Familiar Flavors

Restaurant vets embrace nostalgia and novelty with these three pop-ups.


Richmond food lovers in the know hunt and gather information on Instagram like our ancestors tracked down wild game, securing tickets and marking calendars for the best pop-up dining events happening around town.

Options abound.

There are regular seasonal appointments to keep, like Yael Cantor’s Tuesday evening Susie’s pop-up at Pizza Bones, which just wrapped up this August. There are more sporadic but still hotly anticipated events, like Hans Doxzen’s “Virginia Deutsch, Virginia-sourced” Quarter Horse pop-up and Brennan Griffith’s American/Thai Nam Prik Pao dinners at Sub Rosa. There is an extremely elusive entry (hop on that waitlist!) to local HBO star Daniel Harthausen’s pandemic-borne Young Mother.

“Nothing about pop-ups are tired—except maybe the people running them,” laughs Stephanize Ganz, longtime Richmond denizen, food writer and founder of lunch pop-up, Bebow.

“There are obviously incredible restaurants where people are doing exciting things night after night, but there is something very liberating about not having a brick and mortar, about not having certain confines and being able to just go out there and be creative,” says Ganz.

If one were to secure a ticket to Bebow, Khmer supper club Hem & Her, or zany group pop-up, Shift Meal, they may find dishes as disparate as feta in fig leaves, Khmer beef curry or a “margherita pizza” that is, upon closer examination, a tequila cocktail in a coupe glass.

But these lucky diners would also find a common thread woven throughout these multi-course meals. That’s because these food and beverage (F&B) industry vets are all having a helluva lot of fun delighting, connecting and surprising people with their thoughtful concepts. After each profile, you can check out how to learn more about each pop-up.

Santana Hem with his wife Casey Forman at Second Bottle in Churchill. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Santana Hem with his wife Casey Forman at Second Bottle in Churchill.

Hem & Her

Hem & Her supper club founder Santana Hem’s CV is impressive, and not just because it includes a finance degree from Virginia Tech. The Springfield, Virginia native worked as a line cook at Old Town Alexandria’s Rustico; launched his own grilled cheese stand—using locally sourced ingredients to boot—at the Blacksburg farmers market his senior year of college; and has worked in pedigreed restaurants including Momofuku Ssam Bar, Tom Colicchio’s Craft and Danny Meyer’s Marta.

“After [graduating college] I got into a car accident driving home from my corporate job. I was like ‘I need to do what I want to do,’” says Hem. Over the years, Hem’s hospitality passions have manifested in work as a server, cook and manager, but there was one restaurant experience he had yet to undertake. “I wanted to cook food I grew up with,” says Hem. “So we started the supper club in my 400-square-foot New York City apartment.”

In fall of 2021, Hem and wife Casey Forman relocated to Richmond to be closer to family — and to invest in a property with some parking.

Hem says it was Forman, a Long Island native with a “gift of the gab,” who brought up the idea of opening up their home for intimate gatherings again. Hem tweaks his Southeast Asian menu a little with each event, but past items have included such elaborate, divine creations as Slab Moun Boak, the “Khmer version of a pig trotter zampone, but with a chicken wing,” and equally divine—but more straightforward—dessert donuts.

The chef doesn’t let arbitrary guidelines dictate how he crafts his menus. Are donuts native to Khmer cuisine? Will Italians take issue with Hem’s twist on a classic holiday dish? Does it matter?

“I don’t like the words ‘authentic’ or ‘traditional,’” says Hem. “One dish could be authentic to someone and different to another person. I instead try to create familiar flavors that kind of strike a feeling in the diner.”

Those familiar with Cambodian cuisine may feel the presence of Hem’s mother in the dining room with them. Hem says her attention to detail and dedication to the craft is “insane.”

“She makes her own shrimp chips,” he says, laughing. “She pulverizes them, mixes them with starches, dehydrates them in the oven, then breaks them up and fries them. Southeast Asian cuisine is not known as much for its techniques, and I’m trying to bring that to the forefront.” Hem & Her dinners at Hem and Forman’s home are usually around 10 people. Hem says sometimes in the big city/small town of Richmond, folks inadvertently know each other. But often they’re breaking bread for the first time.

“A major part of why we do these things is to bring people together in addition to helping them discover new food,” says Hem. Sign up for the mailing list online (hemandherfood.com/#contact) to receive updates about the next supper club and follow Hem & Her on Instagram (@hemandherfood) to see what Santana is cooking up.

Stephanie Ganz at Birdhouse Farmers Market. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Stephanie Ganz at Birdhouse Farmers Market.


If Richmond is a small town, its pop-up scene is a wee village—everybody knows everybody. Great minds and all that.

“Santana and Casey did such a good job making everyone feel welcome,” says Ganz, a recent Hem & Her supper club guest. “I feel like that is the true spirit of hospitality. Making someone feel welcomed and cared for.”

After years of working professionally in kitchens from Fat Canary in Williamsburg to celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt in Frederick, Maryland, Ganz says she “wanted to try to find something that would allow me to cook for people but not take me out of my day-to-day life.”

Enter: a “lunch thing” pop-up, Bebow, named for Ganz’s paternal grandmother. “It’s not revolutionary,” says Ganz. “And I’m not the first person to be inspired by their grandmother.”

