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Carter Hiyama

Beefhearts Pop-Up’s Popping Off

Chefs Nick Bodden and Ronald Allen Crank Out Creative Takes on Comfort Food


If you like creative twists on comfort foods, there’s a pop-up restaurant in town sure to make your heart swoon. Beefhearts Pop-Up is the project of S.B. chefs Nick Bodden and Ronald Allen, who, on Fridays and Saturdays, can be found cranking out crazy-good revivals of classics such as fried chicken or hot dogs in the comfy confines of breweries like Draughtsman Aleworks and M. Special.

The two met while working as line cooks at bouchon, where they bonded over music preferences and a shared penchant for peculiar flavors. Allen, who works at Petit Valentien, hails from S.B. and has worked in restaurants all over town, while Bodden comes from Long Island with Michelin-starred kitchen experience. The two first tried doing pop-up prix fixe menus at The Black Sheep, unconventional food full of beautiful purées and platings, but it wasn’t sustainable. “We had a blast, but it wasn’t gonna pay the rent,” Allen said. “We looked around and said, what does S.B. not have? It doesn’t have good soul food, and that’s both one of our favorite things.”

By Carter Hiyama

The two balance each other out in a project named after avant-garde rocker Captain Beefheart. “We’re both pretty avant-garde, but we’ll keep each other in check,” Allen said. “If you leave a guy alone with a synthesizer in a basement, he might make some cool stuff, but no one may want to listen to it; but with two people you can rein it in, get weird, and respect that’s what makes it interesting.”

Think Nashville hot chicken with a surprisingly sweet heat, accentuated by honey; or their Tijuana dog, a bacon-wrapped, all-beef hot dog fired up with avocado tomato salsa, annatto aioli, and jalapeño chips; or their recent St. Paddy’s Day special, the Proteus, a coffee- and beer-braised corned beef sandwich on Hawaiian sweet rolls with coleslaw and mustard. Though weirdness is a key ingredient, more important is balance. “At the end of the day, it’s fun to be creative and all that stuff, but it’s all about balance,” Allen said. “It’s really not too hard to make a delicious piece of fried chicken or smoke a perfect piece of brisket. What really makes it satisfying is that it’s balanced with the sweet and the savory and the spicy, the sour, the bitter.”

Beefhearts will be approaching its one-year anniversary this April. To see where it’s popping up next, check out beefheartspopup.com.

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