Patrons flock to pop-up chicken eatery

 

“OPTIMISM IS the New Smack,” declared the words printed on waitress Sharon Greene’s T-shirt, as she ran round taking orders on the first day of business at Crackbird, Dublin’s new pop-up restaurant on Crane Lane, Temple Bar.

Greene’s last employer, Gruel, where she worked for two years, closed down in December so she’s in the mood to be optimistic about ventures like Crackbird.

“I think you can be really creative by doing something temporary with a place like this. It’s a short-term lease for a cheap rent and there are so many empty spaces in central Dublin now,” she said.

Economy is all at Crackbird, where some of the seating is composed of picnic benches, the napkins are homemade, and several tables are built from recycled window-frames.

By noon yesterday, electricians were still frantically fitting light bulbs and clipping wires at the 60-seater restaurant, and curious passers-by were peering in the windows. The restaurant name refers to the menu’s key ingredient: chicken, fried several different ways.

“There used to be a pizzeria here and it closed. We negotiated a low rent for three months,” explained Joe Macken, who runs the Jo’Burger restaurant in Rathmines and had the idea for the restaurant. “We kitted out the place with borrowed furniture and equipment, and some stuff we got from restaurants that had unfortunately recently closed down.”

Opening hours are noon to midnight, and the doors will close for good on May 22nd. “If we get 100-plus people a day, we’ll consider ourselves to be doing well,” says Macken.

The first customer in the door yesterday was Gareth Granville, who ordered what Macken describes as their trademark dish, skillet-fried buttermilk chicken (€9.95).

He had heard about the restaurant via Twitter. They announced on Friday via their account @CrackBirdDublin that they were offering six free tables a day throughout the three months of opening to people who reserved a table via Twitter.

“Giving away free seats is a smart move, and it will get lots of people in,” said Granville, who was himself there as a paying customer. “I heard about it via Twitter, and if the news about this place got to me that quickly, then it’s getting to lots of others too. It’s a new and different way of promoting things.”

Three friends who work locally had come in to eat as they had been noting the progress on site for the last fortnight. Did they know it was a pop-up restaurant? All three looked blank and shook their heads.

“Does ‘pop-up’ mean it won’t last, like the other two restaurants that were here, and failed?” asked Michael Carmody.

At another table, Niamh Smith explained why she had come on the opening day. “It won’t be here for very long. I thought I’d go and see what it’s like, so that when it’s gone, I can say I’ve been there, because only a certain number of people will have been here.”

Brothers Wesley and Michael Williams and their friend Kevin DeLapp work nearby and were in to test the place out as a lunch venue. “It brings a bit of character to the laneway,” Wesley Williams noted. “It’s created a lot of buzz around the place.”

Hugh Roche Kelly was sitting at the bar area, waiting for his order of that buttermilk chicken. “I heard about it via a mix of Twitter and word of mouth,” he said. Why is he here? “Crackbird. The name. As soon as it was mentioned, all I had in my head was chicken,” he explained simply. “I love chicken.”