Melena Ryzik in the NYT:
The passionate enthusiasts who have opened dozens of unlicensed restaurants in apartments and other private spaces in recent years do not generally aspire to become traditional restaurateurs, with overhead and investors and the health department — a k a The Man — telling them what to do. They are not in it for the money or for Buddha Bar-size crowds; instead, they say, they are in it for the community and the creative freedom. It’s hard to imagine even the most adventurous legitimate restaurant encouraging customers to hack the hindquarters off a boar’s carcass. And underground restaurants have found their niche. Stringing together the farm-to-table movement and a bloggy kind of interactivity, they have gained a following among food lovers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who have an opinion on local versus organic, prefer intimate and casual to grand and ceremonial, and are open to meeting people and building connections in new ways. No doubt a lot of them are members of a Facebook fan club for bacon.
“Any night of the week you can go out to dinner, but this is unique,” said Jeremy Townsend, a founder of Ghetto Gourmet, an early underground restaurant based in Oakland, Calif. “People want to get out of that cookie-cutter experience and have a shared experience that has some meaning and authenticity, and some story behind it.” Mr. Townsend’s Web site, theghet.com, tracks the movement; the number of underground restaurants has doubled in the last year, to about 70, he said.