The Last Restaurant Day of the Year on Saturday – Pop-Up Restaurants Can Be Established Daily

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Ranja Koverola at the pizza oven at Pizzeria Sotto il Ponte under the Hakaniemi Bridge in Helsinki on November 16 2013. Picture: Roy Bäckström

Ranja Koverola at the pizza oven at Pizzeria Sotto il Ponte under the Hakaniemi Bridge in Helsinki on November 16 2013. Picture: Roy Bäckström

Restaurant Day is a delight for someone like me, who has a deep, abiding love for food, especially cultural food; it’s an event I have been dying to attend since moving to Finland!

In November last year, at pop-up restaurants scattered about Helsinki, there was everything I could imagine. Pad Thai? Yep.  Spicy egg rolls?  Yes, they had those too.  Plenty of hot drinks for a cold day? No problem.

But here’s the bad news: next Saturday’s food carnival will in the future be arranged once a year only, instead of the four fixed dates.

And here’s the good news: you could now technically munch on those spicy egg rolls daily, as the founders behind the event encourage people to arrange pop-up restaurants as often they want. “While the international food carnival is a great event, it no longer serves the original purpose of Restaurant Day. We wanted to show people that a pop-up restaurant can be opened anywhere and anytime,” Timo Santala, one of the founders of Restaurant Day, says in a bulletin.

A lady serving Pad Thai, the stir-fried rice noodle dish in Helsinki, Finland on November 21 2015. Picture: Ashley Tukiainen for Finland Today

A lady serving Pad Thai, the stir-fried rice noodle dish in Helsinki on November 21 2015. Picture: Ashley Tukiainen for Finland Today

According to Santala, an enormous amount of pop-up restaurants are opened worldwide four times a year, but only a handful outside those days.

This will now hopefully change.

“Restaurant Day has never asked – or gotten – any kind of special permits or exceptions to regulations. All pop-up restaurants participating in Restaurant Day can be realized on any given day. Therefore, from now on, every day is Restaurant Day,” Santala says.

But because Restaurant Day is also celebrated as a global food carnival, the annual birthday, the third Saturday of May, will still turn into the big shared food feasting filling streets, parks and homes with pop-up restaurants and their customers.

Sweetie Pies! restaurant served North American pies and cakes in Helsinki on May 19 2015. Picture: Tuomas Sarparanta

Sweetie Pies! restaurant served North American pies and cakes in Helsinki on May 19 2015. Picture: Tuomas Sarparanta

The first Restaurant Day was celebrated on May 21st 2011 and the food carnival quickly grew up to be the biggest food event in the world. Within five years, 26,600 pop-up restaurants have been opened in 75 different countries and food has been served to approximately 3 million people. “A living city is alive each and every day of the year, not only on special occasions or theme days. We believe that if we have the courage to make our craziest ideas and wildest dreams come true each and every day, our society becomes better”, says Antti Tuomola, another Restaurant Day co-founder.

For the first five years, the event has highlighted only one-day pop-up restaurants. A brand new map will be opened after Saturday, and in the future each and every food establishment, restaurant, café, bar, food truck, bicycle and wagon, not to mention shorter or longer running food and drink events, will be welcomed as part of Restaurant Day. According to the arrangers, in the future, the Restaurant Day map will feature the world’s most diverse variety of food.

Last year, while trying to buy one my favourite dishes, gyros, the Greek sandwiches filled with rotisserie meats and vegetables, the line at the booth extended over 30 people.  Their food must have been amazing! I made a note to self to get there earlier next time. But in the light of the new concept, maybe I don’t. Who knows, someone could be selling gyros around the corner next week.

Restaurant Day is celebrated across the country Saturday May 21 2016. More info can be found here: http://www.restaurantday.org/en/