VEGGIE SUPPER CLUB CON SOBREMESA

“We don’t take ourselves very seriously,” Chef Moya of Sobremesa Supper Club tells me, smearing a dollop of whipped queso across an ivory plate. The strong aroma of pickled daikon permeates the small kitchen as I sip on the last of my carrot ginger soup, topped with a foamy coconut broth. Sporting red jeans and nursing his second bottle of Stella Artois, co-founder Efren Candelaria tells me that he used to hate pickled daikon. It’s the smell, he says. But now he pops these beige, coriander-infused slices into his mouth like kettle chips.

Sobremesa Supper Club is a “vegetable-forward, Latin inspired, and locally sourced” dinner pop-up that aims to “foster community through food, relationships, and dialogue.” Sobremesa currently hosts bimonthly pop-up dinners in Pilsen, and they often collaborate with other pop-ups in Chicago (e.g. Yo Soy!). Their menu highlights vegetables in the various forms of purees, pickles, chips, and simple roasts, and though animal products are used sparingly, the meal feels surprisingly filling.

The Sobremesa team is tightly-knit crew, and their personalities mesh well together. Candelaria’s relaxed disposition balances Moya’s fidgety nature, and Candelaria’s wife (Mayra Estrella) and sister add a nice female presence to the kitchenCandelaria reminds me of a tamer Salvador Dali, with expressive eyes, a curious mustache, and an artistic penchant. He currently works at the Art Institute and designs all the artwork for Sobremesa. I ask him why their menu is so vegetable-oriented, and he replies that although one reason is sustainability, another reason is sheer cost. Animal proteins are expensive, Candelaria says, especially proteins that are local, sustainable, and high-quality.

As service progresses, I drink carrot juice and munch on roasted sunchokes, which Moya tells me are sweeter during the winter, when root vegetables adapt to the cold weather by storing more starch. Moya also urges me to sample his signature fingerling potatoes smothered in a house-made hot sauce. “How are they? “ he asks. I pause—maybe more lemon juice, I suggest. “I like how you think,” Moya responds, reaching for a fresh lemon. A quinoa and cocoa dish follow, followed by a heartier bean ragout topped with poached eggs.

Candelaria tells me that while their eventual goal is to open a brick and mortar place, their immediate focus is building a strong fan base. “People define success differently,” he says. Though he doesn’t make top dollar working in the art industry, his job allows him to travel the world and to handle priceless paintings. Though he doesn’t own a restaurant, he enjoys the flexibility and creativity of running an intimate supper club. “Do what you love, and you’ll always succeed,” he says, sneaking his wife a quick kiss.

As I share dinner scraps with the Sobremesa crew, I ask them if they ever get tired of making and eating vegetarian dinners. Candelaria laughs and replies, “Oh no, we’re getting a pizza after this.”