Service of Supper Clubs: Newark, N.J. Has a Winner

January 29th, 2018

Categories: Restaurant, Supper Club, Welcome

Photo: socialventurepartners.org

I’ve heard about contrived ways to meet people in a city, none of which appeal to me. One resonated in such a way that I wished I lived or worked in Newark, N.J.  Liz Leyden described it in her New York Times article, “He Was Tired of Eating Alone. 400 People Came to Supper.”

She described a supper club with a welcoming vibe. The founder did such a great job with his Brick City Supper Club, started in Newark eight years ago, that it continues to live and thrive even though he’s long left town. Far from a new concept, it’s a joy to learn about a project that works so well for all concerned.

Photo: Brick City Supper Club

Founder Frank Martinez moved to Newark from the Midwest. As the title states, he longed for eating companions so he invited colleagues from his office to eat dinner with him at a restaurant and half a dozen showed the first time. According to Leyden, he based his club on the ones around his grandparents’ Wisconsin dairy farm. Word about the weekly dinners spread well beyond the Department of Economic and Housing Development where he worked.

The club, now almost 400 strong, has an executive committee and chairman, Rob Thomas. Thomas uses Twitter to send out smoke signals about upcoming events. The team chooses the restaurants for dinners that today take place twice a month. Leyden wrote that there were 50 who gathered one cold night this month. “They were young and old, new to Newark, and born-and-raised. They work as lawyers, municipal employees, accountants, graphic artists and at least one elevator saleswoman. Most live here, others commute in for jobs and stick around for dinner.”

Photo: pixabay.com

The club meets on Mondays, because restaurants appreciate business on a traditionally slow day. They travel the city to dine at old favorites and seek out new watering holes that can use the exposure. In addition to seeing old friends and meeting new people, the members are supporting their city’s eateries. Thomas told Leyden they’ve been to some 75 restaurants over the years. One member created a spreadsheet of restaurants “so she is ready when office mates complain that there is nowhere to eat in Newark.”

Leyden wrote: “Bridges have sometimes been built beyond supper. They have eaten in one another’s homes, joined an investment club run by one member, become neighbors who borrow sugar and meet for brunch and birthdays.” One couple marveled at how welcoming to newbies the members were.

Have you been a supper club member? Do you know of successful ones? What other relaxed ways are there to meet people where you work or live?

Photo: Pennsauken.net

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6 Responses to “Service of Supper Clubs: Newark, N.J. Has a Winner”

  1. ASK Said:

    Our co-op had a supper club with trips to restaurants at least once a month…unfortunately it died after an ill-fated foray to a new vegan establishment and a few bad choices of newer restaurants that really couldn’t handle large parties. It was fun while it lasted, but it needed outsiders to swell the ranks and keep it lively….

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    Wow. Although totally off topic, in the days of big industry luncheons, I remember one at which the Waldorf served a vegan menu insisted on by that year’s program chair who wanted appropriate food to go with the topic of saving the environment. The chef was clearly not happy, nor were the guests, who couldn’t get to the “meat” of their undercooked squash which some thought he’d done on purpose. For years it was referred to as the “garbage lunch,” as where to put all the garbage and how to divide it; should we eliminate plastic bags etc. were part of the discussion and in a way, described the food served as most went into the trash.

    I imagine it helps a supper club program if someone takes the project under his/her wing as happened here. Plus, word spread about the club well beyond the nut, which was the founder’s workplace, which helped grow its ranks. I get the feeling it welcomes singles and couples equally, also a benefit.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Neither joined nor considered joining a supper club, since, when not with friends, I enjoy dining with a book. That said, it sounds like it could be fun.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I’ve never been invited to join such a club and although I’ve heard of them, I don’t think I’ve known of any where I have lived. For anyone assigned to a new town or city without a friend or relative nearby such a group would be essential.

  5. Lucan Said:

    Supper clubs of one sort or another have been around probably for centuries or more. Essentially organized to enable to permit participants to break bread periodically with acquaintances, fellow members of social, fraternal, professional institutions or strangers with like interests, they are, as far as I know, normally harmless.

    I’ve been an occasional member or guest at such meals a number of times, and they have varied considerably one from another in interest, content, and exoticness. A more romantic (as in adventure stories) example would be the “To the Ends of the Earth Dinner,” which, the year I was a guest, was held at Union Club and was stag. Try googling it, you won’t get very far; you are better off finding an US Army general officer with two stars or more and asking him what it is about

    As far as I can remember, I never did attend such a meal in order to meet a member of the opposite sex, or ever even meet one.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucan,

    It all sounds mysterious–I doubt that many supper clubs can boast such a prestigious guest list and are surrounded by such secrecy.

    I knew a woman who dropped out of New York Women in Communications because she didn’t meet men there. Similarly, if a person goes to stag supper clubs, I’d posit that there wouldn’t be many opportunities to meet someone of the opposite sex either. I didn’t get the impression that doing this was the first priority of the Newark supper club: Maybe that’s why it was successful. In my experience it’s when you are not looking that you meet people of the opposite sex, if that’s your mission.

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