Is dining with strangers the next big thing?
Photo by Alexandra Scalone
Thanks to companies like Uber and Airbnb, most people wouldn’t think twice these days about hopping into an unfamiliar car for a ride home or sleeping in a stranger’s bedroom on vacation.
Maybe it was only a matter of time, then, before we’d be booking reservations to eat dinner at a stranger’s dining room table. Enter EatWith , a San Francisco-based startup that connects industrious chefs to savvy diners. While EatWith has already gained traction in cities like Chicago and Barcelona, the company is just entering the Denver market.
Here’s how it works: Log on to the EatWith site (or download the App), find a dinner you’d like to attend, sign up and create a profile, and pay in advance. Show up to the hosting chefs’ home, enjoy a multicourse meal (and a few drinks), and leave happy, full, and with a few new friends.
Married couple Mariana Esteves and Bruno Serra will host Denver’s first official EatWith dinner in their Congress Park home on Saturday, March 26. The pair, who relocated from Brazil to Colorado a few years ago, initially learned about EatWith through Bruno’s interest in all things tech. The idea immediately piqued their curiosity. While neither of them are professionally trained chefs, as Mariana puts it: “We’ve been cooking at gatherings with friends for forever. We’re both Portuguese and Italian, so we’re used to spending hours and hours around the table.”
Mariana Esteves and Bruno Serra; photo by Alexandra Scalone
Ultimately, what really inspired the pair to become EatWith hosts was the chance to forge connections. “It’s very hard being expats. This gives us a chance to meet the Denver community over a communal dinner,” says Mariana. “Plus, there’s really no authentic Brazilian food here, so we can introduce people to that.” Mariana admits that she’s thought about going into the restaurant business, but for now, she finds herself drawn to social food events, precisely what EatWith specializes in.
Mariana’s not alone. Experiential dining events—like pop-up dinners and supper clubs—have exploded in popularity across the country over the last few years. Once reserved for trendy cities like L.A. or New York, pop-ups in Denver (like the Ramen Mafia ‘s recent “Slurp” event that took place inside a Buffalo Exchange) have been selling out in advance. It seems that people everywhere are craving dining experiences that feel spontaneous, exclusive, and most importantly, social. Mariana agrees. “This is more of an overall experience than just a meal,” she says of her EatWith mission.
If you’re interested in the EatWith experience but the idea of dining at a stranger’s home weirds you out, then know this: Like Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts, potential EatWith hosts have to pass a gauntlet of criteria to be considered. “It was not easy,” Mariana says. The process involved submitting an initial application accompanied by photos of their food and a video of their home, followed by a Skype meeting in which Mariana and Bruno gave the EatWith team a tour of their kitchen and dining room. Next came a detailed application outlining the potential menu and pricing, and finally, hosting a demo dinner with a professional EatWith photographer in tow. Only after completing all of these steps were they approved for Denver’s very first official EatWith dining event.
Mariana and Bruno's dinner on the 26th will feature five courses inspired by their background, from a pastel de vento (Brazilian wonton with pineapple chutney, carne seca, and cheese) to a coconut panna cotta with mango and turmeric chutney. Each course will be paired with beer or wine, and guests will also receive a Caipirinha cocktail lesson. For just $69 a person, that’s a steal—and it’s sure to be a more interesting Saturday night out than the typical restaurant reservation.
Interested in participating in the new frontier of social dining? Reserve your seat for the Tropical Nights EatWith dinner here .