"It's a secret."

After a dinner at Casa Mun, I became fascinated with the experience of dining at a Closed Door Restaurant, a vaguely themed restaurant whose location was a secret. From divulging the address to the first step into a transformed space, to the rituals performed with an audience of mutual strangers, to a journey that engages the senses, there was a theatricality and purposefulness in the Closed Door Restaurant experience that really excited me. 

It didn’t seem so far from the type of theater experience I seek to create. 

Theater that haunts, that suspends, that's curated, immersive and sensorial. 

So I began my interviews. 

While I started and mainly interviewed owners and founders of closed door restaurants, I also found myself talking with chefs, artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs.  The following is a collection of takeaways I gleaned from each interview. 

1: Chef Mun: Casa Mun

  • Create anticipation.
  • You eat with your eyes first.  The nose.  And then the mouth.
  • If you are to err, let it be too much good food.
  • Each detail counts: “If he cares about the chair that much…”  
  • Good beef smells like milk. 


2: Dan Perlman: Casa Saltshaker

  • The tone is set from the first moment.
  • Know the legality of your operation.
  • BYOB leads to alcohol one-up-manship at the table. Provide the wine.
  • Give them face time
  • Ask for feedback.

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3: Alan Epstein: The Office

  • If it’s not working: make it better or let it go.
  • Invite guests: it makes your space a forum for conversation.
  • “We did Mondays 1/2 off. Take over Tuesdays. What’s our next problem? Wednesdays.”
  • Make your worst your best. And just go down the list.
  • Be honest about your mistakes.


4: El Señor Dueño: Almacen Bogensee

  • If you like it, stay with it.
  • You can work your way up.
  • The experience of foreign in a restaurant.
  • Making an exception wins customer loyalty.
  • There is a destiny that comes to us.


5: Santiago Mymicopulo : Casa Coupage

  • The soul of it is based in connecting with your people.
  • To communicate the experience of wine.  To curate an experience inside the mouth.
  • The next step should be based on what people want.
  • People are always searching for a new experience.
  • With wine, and really anything and everything there are many many truths.

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6: Juanita Posternak: Mis Raices 

  • It’s never to late to start.
  • Find your niche.
  • Details that match the essence.
  • If you are generous they will be generous.
  • Make it a home.


7: Jerónimo Grandi: Avitantes

  • Start with what you love. That is the seed of your work.
  • Art is strongest when within it we see a reflection of who we are. People connect as people.
  • Take care of people within the experience.
  • What you want, give it first.
  • Pull at the word theater, pull at the meaning of all words.


8: Hollis Mickey

  • The value of creating an accessible community.
  • It is possible to charge less but earn more.
  • Find what drives you artistically, follow that.
  • Have practices.
  • It’s okay to change what you do.  


9: Nikki Froneman: Afro-Kitschen

  • It’s okay to start small.
  • Engage people’s curiosity.
  • Don’t forget about identity. And build from that.
  • Tell them stories about the food. About anything they engage with.
  • Give them a gift to take away.


 10: Samuel Warde: Sammy’s

  • Go where there aren’t people like you.
  • Try new things every time.
  • “Pay what you can” confuses people.
  •  Don’t under estimate right time right place
  • You never know what’s gonna be dealt to you, but you will have to roll with it.

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11: Diego Felix : Colectivo Felix

  • Live on all sides.   
  • Let it be different because it’s personal, not to just be different.
  • Know that what you know is distinct and special and trust that.
  • But make a wide big thing and trust that everyone will get it.
  • It’s always a leap.


12: Julian Diaz: 878

  • Make a thing that matches the climate.
  • In starting: aim to make 20 people happy.
  • Any given can be extraordinary.
  • Know why you.
  • Always be better than the expectations.

 13: Abigail Machado : Almacen Secreto

  • If it’s daily, make the days distinct.
  • Create from what you know.
  • Sometimes you will need to push. If so, push.
  • It takes 10 years.
  • You’re always starting fresh somehow. That means growth.

14: Alison Eakle: Comedy Central

  • You get what you put into it.
  • You need to want it harder than anyone else.
  • Make your own opportunities.
  • Trust what you’re doing and what you’re not doing. That tells you something.
  • Do it now.

15: Meghan Lewis: Jueves a la Mesa y Buena Onda Yoga

  • Don’t let yourself get intimidated out of doing something.
  • If you need to wear blinders to get it done, wear the blinders.
  • It’s okay to change things as they make more sense. No one will question you.
  • No one notices the stop gaps.
  • “All we need is patience and faith.” 

And just let the limits of yourself be the limits of your project and if they are wide embrace that and figure out how to make it work and don’t forget how large the world is and how far and fierce you can travel.
— Diego Felix