Try This When You Travel: Restaurant Incubators

by Teresa Bitler | October 28, 2016
food & wine weekend getaway

Try This When You Travel: Restaurant Incubators

In recent years, food trucks and pop-up restaurants have given aspiring chefs the opportunity to test their menus and build a following before investing in a brick-and-mortar building. But for travelers with limited time in an unfamiliar city, these can be difficult to track down. Enter the restaurant incubator, which gives guests the chance to taste dishes from local up-and-coming chefs in a set location, night after night, for a set period of time. Here are five places where you can sample dishes from the next great chefs while on vacation.

1. Smallman Galley in Pittsburgh

Josephines Toast at Smallman Galley / Facebook

The nation’s first restaurant incubator, Smallman Galley, is located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District and houses four restaurants -- currently, Aubergine Bistro, Carota Café, Josephine’s Toast, and Provision PGH -- for eighteen months (although it has been shortened to twelve months for the next round of chefs). It’s not your typical restaurant experience. After perusing the menus posted above the individual kitchens, you order directly from the one that interests you, then find a spot at a communal table. When your order is ready, you’ll receive a text to pick it up. Smallman Galley also has a full-service bar and cafe.

2. Trinity Groves Restaurant Concept Incubator in Dallas

Spearheaded by Philip Romano, the restaurateur behind Fuddruckers and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Trinity Groves Restaurant Concept Incubator offers aspiring chefs up to $500,000 in funding and 2,500 square feet of interior space, rent-free, plus a patio. In return, the development’s owner, West Dallas Investments, gets six percent of each restaurant's gross revenue and fifty percent ownership.

You can dine at any of the existing eleven restaurants, ranging from BBQ to sushi, vegan to steakhouse. Other concepts include Chinese, Italian, and Spanish tapas. There’s even a brewery. One condition for participation is that the restaurant have the potential to become either a regional or national chain, so you could be dining today at the restaurant your friends will be talking about next year.

3. Avanti F & B in Denver

Leases for the seven restaurant spaces at Avanti F & B are short -- two years or less -- just enough time for the chefs to test their concept, which tend toward the unique. The current line-up features restaurants dedicated to Italian street foods, Asian noodles, and Venezuelan-style arepas (a corn-based flatbread), as well as sushi, pizza, pita wraps, and American comfort food. In addition to the food offered at the restaurants, Avanti F & B has two large bars serving draft beer, wine, and cocktails.

4. Prequel in Washington, D.C.

Two chefs have an opportunity to perfect their craft for four to six months, Monday through Friday, at Prequel in Washington D.C. During the afternoon, guests can order burritos from Pedro and Vinny’s; at night, Oenosophia serves Greek food. Downstairs, Brick & Mortar, a speakeasy, creates craft cocktails. After you eat, you’ll have the opportunity to review the food as well as donate to the chef’s upcoming restaurant on the crowdfunding platform EquityEats.

5. EatsPlace in Washington, D.C.

Also located in Washington, D.C., EatsPlace sponsors chefs for up to six months while they learn the ropes of the restaurant industry and host nightly pop-up events. Check the website to find out which concept is featured the night you wish to visit. If you just want a cocktail, grab one at the EatsPlace bar, The Drinkubator.

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