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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 19, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

    Crackbird: The tweet-to-eat Temple Bar pop-up restaurant that’s all gone on the credit card

    Laura Slattery

    “This is on a credit card,” says Joe Macken, owner of Rathmines restaurant Jo’Burger, of his strictly temporary new Dublin chicken eaterie. He doesn’t mean a solitary meal at Crackbird has been put on plastic – he means the entire operation. The 12-weeks only casual diner, housed in a trendily dingy Crane Lane premises in Temple Bar, has a total card-financed investment of €15,000, confirms Macken’s business partner John Roberts.

    “I spent double that on the tables in the last restaurant,” observes Macken. But that was then.

    The “pop-up restaurant”, which opens on Monday and will allow up to 36 Twitter-bookers to eat for free each day, is Macken’s first venture since the failure of the Blackrock branch of Jo’Burger and Orange Square, a sandwich shop on Baggot St, which are now both long gone.

    As was reported at the time, debts run up during Macken’s attempted expansion forced Jo’Burger into examinership in September 2009, owing €350,000. The original Rathmines burger bar traded successfully throughout, however, and the company restructured its debts and survived.

    With new investor Roberts on board, Macken was itching to “do something different” again. He’s found his hook. Tweeters who follow @CrackBirdDublin and send them a reservation request using the #tweetseats hashtag will – if their requested booking is available – eat for free at a special six-seater booth at the back of the restaurant. There are six “free” sittings per day, starting every two hours from midday, and the #tweetseats stream shows they’re already filling fast. The other 54 seats are intended for paying customers.

    This time around, there are no boom-era rents to contend with. Excluding rent (at €27 per square foot), Crackbird cost just €8,000 to set up. The fitout, to be completed this weekend, is all being done “on a shoestring”, Macken declared proudly when I met him on Thursday. His task for the night ahead was upholstering the picnic bench seating himself, while students from the National College of Art and Design have been put to work hand-sewing table linen in exchange for a nominal sum and a party. “Bartering”, Macken explains.

    It has to be this way, he says, as he recalls the ”really hard 18 months” at Blackrock. On a high from the success of Rathmines, he signed up to pay top-end rents at a second Jo’Burger just as Ireland went bust and the young heavily mortgaged locals were losing their jobs.

    Outgoings adjusted to suit the times, Macken is now taking advantage of the latest economic phenomenon – retail market turbulence – by securing a temporary lease on an unloved premises that he estimates has only been occupied for 18 months over the past decade. He’s actually cheerful about the atmosphere among city centre traders. “Everyone is pulling together, it’s great. People are really trying to help each other out.”

    Crackbird, incidentally, refers to the “addictive chicken” varieties on the menu, cooked from scratch on site. And, yes, they have thought that name through. “It’s irreverent,” Macken laughs, claiming his mother and granny approve. He seems unfazed by the possibility that paying Irish diners might not go as wild for buttermilk-marinated, skillet-fried chicken as they do for Jo’Burger’s award-winning offering – or that they might get lost on the way down Crane Lane and end up in the strip joint next door.

    Even if the pop-up restaurant thrives, he insists it will close down anyway after 12 weeks and that he and Roberts will try another one somewhere else. But they do – “please god”, says Roberts – hope to be able to pay off the credit card bill.

    • Grace says:

      Really very disappointed with this restaurant. The service was scattered and inconsistant, the food was extremely bland and the menu was limited. Although the atmosphere felt contrived I will say that I enjoyed the music (dj) and decor….

    • Brian says:

      Robert/Joe , we are nice neighbors and you know that we are a private members club. Please refrain from calling us a strip joint! You are welcome to become a member instantly as a neighbor.
      Regards , Brian.
      Temple Bar Emporium
      Private Members Club

    • Andrew says:

      Unlike Grace I found the service extremely attentive and friendly. I felt like I’d wandered into a restaurant in another city. Not somewhere to go for a quiet meal certainly but the slightly hectic vibe was a very fun compliment some delicious food and a couple of beers before heading out for the night.

    • Beanz says:

      Grace, you wandered into the wrong restaurant. What do you expect from a place that cost €8k to start up?

    • Suzie J says:

      I liked it. The chicken, sauces and white wine were delicious and the place looks great inside. They were slightly hassled and busy when I was there but it didn’t really bother me. Good time.

    • Blank says:

      At first it seems like a decent enough place, but after very poor service with very forgetful staff, extremely overpriced sides, no fries on the menu to compliment the chicken, topped with the stench of grease left on your clothes, you’d wonder has Macken learned anything at all from his past efforts.

    • James Shannon says:

      Me and two friends arrived, no res or tweeted seats – and we had a lovely time. The chicken wings were divine. We didn’t have time for desserts and it totaled 45 for 3 of us. BARGAIN !

      I found the service great, really friendly, very chatty and Couldn’t have been nicer – granted I did have a side sauce forgotten about – but hey all I had to do was ask and I got it.

      Previous comment said what can you expect for a start up price for 8k – ya know what – im dead jealous I didn’t think of it. Shows guts.

    • David L says:

      Was there today and really enjoyed my experience. Great tasting food, and the limited menu is appropriate for the kind of business this is. Would definitely recommend it. Also, fareplay to the man who set it up, great idea

    • P mc G says:

      loved it ,chickens wings to die for,and the cider they serve is great,so filling and great value,we will go again very soon….quirky and cool,i hope they keep popping up cause its great…

    • Snakebite says:

      Was here over the weekend and was delighted with what I found. The decor was very much to my taste, nice ambience and not as busy as I would have expected for a weekend night. As there was a group of us we ordered everything on the menu along with a few beers. The meal was perfect, fun and incredibly tasty. The pricing is very reasonable, go now!

    • Keith says:

      Very poor service. Couldn’t get the waiter to leave us alone. A real pest. Food was average at best. More on the bland side. Not unlike a Supermac’es experience. Got the wrong main dish at the start accompanied by the wrong sides.

      Loud music and abnoxious vibe.

      Give it a miss and wiat patiently for it to pop down.

    • teo says:

      Loved it! Friendly service and juicy chicken. Putting Cornel Sanders to shame!

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