House of Plates and Cafe Momentum Teach Us the Bonding Power of Secrecy and Eating Rocks

Categories: The Overserved

Courtesy of House of Plates

"The secret word is buenas tardes. Greet the two accordion players with that phrase outside the address and they will let you in. The dress code is all black."

That and an address were the only instructions received the night before heading to House of Plate's collaboration with Cafe Momentum and Chad Houser for La Cena. An underground dinner and Day of the Dead celebration, all cloaked in House of Plates' signature mystery.

See also: Chad Houser's Cafe Momentum To Cook Underground Dinner For The Hip

Once inside there was music playing and barely any light on the sculpture shrouded in candlelight. Two mimes were waiting to escort my date and me to the dining room proper. One mime outdoing the other, taking second and third looks at photo identification and making a flourish about communicating sans words. A long line of guests in black was forming. Perhaps it was the dim lighting, the quiet mimes or the woman watching Pink Flamingos repeatedly shushing guests as they were escorted to a back room, but we all stood in silence. Waving hello to friends who had stumbled in past the accordion players, taking in the stimuli and quietly shaking our heads and shrugging, and now miming to one another, "We don't know either?!"

Walking back into the dining room we had to pass a mannequin, robed and seated in a chair. As though we were creeping through some haunted house, I kept waiting for him to jump at me.

We had found ourselves in one of the back rooms of an empty space owned by Deep Ellum 42, a real-estate company that has let Dallas creatives take over while these rooms sit in wait. It started last spring when artists and gallerists started taking over the windows for exhibitions. Since then you may have found yourself at designer and vintage purveyors Tracey Popkin's Summer Sock Hop, a Ten Over Six fashion show or this summer's Caviar Club Under the Chandelier benefit exhibition. Creative incubation, it seems, is happening behind 42's doors in a fairly rapid succession. This wasn't the first time the keys had been turned over to House of Plates. But it might be the most memorable.

Courtesy of House of Plates

Walking back to our shared table things got even darker, if that was possible. Our, um, mime, flicked a lighter in front of our place cards. Quickly, in the light of a flame I could see my name over the blacked out eyes of some stranger's portrait, all housed in a tiny little gold frame. Details, y'all.

My date at the head of the table easily had the most impressive view of the whole affair. It was like the ghost of a dinner party. I could see the outlines of more than 50 wineglasses, I could see the shadow of a server against a wall. I could see and hear people making their way to the outlines of chairs. A figure approached our wineglasses. When she turned to describe the pour to me, I looked up to be greeted by the moving and speaking face of a sugar skull.

Gathered here on All Souls' Day, that feeling of ghostly otherworldliness was fitting. Dinner in an unfamiliar place, seated with unfamiliar companions, some of whom I could barely see, and the filmic music curation from guest DJ Ronnie Heart meant that despite the John Waters playing in the entryway, we'd all actually found ourselves in a rather Argento-Catholic nightdream.

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