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Pop Nashville is such a great idea. Sometimes, though, cutting-edge concepts are hard to fully understand, so we’re here today to explain.

You know all those fabulous pop-up dinner parties that started appearing a few years ago in Nashville? Chefs wanting to try out new menu items, sous chefs and line cooks who wanted a chance to call the menu shots for just one night and great cooks who simply didn’t have restaurants … they all started having these fabulous, one-time food vignettes that lucky ticket holders got to behold and taste, if only for a night. Then some started hosting such pop-up meals regularly, but the challenge was always where and when each pop-up would take place.

Sarah Gavigan at one of her first pop-up dinners in Nashville. Image credit:

Sarah Gavigan mingles with guests at one of her first pop-up dinners in Nashville. Image credit: Otaku South

From this fabulous era in Nashville’s food timeline emerged Nashville culinary star Sarah Gavigan and Otaku South. To slurp up her ramen noodles was an experience, and tickets to these events sold quickly, causing serious buzz throughout town. The ramen craze officially hit parts of Nashville that never knew ramen existed beyond the sodium-laced dried noodles that are a college diet staple.

The rest is fate … Sarah was renting kitchen space within an east Nashville sports bar located on the second level of a building. Chris Dawson, who had wistfully talked with friends about how he wished they could find a spot to host a pop-up dinner, purchased the building, providing such an opportunity. After meeting with Sarah, the two partnered to create Pop Nashville, a space dedicated to hosting these fabulous, ever-changing meals. A resident pop-up would be Otaku South, with space and staff available for other pop-up stars, or just someone with culinary skill, desire and a following that would purchase tickets.

Pop Nashville has evolved over the past few months into equal parts restaurant, event space and pop-up venue. Otaku South is now open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday (Saturday dinner was just added November 1). Actual Brunch hosts brunches each Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and starting this past weekend, on Saturday as well. Plus anywhere from one to four pop-up dinners will take place each month, featuring everyone from famous chefs to cooks skilled in ethnic cooking from regions in West Africa, Spain, the Southwest and more. Lastly, you can rent space at Pop Nashville for an office party, wedding or gathering. While the concept is hard to visualize at first, it works. The space is large, and Otaku South can be open while the back space, which is gorgeous, simultaneously hosts a pop-up dinner or event.

Now that all of this is explained, let’s talk food and everything we devoured for lunch this past Tuesday, where I joined Elizabeth Fox, my business partner at StyleBlueprint, and Ashley Hylbert, our go-to photographer for FACES and anything involving food. We all ate, laughed and wondered why we hadn’t been before.

Here is what we all shared at Otaku South:

Pop Nashville and Otaku South 1

We started with Okonomiyaki, which is a rich plate of mainly cabbage and scallions with pickled ginger on top. The richness comes from the Kewpie mayonnaise. This is a good dish to share and is found on the dinner menu at Otaku South. Image credit: Ashley Hylbert

Pop Nashville and Otaku South 3

When in Nashville, serve hot chicken, right?! This version is bound to please. Order several to whet everyone’s appetite. It’s hot, but not kill-you hot. Perfect! At Otaku South. Image credit: Ashley Hylbert

Pop Nashville and Otaku South 8

Our absolute favorite dish (all three of us!) was this miso ramen, made with gluten-free sweet potato noodles in a mushroom-flavored broth. At Otaku South. Image credit: Ashley Hylbert

Pop 12

Here is the Lemon Chicken Paitan ramen dish. Note: all ramen dishes can be made with gluten-free sweet potato noodles. This is a far cry from the packaged stuff, huh? The egg is perfectly boiled. Each ramen dish has a wide assortment of extras that can be added, including a spice bomb — we dare you! At Otaku South. Image credit: Ashley Hylbert

Pop 16

By this time, we were stuffed but still wanting to try one more dish, so we tried the Vegetable Curry Donburi. For $8, this is a huge amount of tasty food. At Otaku South. Image credit: Ashley Hylbert

As we ate, we talked with Chrissy and Johnann, who work at Pop Nashville. They described a wedding held there where the bride wanted to serve her grandmother’s mac and cheese from her own recipe box. Their culinary staff cooked it, and the wedding guests were treated to a family recipe. Fabulous, huh? They also talked about chefs and cooks planning menus with them and being able to order their food through Pop for their own pop-up meals as the kitchen is absolutely a commissary kitchen and an incubator kitchen (very exciting for Nashville). Pop also provides all the culinary and waitstaff needed, so pulling together a dinner truly is as stress-free as it possibly can be.

Pop Nashville kitchen

The kitchen at Pop Nashville. Image credit: Andrea Berends

Pop Nashville Otaku South

The dining space, where current resident pop-up Otaku South and Actual Brunch reside. Image credit: Andrea Berends

Pop Nashville space with porch

The event space, adjacent to the resident pop-up space, can hold a one-night pop-up event or can be rented as event space. You can see the porch beyond the windows, which can also be rented solo or in conjunction with this interior space. All three spaces together can hold up to 190 people, or each space can be rented individually for a more intimate gathering. Photo credit: Parker Young

POP Nashville SPACE

A full view of the porch, which is warmed with heaters as the temperatures drop. Image credit: Parker Young

And then we talked Actual Brunch, the second resident pop-up in the space alongside big sister Otaku South. Actual Brunch just won the Nashville Scene‘s writers choice award for best brunch in Nashville, and it’s hosted at Pop each weekend. Executive chef Dan Forberg, owner of Actual Food, makes what many consider the best omelette anywhere. And apparently nonvegetable eaters find themselves under the spell of green goodness at brunch here, eating their veggies without complaint. My first experience with Dan’s food was actually at a pop-up dinner at Wild Cow. Bacon on the Bookshelf author Jennifer Puryear treated some friends to an amazing raw vegan meal made by Dan. It was incredibly beautiful, tasty and memorable, and explains why he is so adept at delivering palate-pleasing veggies that perfectly accompany his savory brunch options. Knowing that Dan is at the helm of Actual Brunch ensures another must-have meal that I need to enjoy.

Yes, the photos are meant to tempt you, just as they have me.

Actual Brunch's classic French omelette with greens.

Actual Brunch’s classic French omelette with greens. Image credit: Actual Brunch

Actual Brunch waffles

Actual Brunch’s amazing waffles. Image credit: Actual Brunch

Actual Brunch Huevos Benedictos

Vegan options are always available at Actual Brunch. Image credit: Actual Brunch

So, in a nutshell, Pop Nashville, located at 604 Gallatin Pike, is one business and three, all at the same time. The concept allows you to visit one destination and taste all kinds of culinary goodness throughout the year.

To know what upcoming pop-up dinners are happening at Pop Nashville and to purchase a ticket before it sells out, make sure to get on Pop Nashville’s email list. SB Note: a Paella Pop-Up with Hayden Forsee was just announced for November 15, and we are salivating to get there.

For Otaku South, there are no reservations, but if your party includes six or more guests, they will reserve seats for you.

For Actual Brunch, note that your opportunity to eat just doubled. The once Sunday-only meal is now offered on Saturdays as well. To see the entire menu, check out their site at

To plan a holiday gathering, including menu planning and more, get in touch with Pop Nashville at

Got all that? It’s a lot. But it’s all tasty, innovative and fabulous!

SB insider note: Head to Actual Brunch after 1 p.m. on Sundays for a more laid-back experience, and then finish up the meal with a stroll across the street to Barista Parlour for some caffeine to counteract your mimosa or Bloody Mary … a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Want more amazing local culinary options? Click here to check out the SB Guide.

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