Texas is home to a nonstop hits parade of restaurant openings, as each week brings new concepts across a diverse range of cuisines to big cities, the suburbs and everywhere between. But some of the most exciting meals aren’t available by walking through the doors at your neighborhood restaurant, or even by booking a table via your typical reservation platform. For exclusive dinners and menus you won’t find anywhere else, those with exacting taste may want to enter the world of private dining clubs.
As opposed to social clubs like Soho House and Park House, which do have restaurants but put a premium on networking, these dining clubs keep their focus narrow and stick exclusively to the culinary arts. Here’s where to start.
Tasting Collective is a self-described “roving community of food lovers on a mission to create a different way to experience incredible independent restaurants.” It was founded in New York and has since expanded to select markets around the country, including Austin and Houston. The company just launched in Dallas, hosting its first event at Rye, the innovative restaurant on Lower Greenville known for its fun small plates and solid drinks. Next up is Written by the Seasons, the farm-to-fork restaurant in Bishop Arts.
Future events will be announced to members on their website and via email. In Dallas, the first 500 members can join for $99, and then the signup cost moves to $165. Dinner events are an additional $65.
Those tasting menu dinners run five courses and usually fall early in the week when restaurants might appreciate some extra traffic. Chefs come out to talk about the dishes and interact with diners, and ideally for the restaurants, those diners have a good time and add the spot to their rotation.
Tasting Collective founder Nat Gelb has called the format “anti Yelp.” Rather than posting online about their experience, diners are given feedback cards and asked to rate their favorite and least favorite dishes, so chefs get constructive feedback about their food. At Rye, the crowd favorite was a playful dish called Corn-Ucopia, which featured cabrito, a Oaxacan green corn tamal, huitlacoche, bloody butcher grits, sweet yellow corn ice cream and blue corn tortilla strips.
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Other Private Dining Clubs
Tasting Collective isn’t the only game in town. The Supper Club has opened up in Austin and is coming soon to Dallas, with other chapters in major markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. The members-only club is devoted to the art of the dinner party, and events take place at top restaurants and unique event venues. Austin’s latest dinner took place October 26 at Justine’s Secret House and incorporated a murder mystery theme, befitting the season. The next event is a Friendsgiving Soiree scheduled for November 16 at Lamberts, the downtown restaurant inside the historic Schneider building. The multi-course dinner will feature slow-smoked barbecue, whiskey cocktails and live music. December 14 brings a festive champagne-fueled dinner at a location that, for now, they’re keeping a secret.
The Supper Club isn’t cheap. Membership starts at $2,000 per year, plus a $500 initiation fee, and increases for greater access and the ability to join events in multiple markets. But you will have lots of memorable evenings to show for it.
RR12 Supper Club is a restaurant in Wimberley that operates with a unique format. Wednesday through Saturday, it’s open to all, but on Tuesdays, it’s members-only. Each Tuesday, cocktails, wine and hors d’oeuvres flow, and then a custom dinner menu rolls out featuring cuisine from different regions around the world to keep things fresh. Members get additional perks, like priority reservations on other days of the week, plus three complimentary vouchers to dine on their birthday, anniversary or other special occasions. A select number of members can also reserve a personal wine locker to store their favorite bottles onsite. If that sounds enticing, reach out via the restaurant’s website to get more information on membership and pricing.
Another Texas Hill Country option is Club Charles in Kerrville, a private dining club located at the historic Schreiner Building. It’s run by Leu and Dawn Ouanesavanh, who also operate the popular August E’s in Fredericksburg. Membership options are available for individuals, couples and families, and you can pay yearly or score a two-person lifetime membership for a cool $20,000. The club features a few different spaces, including the dining room, patio and a cellar lounge, plus private dining rooms. Chef Leu’s food is available for dinner and Sunday brunch, and the menu is loaded with local meats, seafood and produce. The bar is pouring a variety of spirits and wines, or members can stock a personal wine locker with up to 12 bottles of their choosing.
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