. Sobremesa is a family affair as well — Efren’s wife, Mayra Estrella, and sister, Sandra, round out the rest of the team.
While some of Chicago’s underground dinners are put on by cooking enthusiasts with no formal training, Sobremesa brings Michelin cred to the table. As the executive chef at Calyer, Chef Moya’s food earned praise in the Bib Gourmand Category by the 2013 Michelin Restaurant Guide for New York City.
Most of Sobremesa’s dinners fall on Sundays so the team can craft the menu based on what they find Saturday mornings at the Green City Market. Chef Moya zips through the market at 7 a.m. to find the freshest ingredients and refine the menu. After the market, it’s off to Sobremesa’s headquarters, Efren and Mayra’s home, to start the food prep.
Come Sunday, diners at Sobremesa receive handwritten menus that stretch anywhere from eight and ten courses. Exquisite plates of vegetable-forward dishes arrive one after another. Vintage Latin records play in the background, and conversation kicks up around the table. It feels just like an intimate dinner party at a friend’s house, because that’s what it is. That’s the allure of Chicago’s underground dining scene.
To find Sobremesa’s next dinner, look up dates on Facebook and reserve your spot. When you go, arrive hungry — for good food and good conversation.