On Jan. 29, vegetarian café and wine bar Encuentro abruptly shuttered after almost eight years of service. As we reported on Feb. 1, the Jack London Square restaurant cited financial difficulties due to “rising costs of doing business in an economy that is fraught with uncertainty,” but hinted of holding pop-ups after its closure. Since February, Encuentro has held several “pop-up” events at its space, and this weekend, will be hosting two-days of pop-ups for a dinner celebrating Earth Day.
On Friday and Saturday evening Encuentro will host two seatings of a $45 four-course vegan and gluten-free meal. The menu, shared by Chef Lacey Sher, will include a spring vegetable chopped salad, fennel bisque, garlic and butterball potato gnocchi with pea puree and pea shoots, and a rhubarb and candied ginger creme brulee tart.
At the time we talked to Sher Wednesday afternoon, she said that the 6 p.m. Saturday seating was completely sold out, but there was limited space available for the 6 p.m. Friday seating, “plenty of spots for 8 p.m. on Friday and space for about 4-6 additional people for 8 p.m. on Saturday.” To attend the Earth Day Pop-Up, diners must make a reservation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before Friday noon for a Friday night reservation and Saturday at 10 a.m. for a Saturday night reservation, with the number of guests, notations of any food allergies and a phone number.
The restaurant will continue to host pop-ups, featuring its own food and events by other, like-minded local businesses. Encuentro will be open for a Mother’s Day Brunch (10 a.m.-3 p.m.on May 14). It will also be hosting pop-ups for Oakland’s Rhetoric Coffee (8 a.m.-1 p.m. on April. 27), which may become a permanent morning fixture at Encuentro if this event goes well, and plant-based burger makers No No Burger (11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on May 7). Sher said that Encuentro, which she hopes will become more like a cooperative setting, is also available to rent for private events.
When asked why she decided to close Encuentro but keep renting the space and host pop-ups, Sher said that she found it difficult to continue running a profitable restaurant that served high-quality, organic food with a full staff. She also said that she wanted to devote more time to her eight-year-old child, who has been alive as long as Encuentro was in business, and a sick parent. But, she added, “I don’t want to stop working.” Sher said that the pop-up format has allowed her to keep making and serving food, by doing much of the work herself, with help from friends, her boyfriend and former staffers with flexible schedules. It also gives her the freedom to be more creative and have fun with an ever-changing menu. And, it makes it easier to be less wasteful with ingredients by making smaller, known quantities of food. Sher, who calls herself an “environmentalist at heart,” says this is at the heart of the Earth Day Pop-Up.
“The earth is my god, my mother, my everything,” Sher said. “We can’t live without it. We have to pay attention to what’s happening on it. Every day is earth day.”