Grandma Lebow, dubbed Ma Bebow by a young Stephanie, was a “Jewish ballbuster from the Bronx,” says Ganz. “I don’t have a ton of memories of her with food, but when I look at pictures of her with my grandfather I just feel a real connection … I wanted to honor her.”

Ganz has hosted two events in her home so far, and says she’ll continue at a “joyful pace” with a Bebow lunch every other month, always on Wednesdays after the Tuesday Birdhouse Farmers Market. Ganz plans to continue to serve dishes that honor Bebow and the Jewish side of her family, using whatever is in season from the market.

She also plans to honor her maternal grandmother, Winnie, and her rural, Southwest Virginia roots. “Winnie was very Southern, old fashioned and very sweet, but just as tough as Ma Bebow,” says Ganz. “She was the kind of woman who literally cut her leg open with an ax and then sewed it up herself.” Future menus may include regionally sourced treasures like trout from Southwest Virginia hatchery Smoke In Chimneys, a business that Ganz has written about and “fell in love with —I feel like we must be distant cousins through our Franklin County connection.” This trout would serve as the ‘fish’ portion of a fish and spaghetti dish that Bebow used to make on Fridays.

“There are a lot of connections to fish and spaghetti in Southern culture, but there are also tangential connections through Jewish culture,” she says. For Ganz, Bebow is the ultimate vehicle through which to reflect what her family has given her. “It’s Southern because it’s me and where I am, and there is a Jewish tinge and also an Appalachian tinge,” she says, adding that pulling all those elements together “feels very much like who I am now.”

Follow the Bebow Instagram (@winne_bebow) and direct message the account with your email info to receive updates about the next pop-up. For musings about food, grandmas and life, subscribe to Ganz’s newsletter, “but wait, there’s more,” (stephanieganz.substack.com).

(From left) Donovan Herman, Brandon Day, Stephanie Stanton, Dan McInerney, - Tommy McInerney. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • (From left) Donovan Herman, Brandon Day, Stephanie Stanton, Dan McInerney,Tommy McInerney.

Shift Meal

While the Shift Meal crew operates out of a third-party space, Zorch Pizza, they’re still able to imbue their dinners with a homestyle feel.

“It’s definitely a labor of love,” says longtime Belle Isle marketing director Brandon Day. “We bring in cocktail glasses from our own collections and plates and utensils and bar stools. I think we really enjoy the hands-on part of it.”

Day and friends Stephanie Stanton, Dan McInerney and Donovan Herman have essentially manifested a real-life, out-of-control group chat centered around the delightfully delicious and always absurd.

They’ve hosted three pop-up events since May, all held at friend Rob Zorch’s pizza joint in Carytown on Mondays when the shop is normally closed—and when all their industry friends have a night off to get silly.

“The idea for Shift Meal took on the natural format of how our friend group hangs out,” explains Day, who says they’ve always centered their fun around food. “The nice thing about working with a group of folks is we are always able to turn out ideas, some good, some bad. The nature of our collaboration has always been super creative.”

Those crazy ideas have ranged in quality from Stanton’s “infamous’ ‘ Friendsgiving dirty martini Jell-O shots (not so great) to Herman’s play on Totino’s pizza rolls (surprisingly great) for Shift Meal’s first “Anything But Pizza” themed event.

Herman’s deep-fried, double-layered mini cannolis served with white chocolate pudding “ranch dressing” for dipping looked like those famous, burn-your-mouth afterschool snacks. But looks can be deceiving.

Which is kinda what Shift Meal is all about.

“I think that element of surprising people, of ‘you think it’s this, but it’s that,’ is something we wanted to carry through everything,” says Day of their inaugural event. “I think we took it as far as we physically could,” he laughs. Day and Stanton, who also happens to be his creative colleague at Belle Isle, handle the front of house and beverage responsibilities, while Herman and McInerney tackle the eats.

“When you and Dan first became friends, you were always over in the corner talking about some crazy dish,” recalls Stanton. While none of the crew has formal chef training, they are all industry vets and have a shared love-hate relationship with the scene.

The name itself, Shift Meal, is a complex nod to F&B. “It’s that one meal or drink you get before or after your shift, usually it’s one pot of food with whatever ingredients the kitchen has on hand,” says Day. “It’s about working with the tools you have and feeding the people who are here and are about to run s--t together.”

The Shift Meal team, like Ganz and Hem, have all been lucky enough to channel the energy of a gloriously busy, smooth sailing shift into their own creative endeavors. They are no longer full-time employees of the chew ‘em up, spit ‘em out industry, but they can joyfully, carefully dip their toes in on their own terms.

Stanton, who works full-time as a digital marketing manager, still considers herself a restaurant industry “lifer,” and says she takes shifts at Laura Lee’s whenever she can.

“I love that moment right after the shift is over,” says Stanton. “You’re so tired but you have a lot to say. You have your little shift drink and bite of food and just decompress. You’re exhausted but you’re energized. That is honestly one of my favorite feelings in life.”

Set alerts for Shift Meal’s Instagram (@shiftmealrva) posts, then email shiftmealrva@gmail.com when reservations go live.