It’s Monday at Landlocked Social House in Walnut Hills. Bodies weave about each other behind the counter, balancing beers, assembling dishes. Husband-and-wife duo and Landlocked owners Andrew and Anne Decker take orders and run to and from tables to keep up with demands. It’s best to have a grip on the side-step-shimmy in order to function smoothly in this coffeehouse, a shotgun space reminiscent of a big city alleyway turned kitchen.
What started out as sporadic series of chef-driven dinner pop-ups has turned into a weekly summertime hothouse of culinary invention and your new go-to cure for a case of the Mondays. (Landlocked does have a limited food menu of its own, with a handful of shareables, sandwiches and pastries, but nothing for a substantial evening meal.)
In early June, the Deckers hosted the first official “Monday Pop Up” of the summer; the plan is for the dinners to go through the end of August. The menu featured gyros and falafel and they toasted the new hashtag — #MondayPopups — with ouzo-spiked lemonade. It was such a success that starting on June 11, every Monday at 7 p.m., a guest sous chef from a local restaurant takes over the space with a sampling of their own culinary creations.
All events are first-come, first-served and go until food sells out. There’s no telling what the chefs will come up with next or how many people will show, though the turnout differs week to week.
“We get to work with a bunch of places we like and those places have really good food and really talented people,” Andrew says. “The only possible downside to this is the amount of cleaning I have to do afterward, which I’m happy to do.”
So far, the pop-ups have invited chefs from Sartre, Pleasantry, Please, The Pickled Pig, Brew House, Longfellow and others to sling their fave street grub. Past menus have included Indian-inspired street food, Asian steamed buns and “Puerto Rican(ish)” ceviche. Some menus have a meat or veggie options, some menus are vegan and some have just a single offering.
The objective of these pop-ups is to offer a platform for Cincinnati chefs and foodies to creatively express themselves rather than to draw the biggest, trendiest crowd. Don’t come expecting extravagance; expect deliciously bastardized street food served up on a paper plate.
“It’s an opportunity for them to (make) street food they’ve always wanted to try out but their restaurant really isn’t the place for it,” Andrew says.
Rarely does a sous chef — typically the second in command — get a shot at being top dog for the night. The menu, prep, plating and precise timing is all theirs to determine and execute at Landlocked.
One of Sartre’s sous chefs, Zach Leetch, has been a fan of Landlocked since its opening last June and has become a regular contributor to their pop-up series. He was inspired after a couple beers at one of the earlier pop-ups to participate in this series of kitchen transplants.
“I came to one, got a little drunk, and was like, ‘Can I do one?’” Leetch says with a laugh.
His Monday Pop Up in early July birthed a bougie rendition of Taco Bell’s Chalupa Supreme and spiked the classic Baja Blast with tequila to create the Baja Blastarita.
“It’s a chance for us to do cool stuff that we enjoy and have the community come in and enjoy it,” Leetch says.
Leetch drew inspiration from the other side of the globe in a subsequent pop-up. During his Korean Hot Chicken event, there was a line out the door.
“We were kind of blown away by the response,” he says. “There were probably 30 people in line when we opened up. We ended up selling out in an hour and a half.”
Andrew revealed that there has never really been a plan for these events, but he’s happy with how things are progressing.
“I really, really like what we’re doing with this,” he says. “We’re doing everything we intended to do at this point.”
Outside of the pop-ups, you can grab coffee, beer, a bite or all three at once at Landlocked.
“We wanted to make sure that everything we carried is something that we know a ton about,” Andrew says. “If you ask us a question, we could have an annoyingly long conversation about it if you wanted to. For me, that’s beer. For my wife, that’s coffee.”
Andrew keeps tabs on the newest and weirdest beers from around the globe and says he hasn’t put the same beer on tap twice since they opened.
The Deckers have combined their separate loves and grounded them in a community gathering space where you can swing by for your pre-work latte, post-work brews and, now, a cure for the Monday blues.
Catch these special Monday Pop Up dinners at Landlocked through the end of August and follow them on social media to keep up with their future endeavors.
Landlocked Social House is located at 648 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills. More info: landlockedsocialhouse.com.