Pop-Up Power: Two Chefs Get Creative at Mission D&A

Mission D&A

The power of the pop-up to launch new concepts or garner attention for chefs with a wide range of culinary talent is one to be harnessed; from Lazy Bear to Mission Chinese Food, so many of our beloved favorites have popped out of oblivion into wild success. The spontaneity of the format, combined with temporary nature of the project, enables a chef to flex his/her culinary muscles and play, especially before committing to a longer term project like a full restaurant.

Undeniably cool East Bay native David Nayfeld and partner-in-crime Angela Pinkerton met at New York City’s temple to fine dining Eleven Madison Park, where they both honed their skills. Now, as they await the opening of their new pasta-forward restaurant, Che Fico, slated to open on Divisadero Street in San Francisco’s popular NOPA neighborhood in several months, they’ve popped up an experience of their own.

“The idea spurred when Angela and I had been waiting for our restaurant to be built,” explains Nayfeld. “We were in the market to do something creative — and pay our bills while we’re at it.” The timing was perfect as the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor in SF’s Mission was on the verge of selling, so the restaurateurs hopped on the opportunity to bring to life their little creative experiment.

Mission D&A

“This is very much like an art project for us—I go to the market, see something cool, and then do whatever we want. We get to be creative and have a chance to do something we don’t usually get a chance to do.” Sounds fun, no?

The fruit of their labor is Mission D&A, a rotating dinner series that has sallied from Nayfeld’s roots in the Russian Jewish cooking of his mother Gallina to the heart of bistronomie, a la restaurants such as Frenchie, Septime, and Chateaubriand in Paris. With the diversity of menu styles the team has concocted for the pop up, they are able to offer the same quality of ingredients and rigorous technique of a restaurant like Eleven Madison at a fraction of the cost (the three-course prix fixe clocks in at just $50 per person.)

And then there’s every chef’s dream brought to life — flippin’ patties. On Wednesday, the restaurant transforms into fast casual service, with a grass-fed burger topped with Dijonnaise on a fresh potato roll, artisanal fries, and other “Pickled Thangs.” It’s 15 bucks. We’re into it.

Mission D&A

So much of life is highly routinized for chefs — in fact, as Nayfeld noted, it’s often planned down to the minute or second — so the opportunity to break free of that grind and entertain the versatility of a constantly rotating menu and concept is liberating. Look at a restaurant like Next in Chicago, where the full concept for Grant Achatz’s destination for molecular gastronomy changes quarterly — everybody’s doing it.

“A lot of people have been wanting to see these cuisines from us,” says Nayfeld — and a grateful, hungry public thank you. But the one category they’re staying away from altogether is teasing the opening of Che Fico itself. “We don’t want to dilute it,” Nayfeld says. And we get that. We’ll just have to wait on that one.

Make a reservation at Mission D&A today.

Francesca is a freelance writer and editor living in San Francisco, where along with OpenTable, she contributes to Vogue, Architectural Digest, and Mind Body Green, among other outlets. A restaurant junkie and native of New York, four years ago she moved west for love and avocado toast and never looked back.