The Secret is Out on Secret Dining

Travel Blog  •  David Farley  •  06.19.09 | 10:38 AM ET

Photo by wit via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I met a woman at a party a few months ago who, when she witnessed my eyebrow-raising eating prowess, revealed she knows of a few secret dining spots: places only known by the covert band of dining cognoscenti, a cabal of eaters who fetishize the idea of eating in places that no one else knows of. I know, it’s exciting. I tried to extract the information from her that night with the grace of a tooth-pulling dentist, but she wouldn’t budge.

Then, last week, I went to Berlin. A friend said she had something of a surprise for me. In fact, it was a surprise for all. We were booked at the Shy Chef—a secret dining club, for lack of an official title, held in an apartment in the hinterlands of the Kreuzberg neighborhood. After a confirmation, an email with directions turned up the day before ordering us to walk to the third floor, where a drink would be waiting.

On the given night, we trudged up to the third floor of the secret eating spot and met the two people behind this covert operation. I felt like I’d just walked into a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn: floor-to-ceiling bookshelves were crammed with familiar names like Zadie Smith and Camus. Cool art was tacked onto the walls. An international lineup of hip music seeped from the stereo. I won’t reveal too much information—after all, I do want to go back—but the couple (who were not German) were extremely nice and the food was more than decent. It wasn’t restaurant-quality fare, but more like dinner party-level food. Which isn’t a bad thing: tender chicken rolled up in pesto and sage, a potent cauliflower soup, and vodka-laced salmon. All paired with wines for each course (which, including amuse bouche and dessert, totaled five).

The next day there was an article in The New York Times travel section on the Shy Chef.  Which means they’ll now be booked for months to come. And that’s fine because the couple told me about a similar outfit happening in New York City, Homeslice West. I know where I’ll be (secretly) dining soon. Maybe I’ll even see that woman from the party there. 

David Farley

David Farley is the author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town and co-editor of Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic: True Stories. Hes a contributing writer at AFAR magazine and his writing appears in the New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler, and, among other publications. He teaches writing at New York University.

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