Underground Market shut down

A couple of weekends ago, on Jason’s suggestion, J-P and I went to Forage SF‘s Underground Market, a members-only nighttime food festival where food vendors who lack access to a commercial kitchen (and are therefore unlicensed) sold us everything from Nicaraguan tamales to rabbit pate, from Portuguese ham croquettes and bacalhau fritters to barbeque pork dumplings, from squash-and-potato tacos to jerk chicken and goat-cheese cake. Jason didn’t make it; the review I texted to him said, “Food good, crowd huge, music inaudible.” Everything was delicious, but I do remember counting, while I waited for my Laotian pork sliders with tamarind-flavored potato chips, the number of people who nearly knocked the electric grill they were on over with their hips as they squeezed past. Five.

Rather predictably, the market has been shut down, at least for a while. The Health Department tolerated its existence as long as it could pretend it was a private event. The bar for membership was low, though–just join the mailing list–and the event’s popularity caught up with it.

Founder Iso Rabins is meeting with a city attorney to clarify where exactly the line is between public and private, so that the market can continue on new terms. Rabins sees the event as an effective incubator for new culinary careers, and in a letter to members cites many vendors who have gone on to quit their day jobs:

Cocotutti … sold her first chocolates at the market over a year ago, and has since won national awards, moved into a commercial kitchen, and is approaching markets to stock her goods. KitchenSidecar worked at a bio consulting job, with a food blog on the side, before she found the market. Now she cooks full-time, caters, holds her own dinners, and collaborates on a Vietnamese pop-up restaurant called Rice Paper Scissors with another vendor, Little Knock. Nosh This was working as an architect before he was laid off and turned to the world of candy. Following his recent appearances in the New York Times, his wholesale accounts have exploded, he has moved into a commercial kitchen, and is working to make “Bacon Crack” a household name.

Rabins asks people to contact San Francisco Supervisor David Campos (David.Campos@sfgov.org; (415) 554-5144) to voice their support for the Underground Market, and to contact Forage SF (markets@foragesf.com) if they have legal or other expertise to offer.


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