Just as Charleston diners were growing accustomed to finding the best transitory food experiences at pop-ups instead of food trucks – even beloved Japanese cuisine interpreter Short Grain has made the switch – Pableaux Johnson announced he was coming to town with a meal that splits the difference.
Like a food truck, Johnson’s Red Beans Road Show brings essentially the same program to wherever it sets up shop. But in the spirit of a pop-up, it occupies a restaurant, playing up the most cherished components of a sit-down meal. It’s like “a wedding without a wedding,” Johnson, a New Orleans writer and first-order gadabout, has said.
Johnson launched the Roadshow series in 2009, looking to draw friends afield into his at-home ritual of hosting weekly red bean suppers. Red beans on Mondays is a longstanding New Orleans tradition, dating back to the time when doing laundry was an all-day affair. Red beans could simmer with a leftover ham hock from Sunday dinner while women washed clothes. But Johnson didn’t start hosting dinners until 2001, when he inherited his grandmother’s dining room table.
“This table has to be fed,” Johnson told The Washington Post on the evening of a two-night stand at Johnny’s Half-Shell.
During the 2000s, Johnson’s house became a mandatory stop for food writers, artists and other literary types in town on a Monday night. His Nov. 26 appearance at The Ordinary, though, marks the event’s first occurrence in Charleston. Billed as “an evening of Louisiana food and Monday night misbehavior,” the ticketed meal is priced at $50.
Since he first started barnstorming, Johnson has picked up the endorsement of the New Orleans’ tourist board, which is helping to promote the upcoming event. Otherwise, the format of the dinner remains largely unchanged. It still features beans, cornbread and dessert — along with, in this case, a contribution cooked up by host chef Mike Lata — served family-style. A vegetarian version of red beans is also available.
As Johnson’s website explains, “The Roadshow is informal, affordable and as unfussy as we can possibly make it.” Beer and wine are included in the ticket price, and attendees are asked to stash their cell phones for the duration of the dinner, in order to encourage real-life conversation.
For tickets or more information, visit redbeansroadshow.com.